Viewing the 'Miscellaneous' Category
DW the day trader, after getting off to a flying start, crashed to earth on day three. She opened a short position selling the AUD at 0.8341 on what appeared (to DW) to be the start of a down trend. Unfortunately, no sooner than she'd sold the Aussie dollar it started rising - slowly and with occasional tantalizing dips. By the time I got home from work the exchange rate was around 0.8350/52 and I suggested that she close out with a 11 point loss - which would just exceed the $100 "stop loss" she'd agreed to. However, the occasional dips were still giving her hope that she was right, and that the market would eventually come to its senses and behave the way she thought it should
A little while later the rate had drifted up to 0.8355 and suddenly started to tick up quite rapidly. I stepped in and strongly encouraged she close position when the rate hit 0.8359, creating a $180 loss for the trade. DW still thought I'd panicked, but although the rate did drop back a little bit at various times in the next hour, it was definitely trending up rather than down.
After DW went to bed I stayed up watching the cricket world cup (Australia vs. NZ) and noticed that an up trend now seemed well established - so I went long at 0.8366. After continuing upwards to around 0.8370/72 the uptrend ran out of steam and I thought about closing the position for a small gain ($30), but left the position open as I was still watching the cricket and could check on the price every ad break. Eventually DW got up during the night to change DS2's nappy, and we watched the up trend resume. Eventually we got tired (Australia had NZ on the ropes at 7 for 140 or thereabouts, with NZ chasing 349, so the cricket had also lost interest), so we closed the position at 0.8372/74 for a reasonable $80 profit and went to bed.
So far our forex trades have a 75% success rate, but not sticking to the $100 stop loss limit was an expensive lesson for DW. Of course 4 trades are not indicative of any trading skill or lack thereof - once we've clocked up 100 trades we'll be able to see if we have a statistically significant deviation from the roughly 50:50 win:loss ratio you'd expect from random outcomes (actually, you'd expect to "win" less than 50% of the time, as CMC Markets is taking a $20 cut of of each round trip).
I believe that "successful" traders (allegedly exhibiting skill rather than luck) typically achieve around 65% winning trades, with their profitability depending largely on letting the winning trades run, and cutting losses ruthlessly according to a set trading plan. We'll see how things work out. Anyhow, with a $1000 starting stake, and now a $300 or so "buffer" to cover margins, DW should be able to have some fun trading before she runs out of margin and has to call it quits.
Trading so far (1% margin on $100,000 AUD/USD spot price)
Trade Capital Open Close Profit
Short (SELL AUD) AUD$1000 0.8369 0.8362 US $70
Short (SELL AUD) AUD$1000 0.8328 0.8296 US $320
Short (SELL AUD) AUD$1000 0.8341 0.8359 US-$180
Long (BUY AUD) AUD$1000 0.8366 0.8374 US $80
Overall US $290 (AUD$346.23 CR)
Reading through some of the previous posts I noticed that I've sometimes substituted words when typing these posts. For example, writing "every data" instead of "every day", and "under the water" instead of "under the weather".
I've never been good at proof-reading on screen, for work and uni I usually print out the final copy and do a final proof check of the hardcopy. But I used to just notice the usual typos - not that I was inserting incorrect words that just happen to sound the same as the word I had intended to write! Hopefully this is just a sign that I'm typing these posts too fast, and getting older, and not the first sign of some exotic neurologic problem
BTW - my earlier posts are no longer showing the linked graphics correctly. I can't be bothered going back and uploading and linking to all the affected images, so if you are reading an older post and a graphic seems to be missing, just look up the same post on my other site:
Some of the graphs and charts were pretty cool, so it may be worthwhile browsing through the other site anyhow.
The Australian federal government announced recently that they were going to ban the sale of incandescent light globes from next year, so that everyone switches to the new, energy efficient compact fluorescent ones. Supposedly they are much cheaper to run and their higher initial cost is less than the equivalent number of incandescent globes that would burn out during their lifetime. This sounds like a win-win with the emission of greenhouse gases being reduced while the consumer actually saves money in the long run.
I'll use the new fluorescents as much as possible (I already have half a dozen scattered through our house), but I think I'll also put in a stockpile of incandescent globes in the garage before they're no longer on sale. Why?
- unused, an incandescent globe should have an almost unlimited shelf life, and it's cheaper to have some of these sitting around as spares than the more expensive fluorescent globes.
- I have a mix of screw thread and bayonet light fittings in the house. I've only seen compact fluorescent globes with the modern bayonet fitting, and it may be difficult or impossible to get them with screw fittings. I'd rather not have to replace light fittings just to be able change light globes.
- I can cobble together a generator from some wire and an old bike - so in a disaster I could always get lighting setup using incandescent globes. Doing the same with compact fluorescents would be much harder as they don't work with DC and need 240V (as far as I know).
A day of financial odds and ends. The Australian stock market powered up to new all-time highs early in the morning, so I decided to purchase another 4 XJORT S&P/ASX200 20-Dec-2007 5500 PUT Options - as the market goes higher the cost of the PUT options drops, so the same options that cost $1580 each back on 9 FEB, today cost me $960 each. I now have a total of 7 PUT option contracts, which would offset around 2/3 of any losses my Australian stock portfolio would suffer if the market crashed below 5,500. Below 5500 the contracts are "in the money" and are worth $10 for each pt the index drops below 5500. Above that level the value of the contracts will diminish as the expiration date (20-Dec) approaches. But they still mirror that movements in the market, so I have some "insurance" if the market suffered a correction in the meantime. A look at the All Ords index for the past 25 years shows that we're above the long-term market trend. Although the pundits say the market isn't overpriced on current p/e rations, that could quickly change if the world economy slowed or there was some significant global crisis.
Aside from buying the PUT options I also phoned the plumber to query the $800+ bill for clearing out a blocked drain. The owner said he'd check into it and get back to me.
My mother is thinking about cashing in her retirement fund (she deposited $119,865 of the proceeds from selling an investment unit back in 2004 in order to reduce the amount of capital gains tax payable). $91,149 of the $119,865 was tax deductible, so it had 15% contribution tax ($13,672.31) applied when it was deposited into her retirement fund. The balance of the contribution ($28,716) was undeducted, so there was no contribution tax due. Unfortunately the capital gains realised on the unit sale meant that her overall adjusted taxable income (ATI) was high enough that a superannuation surcharge was also charged ($13,216.60). So the overall tax saving was not very large, but every little bit helps. Anyhow, her balance has grown to $139,078.74 - an annualised ROI of 11.86%. Her retirement fund has a pretty aggressive investment mix for someone in their 70s - mainly due to the fact that the balance of my parents assets are in cash or real estate, so this component can be overweight in stocks.
Some more dividend statements were waiting in the mail when I got home - $49.70 from Rio Tinto and $498.00 from Sims Group. Most of the dividends I receive end up going towards the interest on my stock portfolio margin loans. I only have a few DRPs in place - those where the number of shares issued gets rounded up to the next whole number of shares.
Just a quick link to an interesting piece in today's SMH about consumer debt:
Abstract Nouns are All Very Well
The cold I caught on Friday went to my chest, so I spent most of the weekend in bed or on the sofa, coughing up phlegm. I called in sick this morning, as I'm still coughing and might as well use one of my days of sick leave to rest and recuperate fully. We get 10 sick days each year, which accumulate if unused, but aren't paid out if you leave work voluntarily or even if you are retrenched. I've probably accumulated more than 50 days of sick leave in my current job as I don't take many sick days. The majority in the past few years have been days off to stay home when DS1 has been sick and had to stay home from school (I alternated taking days off with DW while she was working full time).
One good innovation my company introduced last year was "odd job days" - up to 5 out of the 10 days of annual sick leave can be taken as personal days to complete any "odd jobs" that can only be done during business hours. This was in recognition that a lot of "sickies" are actually taken when people really ill - they need time off for school open days, closing on buying a house, moving house, waiting for the plumber etc. etc. The new scheme is good in that it doesn't disadvantage the "honest" employees who were loath to take a day of sick leave if they weren't actually bed-ridden, compared to those who took a day off after a big night out, or because it was good beach weather. At the same time, the company has got more strict about people who continue to take off too many one day "sickies" - if you repeatedly take off one day "sick" to make a long weekend every month they can ask for a doctor's certificate.
Anyhow, today I'll take it easy around the house, hopefully I can spend some time sorting out my share transaction records while I recuperate.
BTW - there was a magnitude 8.0 earthquake at the solomon islands this morning, so there's been a tsunami warning issued for the entire east coast of Australia. I don't expect a noticeable wave as the shock wave will has spread out considerably by the time it reaches Australia, plus the local seabed topology along most of the east coast isn't conducive to generating large tsunamis. The northern coastline is also protected somewhat by the great barrier reef.
My company provided free 'flu shots to any employee that wanted one today, so I got one. Unfortunately I had caught a cold yesterday, so that combined with the effects of the 'flu vaccine made me feel pretty poorly. Hopefully I get over the cold tomorrow.
A strange mix of events today. I finally got around to taking DWs mobile phone to be repaired under warranty. It's had an intermittent problem with the sound sometimes not working, and then starting to work OK again (it's amazing how useless a mobile phone that doesn't ring is!). The warranty expires on the 31st March, so it was now or never. Hopefully they'll have it fixed (or replaced) by Thursday and it will then work OK. We have two identical mobile phones on a combined $18 a month plan, which is enough credit to cover all our normal phone calls. If the mobile is working reliably I'll think about getting rid of our land line - it costs over $30 a month and we hardly use it at all. The only downside of getting rid of the land line is that I've had the same phone number for 40 years! (I had it transferred to our new house when I moved).
A couple of packs of information arrived today regarding some of my shares. A 2 for 15 entitlement offer from Suncorp (at $15.15 a share). The share price is currently $20.40, but if everyone takes up their entitlement the dilution should (theoretically) drop the share price a bit:
expected new price = (15*20.40 + 2*15.50) /17 = $19.82
In practice the price probably wouldn't drop that much, as some people won't take up the entitlement, so the dilution won't be as great.
The second info pack that arrived was from the US regarding a proposed merger (takeover) of PW Eagle for USD$33.50 per share (cash only). The pricing seems a bit mediocre, as PWEI was trading as high as $36-$37in January. I bought these shares at USD$33.29 last October, so I wouldn't make any significant gain.
Finally, a piece of a molar that had had root canal therapy and a large filling a couple of years ago broke off this evening. Hopefully it can just be filled and won't cost too much. It doesn't hurt, so I'm hoping I don't need any more root canal work (it costs around $1,000 each time!). I thought there might be further trouble with this tooth when the dentist completed the last lot of root canal work and replaced the temporary filling with a permanent filling - there was a distinct cracking sound while she was working on the filling...
Anyhow, lots things that have potential to impact on my finances occurred today, but not much actual cashflow (yet).
I'm always fascinated to read studies on income, wealth, savings patterns etc. for different countries and demographic groups. But there are some key variables that always seem to be missing from such studies:
1. Correlation of Net Worth and IQ
- yes I know that there are lots of studies showing that higher education leads to higher income, but the link to higher wealth isn't so strong. There are even indications that education isn't much help in getting rich - lots of self-made millionaires built up a business without a college degree. But, this doesn't mean that these people weren't intelligent. Forrest Gump not withstanding.
2. Correlation of Net Worth and religion.
- you'd think that some religions would be more compatible than others with accumulating wealth. And within a religious grouping you'd expect a correlation with how "strictly" religious someone is and their net worth. After all, you'd expect Christians that don't tithe 10% of their income to end up with greater net worth. But this relationship might be skewed by a small number of high net worth tele-evangelists!
Then again, such studies would not be PC.
Well, State Elections are on today in NSW. As voting is compulsory here, we'll drop by the local highschool sometime today to cast our ballots. I'm not impressed by either the Labour (left) or Liberal (right) parties - Labour has been in office for 12 years and, as can be expected, has spent a lot of money on increasing the size of the public service, and increasing their wages. I don't mind spending extra taxes on boosting the numbers and pay of police, teachers and nurses, but there also tends to be a bloating of pretty useless "administration" staff in the public service under Labour. At the same time the State's infrastructure has been allowed to run down - insufficient spending on public transport (trains, roads, buses, ferries) and public utilities (water). Unfortunately the opposition Liberal party seems to be full of fools - the leader is uninspiring and has made some bad gaffes during campaigning, and we've hardly heard a peep from any of the other Liberal "shadow ministers". As neither of the major parties has much support it probably means that the minor parties (Greens and Democrats) will do better, and a lot if local "independent" members will probably also be elected. This is not a bad thing in terms of local representation, but it does mean that if there's a "hung parliament" (no party having an absolute majority) with the independents or minor parties having the "balance of power", we won't really have any idea of what policies will actually be implemented during the next term of parliament. Most of the independents are "one issue" candidates and will make deals to vote on other issues on a case-by-case basis. This is a bit "anti-democratic" as it means the voters didn't get to elect a party with a clearly outlined platform, but will get policy decided by "deals" made with various independents.
Ah well, a least we'll get a break from campaigning after today - until the Federal election later this year ;(
CNN has an article outlining some unusual investments. Not ones that I'd recommend as a good basis for your retirement fund, but fun to browse through:
* Buying real estate in exotic locales.
* Buying rights to wind and solar sites.
* Investing in unknown artists.
* Commodity indexes.
An article in the Sydney Morning Herald discusses the possible impact of probable sea-level rises (caused by apparent climate change that may be due to increasing C02 levels, the "greenhouse effect"). While I doubt many houses will actually be lost in NSW due to rising sea levels (after all, most a several metres above sea level, and would install sea walls rather than just let their foundations wash away), there is likely to be an impact on beach formation and disappearance.
This is actually of possible relevance to me as my parents own a 25 acre "hobby farm" on the inland shore of Lake Wallis on the NSW mid-north coast. The Lake is formed by a large sand bar running south more than 10 km from Forster. The southern end of this bar actually washed through in the early 1900s, so a rise in sea levels of 0.5-1.5 m could easily erode this barrier and open the Lake to the ocean. Eventually my parents farm could become prime ocean-front real estate due to Global Warming! Based on prices for nearby sea front house blocks, the value of my parents property would increase ten-fold if it became an ocean frontage and was sub-divided for housing. As the farm is on a hillside and has a fairly steep slope down to the lake front, sea level rises would not encroach far into their property.
Of course this is unlikely to happen for at least 50 years, so it would be of more interest to my children, assuming the farm stays in the family that long. I also think that if Global Warming does eventually cause sea levels to rise by up to 1.5m the general economic and social downside (think Bangladesh) is likely to swamp any potential benefits.
Today's dilbert is worth a look, even if you don't normally read this strip.
nb. This link will only work for a few weeks before the online cartoon goes into a pay-per-view archive.
I just couldn't resist a link to this research that shows that money can buy you happiness (or at least some "Subjective Well-Being (SWB)").
Adrian White, an analytic social psychologist at the University's School of Psychology, has found that "a nation's level of happiness was most closely associated with health levels (correlation of .62), followed by wealth (.52), and then provision of education (.51).
The three predictor variables of health, wealth and education were also very closely associated with each other, illustrating the interdependence of these factors.
There is a belief that capitalism leads to unhappy people. However, when people are asked if they are happy with their lives, people in countries with good healthcare, a higher GDP per capita, and access to education were much more likely to report being happy."
This is consistent with previous research that shows that household happiness had a positive correlation with household income.
Australia doesn't rank in the top 20, but I'd guess it's close to the USA (ranked 23). One reason I think that people generally have the opinion that "money can't buy you happiness" is that people expect too much - they think that if they just got a 10% payrise, or won $20,000 on the lottery, all their problems would be solved.
Gold is traditionally a hedge against inflation, so with the possibility of the inflation ticking up and the stock market taking a breather it could be time to look a adding gold to a portfolio as an inflation hedge and part of an overall asset allocation to reduce volatility. Direct investment in gold bullion has drawbacks in terms of storage costs and the fact that it doesn't offer any income, only (potential) capital gains. Gold stocks are therefore more usually selected where some gold exposure if desired within a portfolio. I have some gold stocks in my Australian stock portfolio (NCM), and I've just read about a US-based gold mining stock General Metals Corporation(GNLM). As a small mining company reliant on the redevlopment of one old gold mine the prospects of this company would be greatly affected by fluctuations in the price of gold. Their recent press release outlines the details of their gold mining interests:
Gold Expected to Dominate the Investment Horizon, Experts Advise Early Stock Purchases (Reno, NV – March 5, 2007) Traditionally, gold has had an inverse relationship with the stock market. When stocks go up, the price of gold usually falls; when stocks flounder, the price of gold usually skyrockets. Some experts believe it could mean a lot for investors in 2007, because gold is once again catching the eye of the investor. For General Metals Corporation, the news couldn’t come at a better time. “With our plans to begin drilling at Independence Mine, we’re more than thrilled to hear gold is making a comeback,” states company CEO Stephen Parent. “We’re even more excited with our location; it’s a proven producer.” General Metals acquired the Independence Mine in northern Nevada and became a public company last year, trading under the symbol GNLM. Predominantly a silver mine from 1938 to 1987, the Independence Mine is estimated to contain over two million ounces of gold, as well as over two million ounces of additional un-mined silver. As the Independence Mine is essentially an island within Newmont Mining’s Phoenix Mine, the area is already a proven producer. According to Parent, they plan to remove the precious metals in two phases. “Phase one includes our ‘shallow’ targets,” says Parent. “The shallow targets contain less gold, but they’re easily and quickly accessible, which will encourage early cash flow. Phase two is where the majority of our gold will come from. It’s deep mining, but we expect it to produce 1.4 to 2 million ounces of gold.” They expect to produce 20,000 ounces of gold in the first year, 60,000 ounces in the second year and 70,000 ounces in the third year -- approximately $101 million from early estimates. The company also anticipates an additional $1.36 billion to be gained from phase two production. In an effort to increase their mining production, General Metals has recently acquired the Nyinahin Mining Concession in Ghana. Located in one of the most active exploratory areas in the world, this concession shares borders with several major mining companies, including Newmont Mining, Napoli Gold and Dunkwa Continental Goldfields. “Financial experts are predicting gold to play a key role in investor’s profiles during 2007,” adds Parent. “But due to the timely nature, potential investors will need to act quickly in order to maximize their gains.”
One thing to check out in researching small mining companies is the cost of production - you wouldn't want to invest in a company that is only profitable at the current gold price.
Autumn Semester started last week. I'm taking two courses for the Graduate Diploma in Secondary Education I've just commenced, and one course for the Master of IT I'm halfway through. The fees are similar for both - around $800 HECS (I pay in advance, rather than accumulate a tax debt) for the two Education subjects and $800 fee for the one IT subject. I also had to purchase a textbook for the IT course ($111.55 even with the Co-op bookshop member discount!), so the total education costs for this semester are around $1710. Luckily there are too many students enrolled as Distance Education students in the Education at CSU this year, so the Uni cancelled the one week residential school in Bathurst. That would have cost another couple of hundred dollars for little benefit, so I'm glad it's not on anymore.
I worked out that if I quit my current position to start teaching in about three years, I'd have to work two extra years as a teacher to make up for the reduction in annual pay. I've no idea yet if I'll actually enjoy being a High School teacher, so I can't tell if I'd want to work longer as a teacher compared to my current job. Then again, I should have enough for a comfortable retirement whether I work to 61, 65 or 68.
A few years ago countrylife.co.uk had a scottish manor house (Merton Hall) for sale for around A$1m (it was before the recent boom in UK house prices, and was in need of renovation as it had been used as a boarding house for a boy's school). I was keen enough to go to the trouble of getting my father to join me in making a bid on the property, although in the end we were not the winning bid. I've always fancied buying an "estate" with an historic house and grounds, although it's currently still way out of my price range, and country houses have never really been much of an investment in the long term (although if we had succeeded in buying Merton Hall it would have done well in the past three years due to the real estate boom in the UK).
So, I still browse around what is available, looking for bargains and being amazed at some of the massive prices asked for some modern "estates". Recently two extremes caught my eye - the world's most expensive house (at A$138M), and a real "fixer-upper" in Poland that is going for around A$62K:
What I'd like is somewhere between these two extremes, but, when I'm in a more sensible mood I realize that I'd be much better off investing my money and just staying in a castle of manor house on my holidays.
The QE2 Cruise Ship arrived in Sydney today. It's a magnificent ship which DW and I had the pleasure of sailing on from New York to Plymouth on our honeymoon back in 1999. However, it was positively dwarfed by it's "big sister" the QM2 which also happened to be in Sydney Harbour today!
Although even a short cruise or trans-atlantic crossing in one of the cheaper cabins is not "cheap" by any stretch of the imagination, it is definitely value-for-money for the unique experience.
Imagine a world in which every man, woman and child had their income increased 10-fold overnight. You'd think that while the rich would be even richer, the poor would also become quite well-off - having ten times their current income would let them pay off their debts, buy a new car, send their kids to college, and so on... But you'd be wrong. The poor would still be poor, and they'd be just as many poor people as there are now.
Don't believe me? Well, just consider this quote from an article today regarding a study by the United Nations Children's Fund on wellbeing in more than 20 countries :
"Nearly 12 per cent of Australian children fell below what the UNICEF report considered the poverty line - a household where the total income is less than half of the country's median."
The way UNICEF (and social welfare lobby groups) measure "poverty" is in purely relative terms. So it doesn't matter how high a household's income becomes, if their income is less than half the median household income then they're classed as "poor".
While I agree that poverty is relative to some degree (ie. a family in a developed country may have enough income for all the basics of life, yet still be considered "poor" if they cannot afford expenses that are normal for the society they live in, such as a colour TV), logic dictates that there must be some absolute level of income above which a family living in an affluent society is no longer really "poor" just because their income is considerably lower than the typical (median) income.
Otherwise there is no relationship between GDP, incomes and poverty - and the only way to "reduce" poverty is to have everyone on nearly the same income levels.
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Well, I got very confused. According to the "opportunity" on PayPerPost, there is a new PPP Affiliate program the builds traffic and links called "Review My Post". Unfortunately when I followed the instructions provided (Click "Affiliate Tools" in your blogger interface then, select review my post for details. Let us know what you think about this new program that pays you and others to blog about your blog.) I couldn't for the life of me find anything in the blogger dashboard that looked like "Affiliate Tools". I even checked the help page in blogger and did a search on the terms "Affiliate Tools" and "Review My Posts". So, for an exciting new program that is supposed to build traffic it had gotten off to a rocky start.
It was only after wasting time searching my blogger account screens for a while that I went back to the PPP screen and noticed that there is a "Affiliate Tools" link there! D'Oh!
PPP call their interface the "Blogger Dashboard" - it goes to show how confusing it is having a google blogging service being called "blogger" at the same time other people use the term "blogger" in it's more generic sense.
Anyhow.... I eventually found the "Affiliate Tools" and followed the link to the "Review My Post" section. Apparently the way this will work is that by including a special link at the end of a post (the blurb says *EVERY* posts - but I assume putting this link at the end of each and every post is not actually a condition of this new process working) - if someone clicks on this link and joins PPP I'll get a referral fee. The new twist is that the new member will then also get a "personalised" opportunity to make a paid post ($7.50) about one of my posts - which should give me the added bonus of getting an extra link, and the new member an easy $7.50.
I'll start adding the new html link to my posts (see below) and see if it does anything spectacular... I'll let you know how it works out.
ps. I'm reasonably happy with PPP so far - I've been only doing around 1 PPP post per week as I only select opportunities that are relevant to this blog's theme. Plus there are getting to be more restrictions by advertisers around page rank of blogs that can do paid posts. Yet I've still managed to get paid nearly $200 so far, which covers off my hosting and pfblogs gold membership fee. It is also a lot more than I've generated via Amazon affiliate links or Blog Ads.
James recently asked:
Are there any online Australian share brokers that you recommend? Ones that you know of that have a wide range of both Australian and International shares? Ones with low overhead and low fees, while still being trustworthy?
While I don't know about all the online brokers, I have used a couple of Online Brokers for overseas trades that have provided statisfactory service at a reasonable cost.
For selling some HK shares (that used to be listed on the ASX but later delisted from the ASX and only traded in HK) I was originally going to use ComSec - but after opening up an account for OS trades (via their arrangement with Pershing in the US) I found out that they were unable to register my certificated HK shares (HK is moving to an electronic system similar to the Australian CHESS system, but lots of stock certificates are still in existence and need to be converted to electronic registration if you are going to trade them via the 'net).
Because of this difficulty I then opened up an Online Broker account with HSBC Australia. They processed by certificated HK shares without any problems and I was able to then trade them via my HSBC broking account on the 'net. However, HSBC has since got out of the Broking business in Australia, so my HSBC broking account is now with E*Trade Australia, which has improved its overseas trading system to cater for the HSBC clients and others.
I do use my ComSec pershing account to trade US stocks directly (see my posts about my "Little Book" Portfolio), and it generally works fine - I've had one occasion where a BUY order was cancelled overnight for no apparent reason, so I had to reenter the trade the next day. Having said that, I'm a long-term investor, and for my "Little Book" portfolio I buy US stocks in parcels of around US$5000 and hold them for 18 months before selling. So I can't say if the Comsec Pershing system would work well if you wanted to do day trading in the US market from Australia...
Overall I can recommend both E*Trade and Comsec for trading OS markets. Your choice would be influenced by whether you had an existing account with either of these for trading Australian stocks, and if you need to link the account to a margin loan. Comsec provides Margin Loans inhouse, and E*Trade allows you to link your account to a margin lender (but I'm not sure if you can still trade online using E*trade and settle using the margin loan).
Gerad emailed me an interesting question in response to my post "It's Raining Credit":
I was wondering if you could do a post on how the credit system works
in Australia... i.e. do you need to have a credit card to get a good
interest rate for a car loan etc/if the situation is similar to the US.
I've been reading a lot of US literature but being in Sydney, I don't how
things work here...
I don't claim to be an expert, but I can summarise the main differences as I see them:
In the US you get a CREDIT RATING (FICO score) based on details of your credit history. In Australia your CREDIT REPORT doesn't provide an expliciti SCORE, it just records who has accessed your credit history, and will record details of late payments, defaults and so on.
In the US the interest rate you pay on home loans, credit cards etc. appears to be based largely on your FICO score. In Australia lenders will assess applications based on information provided (income, other debts etc) and use your credit report to check for bad debts and so forth. As your credit report doesn't include a specific score, the interest rate on home loans, credit cards etc. is generally standard for all borrowers - the lender just decides whether or not to extend credit to you.
The benefit of the Australian system is that it is probably much easier to get your first loan, credit card or whatever. As long as you have sufficient income, and a stable residential address, lenders will be happy to approve credit to a new borrower. The downside is that if you have an excellent credit history they will throw offers at you to increase your credit limit, but generally don't adjust the interest rate (one common exception is that home loan interest rates are generally a bit lower for "gold" customers - those with large loan balances and good credit history).
Recently GE Money has started to increase its presence in consumer lending in Australia, and I've seen ads with "interest rate FROM x.xx%" which indicates that they will be setting interest rates individually for each borrower, based on their credit history.
Now that the holiday season is over everyone must be back at work over at the credit card companies - they've started sending out offers to increase my credit limits. Yesterday I received an offer to increase the credit limit on one of the CCs I used for a 0% balance transfer for the past 6 months, from $6500 to $9750. And then today I received an offer from Citibank to increase my line of credit limit from $35K to $45K. I'll accept both these credit limit increases as it doesn't hurt to have more credit available (except when applying for a home loan, where they count all the available credit limits as if you had borrowed that amount). But I won't be using any the CC as I have another one for my day-to-day purchases which I pay off in full each month. I may use the Citibank line of credit account at the end of the financial year to prepay a year's margin loan interest (to get an immediate tax deduction on the interest), and then pay off this balance over the following few months.
One of the things I've learnt is that if you want something you should ask for it (nicely). So.... as I obviously like people to read my posts, building traffic is one of my "goals" for this blog. If you like reading any of my posts, please consider helping me out by doing one of the following (no cost and little effort!):
Add me to your technorati favourites:
Subscribe to my feed:
Adding me to your link list (If you want to appear on my link list, just ask and I'll look at your blog)
Including a link to one of my interesting posts in one of your posts
Now, back to our normal programming...
I've bitten the bullet and setup blogger to use my custom domain name "enoughwealth.com" - hopefully my blog will be accessible via this URL as well as still working using the old http://enoughwealth.blogspot.com ! I'll keep copying my posts to http://enoughwealth.savingadvice.com as a backup site - it seems to have attracted higher readership than the .blogspot.com version for some reason, although it has some limitations with what you can do to the blog template over there.
I've also taken the opportunity to change to a new, cleaner template for enoughwealth.com. Let me know what you think. Over the next couple of days I'll be adding in bits and pieces of html code from the old template, to reinsert the NetWorthIQ graph, link list, adsense etc. Hopefully I'll be able to put this all into the side bar without stuffing up the rest of the template (like last time).
Aside from the usual annual domain name rego fee for "enoughwealth.com" (US$14.95 with Dotster) I now have to pay an extra US$10 pa to get Dotster to provide "DNS management" so I could set the CNAME to the required value for automatic redirection to my blogger-hosted blog.
Hopefully using the custom domain will get better exposure than using a subdomain of blogspot.com - and help build readership over time.
An article on cnn.com reports that in UCLA's annual survey of college freshman 75% of those surveyed in 2006 thought it was essential or very important to be "very well-off financially.", compared with 62.5 percent who said the same in 1980 and only 42 percent in 1966. What I found most disturbing was that "wealth" was apparently seen as synonymous with the "trappings" of wealth. No wonder these people will leave college with student debt and immediately pile on more debt trying to acquire the "lifestyle of the rich and famous" before they actually have any net worth, let alone become wealthy.
Yesterday DW wanted to drive to the Aldi Supermarket to buy a couple of pakcets of their "cheap but good" nappies for DS2. A good idea in theory, although the petrol and wear on the car makes it doubtful how much we actually "save" by going out of our way to buy these. In practice, a total disaster (from the fiscal point of view).
While there I saw an "Digital Notepad" on sale - basically a clipboard with a 1000 lpi electronic pen/sensor built in so you can write up to 88 pages of notes and then download the images to my PC via USB. Basically I could already do that by simply scanning pages of notes using my flat-bed scanner! Anyhow, it looked cool, and I fancy the idea of wandering around the office taking notes on this high tech toy - so I forked out $140 for one (reduced from $160). Silly, silly, silly me.
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