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The case against owning a home

The case against owning a home

(Yahoo) – Are you house hunting? Home prices have been rising but are far off from their pre-housing bubble peak. Mortgage rates are also climbing — they’ve increased 1 percentage point since touching record lows a year ago — yet buyers can still borrow at super low rates of 4.37%, which is the average rate for a 30-year mortgage loan according to Freddie Mac.

There are many well-known positives of being a homeowner, such as laying down roots in a neighborhood, customizing the property to your liking, and, in theory at least, investing in long-term price appreciation.

But James Altucher, investor, author and entrepreneur, argues that owning a home could be one of the biggest financial mistakes to make: “It is never, ever a good idea to buy a house,” he says in the video above.

What’s Altucher’s beef with owning a home? “The house is totally illiquid, homeowners are trapped in a location, it’s not easy to move and taxes and other fees go up faster than the price of inflation,” he says. “There’s no law that you have to follow the ‘American Dream’.”… Read More

Philippines central bank says ready to intervene to calm markets

Philippines central bank says ready to intervene to calm markets

(Reuters) – The Philippines’ central bank stands ready to intervene again to calm volatility in financial markets if needed, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Amando Tetangco said on Friday.

“We don’t have any fx (currency) level. We allow markets to determine the exchange rate but we retain scope for possible participation in fx markets to smooth sharp fluctuations,” Tetangco told reporters on the sidelines of an Institute of International Finance conference in Sydney.

Stocks, bonds and currencies in some developing countries have swung wildly in recent months following the U.S. Federal Reserve’s tapering of its quantitative easing programme… Read More

Will Warren Buffett’s investment advice work for you?

Will Warren Buffett's investment advice work for you?

(Reuters) – In his most recent Berkshire Hathaway shareholder letter, the ever-folksy Warren Buffett sounds more like a personal finance guru than a financial mastermind, focusing on buy-and-hold investing and advocating indexing strategies.

Buffett’s net worth is about $60 billion, according to Forbes magazine, so he is obviously doing something right. But how sound is his advice for the rest of us? (here)

I spoke to some financial advisers and pundits, some of whom are the kind of folks Buffett thinks you should ignore, to get their take.

STAY PASSIVE, KEEP COSTS LOW

What immediately caught my eye is Buffett’s instruction that his wife back up the truck and invest in the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock-index upon his death.

That’s not a huge surprise, though. Buffett is a longtime fan of Jack Bogle, founder of the Vanguard Group, who champions passive, low-cost investing. But this is the first time Buffett is “putting his money where his mouth is in his own estate,” Bogle said in a email exchange with Reuters.

Specifically, Buffett wants the trustee of his estate to put 10 percent of his wife’s cash inheritance in short-term government bonds and 90 percent in a low-cost S&P index fund – and he tips his hat specifically to Bogle’s Vanguard in doing so. Says Buffett: “I believe the trust’s long-term results from this policy will be superior to those attained by most investors – whether pension funds, institutions or individuals.”

Face value, that’s a solid recommendation, although it might seem a bit odd, considering that Berkshire Hathaway has underperformed the S&P 500 in the past five years, and is trailing it slightly in 2014. But that’s not surprising because Buffett tends to lag a bit in bull markets, says Robert Hagstrom, author of The Warren Buffett Way… Read More

MIDEAST STOCKS-Egypt climbs on talk of Sisi presidential bid; Qatar drops as IQ goes ex-div

MIDEAST STOCKS-Egypt climbs on talk of Sisi presidential bid; Qatar drops as IQ goes ex-div
DUBAI (Reuters) – Egyptian shares rose on Tuesday after an unconfirmed media report suggested defence minister Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi would soon launch his bid for the presidency, while Qatar took a hit as heavyweight Industries Qatar traded ex-dividend.

Egypt’s Al Shorouk newspaper reported Sisi would officially announce his resignation from his current post on March 17; it cited an unidentified source close to the armed forces. It said Sedki Sobhi, armed forces chief of staff, would replace Sisi.

“If this happens, it will open the way for Sisi’s run for the presidency,” said Islam Batrawy, Cairo-based head of regional equity sales at NBK Capital. Sisi is the favourite of many Egyptian investors, who see him as the best guarantor of political stability and economic aid from the Gulf…
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BMO profit tops estimates on wealth management, domestic loans

BMO profit tops estimates on wealth management, domestic loans

TORONTO (Reuters) – Bank of Montreal reported higher-than-expected quarterly earnings on Tuesday on strong wealth management and domestic banking profits, and executives said they expect the uneven performance of BMO’s U.S. unit to eventually improve.

Profit from BMO’s Canadian retail banking operation rose 8 percent to C$484 million ($436.90 million) in the first quarter ended Jan. 31, with loan growth of 10 percent more than offsetting narrower interest margins.

“Growth in the domestic bank was better than my expectations,” said Edward Jones analyst Tom Lewandowski.

Canada’s No. 4 bank has fought to increase its share of the domestic mortgage market over the past few years, offering low-rate loans that have sometimes spurred price wars with the other banks.

All told, quarterly net profit was C$1.06 billion or C$1.58 a share, up from C$1.04 billion, or C$1.51 a share, a year earlier.

Excluding a charge for the amortization of acquisition-related intangible assets, the bank earned C$1.61 a share, topping analyst’ estimates of a profit of C$1.53, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Holding back profit gains was BMO’s U.S. Harris Bank unit, which saw income slide 15 percent to US$153 million, although that result was up from a very weak fourth quarter.

BMO roughly doubled the size of its U.S. bank when it bought Wisconsin lender Marshall & Ilsley in 2011, but the business has so far shown uneven results… Read More

Dubai telco du gets $1.17 bln in refinancing, fresh loans

Dubai telco du gets $1.17 bln in refinancing, fresh loans

DUBAI (Reuters) – United Arab Emirates telecommunications firm du has borrowed $1.17 billion in three separate deals to refinance existing debt and fund equipment purchases, the company said on Tuesday.
The deals include a $720 million package reported by Reuters last month and agreements with Standard Chartered Bank and DBS Singapore to refinance and top up existing loans.
“The move lowers the company’s funding costs, saving approximately $9 million over the term of the loan due to the favourable margins agreed with the banks involved,” du said in a statement.
Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, National Bank of Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia’s Samba Financial Group have provided du with a $720 million five-year facility… Read More

3 stocks, 3 investing rules from a billionaire

3 stocks, 3 investing rules from a billionaire

(CNBC) The plainspoken founder of York Capital Management, a hedge fund with $21 billion of assets under management, provided his three rules for investing and three of his favorite stocks in a CNBC interview Thursday.

Calling the current environment a “stock pickers market,” billionaire James Dinan explained on “Squawk Box” his philosophy of “event-driven investing” and how he looks for companies going through big change. “We’re looking to predict what’s going to happen tomorrow—is there a value gap, is the market going to close that gap?”

First, we’re going to dive into Dinan’s stock picks and then look at his three investment rules… Read More

Bitcoin could be manipulated and that’s OK

Bitcoin could be manipulated and that's OK

(Yahoo) The price of a Bitcoin is soaring today, extending a rally that started just one day after rumors of the Mt. Gox collapse emerged on February 24th. Based on the Coindesk.com Bitcoin Price Index (BPI), the pretend currency of choice has risen more than 50% in just the last week.

Buyers and sellers don’t have to label their motivations for making a move in Bitcoin. Priced in dollars Bitcoin had dropped 60% since December and was retesting old lows. Buying the Mt. Gox panic made sense for a trade assuming you could trust your exchange.

There’s also another slightly more murky possibility. Bitcoin could be openly manipulated by investors with a lot to gain and very little to lose.

As so helpfully illustrated by Mt. Gox Bitcoin trading is unregulated and relatively anonymous. Coindesk data shows $8.5 billion worth of Bitcoin in circulation currently and despite the huge pop there have been fewer than 86,000 transactions over the last 24 hours. Logically those trades were between a relatively few number of players as the market is dominated by relatively few “investors.” That’s $60 million worth of coins traded in one day… Read More

Diehard renters just say no to buyings

Diehard renters just say no to buyings

(Reuters) – With a wife and a 10-year-old daughter, Matthew Amster-Burton appears to be one of the likelier people to buy a house, but the Seattle food writer says he has no interest in doing so.

“It does feel weird sometimes, because it’s supposed to be the grown-up thing to do,” says Amster-Burton, 38. ” … But it’s really not my goal, and it does seem like I’m swimming against the tide sometimes.”

Amster-Burton is part of a population of diehard renters that is growing as the rate of U.S. homeownership drops. There was a net loss of 162,000 owners between 2011 and 2012, according to the 2013 “State of the Nation’s Housing” report from Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies…Read More

Analysis: High-priced index funds? The worst deal for investors

Analysis: High-priced index funds? The worst deal for investors

(Reuters) – When Vanguard founder Jack Bogle created the first index fund in 1974, the idea was to offer investors a cheap way to buy the performance of a broad market. That idea has caught on, especially recently: In 2013, everyone from 401(k) providers to mom and pop embraced index funds, sending almost $2 into them for every $1 they invested in actively managed funds, according to Morningstar.

But a handful of the firms riding that indexing wave actually turn Bogle’s dream upside down: With fees that can run over $2.00 per $100 invested, they are more expensive even than most actively managed funds, and are among the worst deals widely available to fund investors, according to an analysis of data from Lipper. Yet, they continue to attract new investors even as they significantly underperform the booming stock market…Read More

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