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There are many markets: markets for stocks, futures, options and currencies. These are probably the most accessible markets for everyday traders like you and I.

People easily understand the basics of trading shares, so I will occasionally use examples from that market. I began trading shares first and then I moved on to trading currencies; therefore, most of the examples I will be using in this book are derived from trading currencies. If you do not know a lot about currency trading, allow me to introduce it to you. It is what I trade and I believe that it is apr cards one of the best markets to trade because of its efficiency. The transaction costs to execute a trade are minimal and most brokers provide you with the tools and data you need to make your trading decisions, they usually provide them for free. The market is open 24 hours a day which allows you to design your trading hours around your daily commitments. It is very volatile, which is great for those people who are looking for day-trading opportunities. The foreign exchange market is the market in which apr cards currencies are bought and sold against one another. People may loosely refer to this market under different labels, including foreign apr cards exchange market, forex market, fx market or the currency market. The foreign exchange market is the largest market in the world, with daily trading volumes in excess of $1.5 trillion US dollars. All apr cards transactions involving international trade and investment must go through this market because these transactions involve the exchange of currencies. It is the most perfect market that exists because it has a large number of buyers and sellers all selling the same products. There is a free flow of information and there are little barriers to participate. The currency exchange market is an over-the-counter (OTC) market which means that there is not one specific location where buyers and sellers can actually meet to exchange currencies. Instead, transactions are conducted by phone, fax, e-mail or through the websites of brokers who specialize in currency trading. The major dealing centres at the time of writing are: London , with about 30% of the market, New York , with 20%, Tokyo , with 12%, Zurich , Frankfurt, Hong Kong and Singapore , with about 7% each, followed by Paris and Sydney with 3% each. Because of the fact that these centres are all over the world, foreign exchange traders can execute transactions 24 hours a day. The market only closes on the weekends. THE MAIN ‘PLAYERS' IN THE FOREX MARKET The five broad categories of participants are: consumers, businesses, investors, speculators, commercial banks, investment banks and central banks. Consumers, including visitors of countries, tourists and immigrants, do need to exchange currencies when they travel so that they can buy local goods and services. These participants do not have the power to set prices. They just buy and sell according to the prevailing exchange rate. They make up a significant proportion of the volume being traded in the market. Businesses that import and export goods and services need to exchange currencies to receive or make payments for goods they may have bought or services they may have rendered. Investors and speculators require currencies to buy and sell investment instruments such as shares, bonds, bank deposits or real estate. Large commercial and investment banks are the ‘price makers'. They are the ones who buy and sell currencies at the bid-and-offer exchange rates that they declare through their foreign exchange dealers. Commercial banks deal with customers on one hand, and with the Interbank or other banks, on the other hand. They profit by utilizing the bid-and-offer spread. The bid price is the exchange rate that the buyer is willing to buy and the offer price is the exchange rate at which the seller is willing to sell. The difference is called the bid-offer spread. They also make profits from speculating about whether the exchange rate will rise or fall. Central banks participate in the foreign exchange market in their effective duty as banks for their particular government. They trade currencies not for the intention of making profits but rather to facilitate government monetary policies and to help smoothen out the fluctuation of the value of their economy's currency.2

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DID YOU KNOW?

One question almost every investor asks at some point is whether it is possible to achieve above market returns by selecting a diversified group of stocks according to some formula, rather than having to evaluate each stock from every angle. There are obvious advantages to such a formulaic approach. For the individual, the amount of time and effort spent caring for his investments would be reduced, leaving more time for him to spend on more enjoyable and fulfilling tasks. For the institution, large sums of money could be deployed without having to rely upon the investing acumen of a single talented stock picker.

Many of the proposed systems also offer the advantage of matching the inflow of investable funds with investment opportunities. An investor who follows no formula, and evaluates each stock from every angle, may often find himself holding cash. Historically, this has been a problem for some excellent stock pickers. So, there are real advantages to favoring a formulaic approach to investing if such an approach would yield returns similar to the returns a complete stock by stock analysis would yield.

Many investment writers have proposed at least one such formulaic approach during their lifetime. The most promising formulaic approaches have been articulated by three men: Benjamin Graham, David Dreman, and Joel Greenblatt. As each of these approaches appeals to logic and common sense, they are not unique to these three men. But, these are the three names with which these approaches are usually most closely associated; so, there is little need to draw upon sources beyond theirs.

Benjamin Graham wrote three books of consequence: “Security Analysis”, “The Intelligent Investor”, and “The Interpretation of Financial Statements”. Within each book, he hints at various workable approaches both in stocks and bonds; however, he is most explicit in his best known work, “The Intelligent Investor”. There, Graham discusses the purchase of shares for less than two – thirds of their net current asset value. The belief that this method would yield above market returns is supported on both empirical and logical grounds. In fact, it currently enjoys far too much support to be practicable. Public companies rarely trade below their net current asset values.

This is unlikely to change in the future. Buyout firms, unconventional money managers, and vulture investors now check such excessive bouts of public pessimism by taking large or controlling stakes in troubled companies. As a result, the investing public is less likely to indulge its pessimism as feverishly as it once did; for, many cheap stocks now have the silver lining of being takeover targets. As Graham’s net current asset value method is neither workable at present, nor is likely to prove workable in the future, we must set it aside.

David Dreman is known as a contrarian investor. In his case, it is an appropriate label, because of his keen interest in behavioral finance. However, in most cases the line separating the value investor from the contrarian investor is fuzzy at best. Dreman’s contrarian investing strategies are derived from three measures: price to earnings, price to cash flow, and price to book value. Of these measures, the price to earnings ratio is by far the most conspicuous.

It is quoted nearly everywhere the share price is quoted. When inverted, the price to earnings ratio becomes the earnings yield. To put this another way, a stock’s earnings yield is “e” over “p”. Dreman describes the strategy of buying stocks trading at low prices relative to their earnings as the low P/E approach; but, he could have just as easily called it the high earnings yield approach. Whatever you call it, this approach has proved effective in the past. A diversified group of low P/E stocks has usually outperformed both a diversified group of high P/E stocks and the market as a whole.

This fact suggests that investors have a very hard time quantifying the future prospects of most public companies. While they may be able to make correct qualitative comparisons between businesses, they have trouble assigning a price to these qualitative differences. This does not come as a surprise to anyone with much knowledge of human judgment (and misjudgment). I am sure there is some technical term for this deficiency, but I know it only as “checklist syndrome”. Within any mental model, one must both describe the variables and assign weights to these variables. Humans tend to have little difficulty describing the variables – that is, creating the checklist. However, they rarely have any clue as to the weight that ought to be given to each variable.

This is why you will sometimes hear analysts say something like: the factor that tipped the balance in favor of online sales this holiday season was high gas prices (yes, this is an actual paraphrase; but, I won’t attribute it, because publicly attaching such an inane argument to anyone’s name is just cruel). It is true that avoiding paying high prices at the pump is a possible motivating factor in a shopper’s decision to make online Christmas purchases. However, it is an immaterial factor. It is a mere pebble on the scales. This is the same kind of thinking that places far too much value on a stock’s future earnings growth and far too little value on a stock’s current earnings.

The other two contrarian methods: the low price to cash flow approach and the low price to book value approach work for the same reasons. They exploit the natural human tendency to see a false equality in the factors, and to run down a checklist. For instance, a stock that has a triple digit price to cash flow ratio, but is in all other respects an extraordinary business, will be judged favorably by a checklist approach. However, if great weight is assigned to present cash flows relative to the stock price, the stock will be judged unfavorably. This also illustrates the second strength of the three contrarian methods. They heavily weight the known factors. Of course, they do not heavily weight all known factors. They only consider three easily quantifiable known factors. An excellent brand, a growing industry, a superb management team, etc. may also be known factors. However, they are not precisely quantifiable. I would argue that while these factors may not be quantifiable they are calculable; that is to say, while no exact value may be assigned to them, they are useful data that ought to be considered when evaluating an investment.

There is the possibility of a middle ground here. These three contrarian methods may be used as a screen. Then, the investor may apply his own active judgment to winnow the qualifying stocks down to a final portfolio. Personally, I do not believe this is an acceptable compromise. These three methods do not adequately model the diversity of great investments. Therefore, they must either exclude some of the best stocks or include too many of the worst stocks. It is wise to place great weight upon each of these measures; however, it is foolish disqualify any stock because of a single criterion (which is exactly what such a screen does).

Finally, there is Joel Greenblatt’s “magic formula”. This is the most interesting formulaic approach to investing, both because it does not subject stocks to any true/false tests and because it is a composite of the two most important readily quantifiable measures a stock has: earnings yield and return on capital. As you will recall, earnings yield is simply the inverse of the P/E ratio; so, a stock with a high earnings yield is simply a low P/E stock. Return on capital may be thought of as the number of pennies earned for each dollar invested in the business. The exact formula that Greenblatt uses is described in “The Little Book That Beats the Market”.

However, the formula used is rather unimportant. Over large groups of stocks (which is what Greenblatt suggests the magic formula be used on) any differences between the various return on capital formulae will not have much affect on the performance of the portfolios constructed. Greenblatt claims his magic formula may be used in two different ways: as an automated portfolio generation tool or as a screen. For an investor like you (that is, one with sufficient curiosity and commitment to frequent a site such as this) the latter use is the more appropriate one. The magic formula will serve you well as a screen. I would argue, however, that you needn’t limit yourself to stocks screened by the magic formula, if you have full confidence in your judgment regarding some other stock.

These four formulaic approaches (the three from Dreman and the one from Greenblatt) will likely yield returns greater than or equal to the returns you would obtain from an index fund. Therefore, you would do better to invest in your own basket of qualifying stocks than in the prefabricated market basket. If you want to be a passive investor, or believe yourself incapable of being an active investor, these formulaic approaches are your best bet. In fact, if I were approached by an institution making long – term investments and using only a very small percentage of the fund for operating expenses, I would recommend an automated process derived from these four approaches. I would also recommend that 100% of the fund’s investable assets be put into equities, but that is a discussion for another day (in fact, it’s a discussion for Tuesday; my next podcast is devoted to the dangers of diversification). If, however, you believe you have what it takes to be an active investor, and that is truly what you wish to be, then, I would suggest you do not use these approaches for anything more than helping you generate some useful ideas.

If you choose this path, you need to be clear about what being an active investor entails. Read this next part very carefully (it is correct even though it may not appear to be): I have never found a screen that generates more than one buy order per hundred stocks returned. Even after I have narrowed the list of possible stocks down by a cursory review of the industry and the business itself, I have never found a method that can consistently generate more than one buy order per twenty – five annual reports read. Here, I am citing my best past experiences. In my experience, most screens result in less than one buy order per three hundred stocks returned, and I usually read more like fifty to a hundred annual reports per buy order at a minimum. You may choose to invest in far more stocks than I do. Perhaps instead of limiting yourself to your five to twelve best ideas as I do, you might want to put money into your best twenty – five to thirty ideas. Do the math, and you’ll see that is still quite a bit of homework. That’s why remaining a passive investor is the best bet for most people. The time and effort demanded of the active investor is simply too taxing. They have more important, more enjoyable things to do. If that’s true for you, the four formulaic approaches outlined above should guide you to above market returns.

Most people get a little shy when it comes to bargaining for a good price on something. Those that are good at it get great deals on everything and save tons of money in the process. There are benefits to learning how to bargain.

Society seems to give the idea that it isn't nice to negotiate. It feels like asking for a lower price says that you can't afford to pay the full price. Or that you are being rude. Many people think that you can ask for a lower price at a garage sell, flea market or car lot, but not anywhere else.

Bargaining is a great way to get a good price. Prices are always up for negotiation. That's why they are often called the "suggested retail price".

Whenever you purchase an item from a store or a service from a business, you are entering into a business transaction. You have the right to negotiate for the best terms when it comes to how much you pay. If the sales price isn't acceptable to you, you can try to change the terms by bargaining.

First, you must be prepared to lose, which you will do a lot. Keep your attitude polite and friendly. Remember, you want someone to do something for you. You have to be nice.

You probably won't be able to walk into a department store and get 50% off on a new camcorder. But if you find one you like that has a minor flaw, such as a scratch, you should ask to talk with the manager about the pricing.

You'll find that most locally owned stores will bargain with you if you are polite and reasonable. Don't automatically ask for 50% off, but if you ask for a 15% or 20% discount on a damaged item, you will probably succeed. Use your status as a senior citizen, student or organizational member to receive a discount.

If you are buying more than one large item from a store, ask for a discount based on buying multiple products. When I purchased a new stove, fridge and dishwasher for my kitchen, I requested a discount and received it. It helped that I am a good customer that buys all of my appliances through the store in question.

When you wish to bargain with a manager or store owner, be discreet. The person in charge doesn't want to advertise the deal. Be polite, charming and honest. Don't try to bargain when a store is busy. Wait until business is slow and sales people are looking to make a sale. Ask for a discount for paying in cash. Cash can talk quite loudly. Look for merchandise that has been in the store for a while. I've purchased floor displays for up to 40% off.

Look for items without price tags. If it isn't marked, feel free to make an offer. Look over items carefully for damage or flaws. Make sure that items you purchase have cosmetic flaws only. For example, a scratch on the side of a refrigerator could be hidden against the wall of your kitchen. No one would ever know.

You won't always find people willing to bargain with you. If they don't seem open, don't waste your time. You can always try again somewhere else.










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