BlackFire Finance

Human behavior flows from three main sources: desire, emotion, and knowledge.
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Welcome to Blackfire Finance, dedicated to Finance, Money, Business and Most Importantly Knowledge

Stock Market Tip: Use Google Trends

What a curious thing the stock market is; so powerful, yet so flighty. Like a school of sardines, it moves as one, changing direction nimbly when danger looms or advantage beckons. What it will do next has always been difficult to predict.

But what if you could now – using nothing more than a free, public online tool?

Research published today in Nature Scientific Reports finds that Google search behaviour is not only a clear indicator of movements in the market; it also gives insight into the likely future behaviour of economic actors:

These warning signs in search volume data could have been exploited in the construction of profitable trading strategies.

Mind reading from data mining

Stock market prediction is so difficult, says Warwick Business School researcher and first author Tobias Preis, due to “herding behaviour”.

Investors are influenced by the collective thinking of others in the market, as well as their own personal reasons, so trading patterns in one week are nearly useless for predicting what will happen the following week.

Knowledge is power … and may be highly profitable.
MyEyeSees

To predict the market, Preis says, you need to know what is going through people’s minds before they make their financial decisions – and one way to do this is to see the words they Google.

Data mining tools such as Google Trends and Google Correlate are putting powerful analytical toolkits into the hands of investors keen to parlay a small advantage into a large gain.

As a point in principle, the price of stock in Apple Inc. is seen to positively correlate with search volume, in this recent article from the Harvard Business School.

Twitter feeds are also showing promise as sources of strategic investor information.

This was demonstrated in spectacular form on Tuesday when the hacked Associated Press Twitter account reported two explosions in the White House with US President Barack Obama injured.

Twitter

Associated Press immediately corrected the tweet, but the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 143 points in a “flash crash”.

And while the market recovered within minutes, the crash showed just how intertwined Twitter and the stock market are.

Previous work by German economists Dimpfl and Jank looked at whether internet search queries could predict stock market volatility.

They concluded that daily search query data gives clear insight into people’s interest in the market as a whole.

Investors are more active with their queries during times of strong market movement.

Like Preis, they found a rise in investor attention is followed by a period of heightened market volatility.

This was also supported by a group of European researchers who, when studying the American stock exchange NASDAQ-100, found:

Query volumes anticipate in many cases peaks of trading by one day or more.

In other words, there is a correlation between trading volumes of NASDAQ-100 stocks and the volumes of queries related to the same stocks.

The advantage of using real-time data analytics is, of course, that it tells you what is happening right now.

Conventional channels for market data involve lags of several days. Google’s Research Blog notes that

Google Trends … provide a real time report on query volume, while economic data is typically released several days after the close of the month.

Given this time lag, it is not implausible that Google queries in a category like “Automotive/Vehicle Shopping” during the first few weeks of March may help predict what actual March automotive sales will be like when the official data is released halfway through April.

This work is detailed in the paper Predicting the Present with Google Trends.

So how do I make my millions?

The work done so far indicates that using tools such as Google Trends and Yahoo! can yield real-time insight into market sentiment, and that this information can be used strategically to devise profitable trading strategies.

 

What is needed, though, is finer granularity.

If investors could drill down further into the data to discern daily or hourly trends they might well be able to predict a rise or fall in stock prices.

It could also give people warning of impending crises.

With increasing volumes of data on the internet, there is a clear need for tools that can mine this data and be a window into the zeitgeist.

Google Trends, with its access to search data from the most popular search engine, is probably the most powerful such tool currently available.

And if you’re looking for a safe bet, it is highly likely we will see a lot more action in this field in the years ahead.

The Conversation

David Tuffley, Lecturer in Applied Ethics & Socio-Technical Studies, Griffith University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Divest for Our Future

What is Fossil Fuel Divestment, and Should You Join the Movement?

As more and more Australians support climate change action, fossil fuel divestment has become a highlight in environmental campaigns throughout the country. It is seen as a part of ethical investment that could help bring positive change to society and environment. But what is fossil fuel divestment, and how can you get involved?

Definition and purpose

According to climate organisation 350, divestment is “the opposite of an investment – it simply means getting rid of stocks, bonds, or investment funds that are unethical or morally ambiguous.” Emma Howard of the Guardian wrote that the global fossil fuel divestment movement is about “asking institutions to move their money out of oil, coal and gas companies for both moral and financial reasons. These institutions include universities, religious institutions, pension funds, local authorities and charitable foundations.”

350 believes it is not enough to demand a halt on infrastructure projects, such as building new pipelines or coal mines. “We need to loosen the grip that coal, oil and gas companies have on our government and financial markets, so that we have a chance of living on a planet that looks something like the one we live on now,” said the organisation in its Fossil Free website.

“It’s time to go right at the root of the problem–the fossil fuel companies themselves–and make sure they hear us in terms they might understand, like their share price.”

Why should you divest?

Australia’s energy sector still has not considered its impacts on environment, according to Daniel Gocher, head of research at Market Forces.

“Not only is Australia’s energy sector largely ignoring the Paris Agreement, nor planning for its implications, but they’re also projecting “long life growth”, as though there is no possibility that their business models could be disrupted,” said Gocher.

“Most Australian investors, including the vast majority of our super funds, have eschewed the fossil fuel divestment movement, which exceeds a staggering $3.5 trillion globally, preferring to remain invested in energy companies and use their influence as shareholders to change them from within.”

However, from a business perspective, clean energy could be more competitive today. Many experts believe that renewable energy, such as wind and solar, could now be more profitable than coal, thanks to cheaper technologies and government incentives in the US.

Furthermore, 350 argues that fossil fuel investments are “very risky”, with “disasters like Exxon Valdez, the BP oil spill, along with massive fluctuations in supply and demand of coal, oil and gas” making energy markets volatile.

Therefore, fossil fuel divestment is not only ethical and beneficial for the society and environment, but it is also potentially more profitable, as you can shift your money to other, more stable sectors.

To get involved, you can start a campaign for your institutions’ divestment, or divest your money as well.

For more information about divesting and starting a campaign, go to these websites: Investor Group on Climate Change; 350; Market Forces; and the Australia Institute.

Oil rig

News: Investors Expect Oil Selloff Should OPEC Deal Collapse

As tensions arise between OPEC countries in the runup to the November 30 meeting, investors are preparing for the worst and expecting a fall in energy stocks should a deal fail to be clinched.

On Monday crude price fell by 0.3 per cent to $US47.1 per barrel, and energy stocks declined by 1.8 per cent.

Iran and Iraq have reportedly persisted on higher output numbers, according to unnamed sources.

“We hope we (will) have agreement,” said Jabar Ali al-Luaibi, Iraq’s Oil Minister on Monday upon arriving in Vienna for the talk. “We will cooperate with OPEC members to reach agreement acceptable to all.”

Experts expect oil selloff should OPEC fail to reach a deal. “People know if OPEC doesn’t do a deal, all the short-term drivers for the oil price will be off the table,” said Romano Sala Tenna, portfolio manager at Katana Asset Management.

Collapse in talks could send crude prices below $US40, said Fadel Gheit, managing director of oil and gas research at Oppenheimer & Co.

Others are more optimistic. There is a chance that OPEC could agree to cut production by more than 500,000 barrels, said Helima Croft, RBC Capital Markets’ global head of commodity strategy.

“OPEC’s leadership is cognizant of the risks posed by failing to reach a deal,” Croft wrote in a report. Should a deal be reached, Croft said oil prices could climb back to $US55 per barrel.

The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries will meet on Wednesday, November 30 in Vienna to establish the terms of its first production cut in eight years.

Commonwealth Bank

News: CBA Deposit Interest Rates Cuts Hit Savers

Commonwealth Bank (CBA) has cut a range of term deposit interest rates for the second time since August.

The bank blamed the cuts, which took effect last week, on changes in credit markets and the globally low- interest rate.

The rate cuts apply to six-term deposit products, spanning from three months to five years, by 5 to 15 basis points.

“The reason we have made changes to interest rates on some deposit accounts is due to the record-low interest rate environment, changes in underlying funding costs in local and international funding markets, and competitive conditions that affect the interest rates we are able to pay,” said Clive van Horen, executive general manager of retail products and strategy at CBA.

In August, CBA raised deposit rates and marketed it as a win for savers after the Australia’s big four banks passed on half of the Reserve Bank of Australia’s rate cuts to mortgage holders.

CBA reversed these cuts in September, and ANZ, NAB, and Westpac followed suit in October.

Stockmarket: Major US Indexes Close on Record Highs

All three major US stock indexes have closed on record highs on Monday night, following a rise in commodity and technology shares.

S&P energy index jumped 2.2 per cent, while .SPLRCT technology index rose 1.1 per cent.

Facebook increased 4 per cent to $US121.77 after announcing a $6-billion share buyback program on Friday.

LifeLock rose 14.7 per cent to $US23.18 following Symantec’s announcement to purchase the company for $US2.3 billion.

Applied Micro Circuits also increased 11.7 per cent after Macom Tech announced a $US770 million takeover of the company.

Oil prices have risen after Iran and Russia indicated that an OPEC deal could be reached in a Vienna meeting next week.

 

Markets at 8:40am (AEDT):

  • ASX SPI 200 futures +0.7pc to 5,393
  • AUD: 73.65 US cents, 69.31 euro cents, 59.00 British pence, 81.62 Japanese yen, $NZ1.0429
  • US: Dow Jones +0.47pc at 18,957, S&P500 +0.75pc at 2,198, NASDAQ +0.89pc at 5,369
  • Europe: FTSE +0.03pc at 6,778, DAX +0.19pc at 10,685, Eurostoxx +0.29pc at 325
  • Commodities: Brent oil +4.8pc at $US49.11/barrel, spot gold +0.41pc at $US1,213.20/ounce, iron ore -$US2.00 at $US70.50/tonne
trump

Stockmarket: Trump’s Election Win Boosts Market

Donald Trump’s unexpected election to US presidency has boosted the stock market.

Following Trump’s win, economists expect an economic growth of 2.2 per cent in 2017 and 2.3 per cent in 2018, increasing from 1.5 per cent the past year.

Inflation is also predicted to rise to 2.2 per cent in 2017 and 2.4 per cent in 2018. The Federal Reserve has been struggling to increase inflation above the 2 per cent threshold since the 2008 financial crisis.

Bank of America’s stock has climbed by 17 per cent since Donald Trump won the presidential election.

These changes and estimates are underpinned by the belief that Trump’s administration will push for deregulation and provide market stimulus through infrastructure spending and cuts in tax rates.

The Bank of America has indicated that for every 100 basis points increase, the Bank will earn $5.3 billion in additional net interest income.

Taxes/Regulations: Best Things To Spend Your Tax Return On

Getting your tax return back is like celebrating Christmas early. The possibilities are endless – but should you be smart or careless with your tax return money? Money Crashers gives us a few tips and ideas on what to spend our tax refund money on:

Spend It On Something You Need
Low on groceries? In need of a new pair of shoes or a laptop? Your tax return could you save you from saving up. The extra cash bonus is a good way to ticket those items in for when you need them most.

Pay Off High-Interest Debt
The best time to eliminate any high-interest debt that you’re carrying is with your tax return money. Use this as an opportunity to pay off payday loans, title loans, debt consolidation loans, high-interest private student loans, car loans, or credit card debt.

Start Itemized Savings Accounts
Create a budget and divide your refund into pieces, with each set aside for savings for different items you’ll need in your bank account for important future purchases. Putting your refund toward specific savings goals can prevent you from debt.

Start or Increase Your Emergency Fund

According to Money Crashers, experts say “that your fund should contain about six to eight months’ worth of savings in an easily accessible interest-bearing account (such as an online savings account or money market account). Storing that much money might take months (or even years) if you’re just taking a little bit out of each paycheck, so use your refund to make a significant deposit to your emergency fund.”

Donate to Charitable Causes
Donating to charity may seem like the least priority on your list, especially if you are low on money. But giving back to the community can be a generous and a much more rewarding option than splurging on useless things.

Spend It On Something You Want
You’ve worked hard all year, it’s time to treat yourself to what you’ve earned. Set aside a desirable amount for your savings and an allowance on what you want to splurge on. That way you can use it for something fun like a holiday or shopping trip without surging into a financial chaos.

Personal Finance: Debt vs More Debt – Are Personal Loans A Good Idea?

So you’ve gotten yourself into a bit of a pickle, and you can’t get out of it without some help. Without a lot of financial options, the easiest solution seems to be taking out a personal loan. But are personal loans a good idea? They seem to be a continued chapter of another financial burden. We take a look at the factors and types of personal loans that could be suitable for you:

A Secured Personal Loan

Having assets such as a house or car can be used as security for the loan. Your provider will take these assets into consideration, and possibly offer you a lower personal loan interest rate, as there is less risk to the provider if there is a loan repayment default. In the event of a default or inability to repay the personal loan, your assets can be legally seized by the lender.

In other words, you will need to make an accurate application with your chosen lender to make certain you are not under financial pressure to pay off the personal loan. It could be a good idea to have repayments automatically deducted from your pay or bank account to guarantee they are made on schedule.

An Unsecured Personal Loan

In this scenario, you won’t have any assets to protect the lender, and your personal loan will incur a higher interest rate. Nevertheless, the same rule of thumb applies, and you need to ensure that repayments are affordable and ongoing for the duration of the loan.

It’s a good idea to compare various lending institutions to make sure you get the best possible deal. A dollar saved is a dollar earned and a step closer to becoming financially solvent.

Interest Rates

As with other types of loans, there are several ways of making repayments. The most popular methods are Variable Interest Rates and Fixed Interest Rates.

Variable interest rates are influenced by the final decisions made by the Reserve Bank of Australia. Changes to the Reserve Bank cash rate filters down to the banks and their customers. Taking out a variable rate is the option to make additional repayments on the personal loan without incurring any additional fees – which can be a major perk. On the downside, the nature of variable means that your interest rate can go up or down at any time, and repayments could become unsustainable if finances are tight.

Fixed interest rates can provide you with confidence in knowing that your repayments will remain steady for the entire duration of the loan. The downside is that fixed interest rates are generally higher than the prevailing variable rate at the time of taking out a loan.

Additional repayments on top of your scheduled repayments may also not be allowed with a fixed rate, or will incur a fee. Extra charges in the case of early termination or a change of loan agreement are also the norm for a fixed interest rate loan.

All information sourced from: http://aussiefinanceblog.com.au/personal-finance/should-i-get-a-personal-loan-to-pay-off-debt/

Insurance: Rundown on Life Insurance

Your life is worth the investment and considering life insurance can secure you and your family in times of great need. For example, if you were to leave dependants behind, your policy will ensure they are financially secure and able to meet ongoing expenses.

According to George from Aussie Finance Blog, “everyone is ultimately vulnerable to health complications and accidents, so it’s hard to understand why anyone with available finances would remain uninsured. It’s true that nobody wants to contemplate death for themselves or their loved ones, and when things are going along nicely, life insurance is easily forgotten. However, there’s no denying that life insurance cover could prove invaluable in a time of need.”

Let’s take a look at the different types of life insurance options available and are suitable to your needs:

Term Insurance

The most common life insurance policy is a term insurance. You are able to choose the length of your insurance plan, with policies generally set for a period between 10 to 25 years. The agreed payment, or ‘sum assured’ is agreed upon when you take out the policy, but remember to read the fine print as some policies don’t pay out if you die soon after taking out cover. If the set policy time-frame expires before you die, there is no pay out. There are several term insurance variations:

  • Level term insurance: The ‘sum assured’ amount of cover remains the same for the duration of the policy.
  • Decreasing term insurance: Your pay-out will reduce over time, usually in keeping with reduced mortgage repayments or other debts.
  • Increasing term insurance: Your pay-out increases over time to keep pace with the cost of living, and is usually pegged at 5%, or in line with inflation.
  • Guaranteed premiums: Your payments will remain the
    • same over time, assisting you with budgeting.
    • Reviewable premiums: This can be less expensive initially, but is subject to review, with the potential for payment increases over time.

     

    Factors that will be considered:

    The good news is that life insurance premiums are currently much lower than they were previously. Factors that influence the cost of your insurance cover include:

    • Your age
    • Health considerations
    • Occupation
    • Smoking status

    If you stop smoking after taking out cover, let your insurance company know, as they may reduce your monthly premiums. Honesty is important, and if you provide false or misleading information regarding your health or smoking status your policy will be invalidated and you won’t get a pay out.

    Family Income Benefit

    Instead of being paid a lump sum, your family will be provided a regular monthly tax-free income for the remaining duration of the policy term after you die. The downside is that if the policy expires shortly after you die, your family will only get monthly payments for a short period of time.

    Whole of life cover

    This kind of policy provides a guaranteed pay out, and as a consequence premiums are much higher than for term insurance. You will also be paying premiums until you die, even if you have already cleared your mortgage and are in a good financial position.

    Over 50s life insurance

    This policy option is popular with those who have been a little slow getting around to life insurance cover. An attraction is that you will be accepted even if you have a medical or illness history. However, these policies commonly have a maximum age limit, and will need to be in place for a period of time for a claim to be considered. Premiums can be inexpensive, but cover is also relatively low, and will only assist with immediate expenses, such as funeral costs.

    All information sourced, detailed and provided by: Aussie Finance Blog

Lifestyle: Are Credit Cards Worth It?

For most cardholders, credit cards can be your ticket to a wide range of great spending opportunities such as shopping, business, and travel. But for others who will often misuse their credit cards, owning a credit card may lead to financial hardship in the long run. Aussie Finance Blog gives us a preview of the perks and disadvantages of owning a credit.

PROS:
Convenience: A credit card will save you the trouble of finding a nearby ATM, and you will need to carry less cash with you.

Statements and records: You can easily keep track of expenditure, receive ongoing bank statements and retain records for tax purposes.

Cash flow: A credit card is a convenient way to obtain a cash advance at a time when you need it most.

Build a good credit rating: Having a history of controlled credit card use will supply banks and other lenders with a good impression of your money handling skills. It will also help negate past bad credit history.


CONS:
Overuse
: Credit cards can make you feel you have an abundance of ready cash. A credit card used inappropriately can result in overspending, leading to repayment difficulties.

Extra paperwork: It’s not uncommon to lose track of spending. You will need to keep receipts in order to check them against bank statements.

Missed payments: If you miss a payment, you may end up paying much more than required for your purchases.

High interest rates: High interest rates can often outweigh benefits. Many purchase savings offered by credit cards are also available elsewhere.

A cycle of debt: Customers sometimes obtain a new credit card to alleviate debt on their present card. This approach leads to a cycle of debt, with increased monthly payments.

Credit card teaser rates: Companies lure customers with attractive introductory interest rates. Although initially helpful, the expiry of the introductory rate is also the start of a new rate which can be much higher and difficult to manage.

Verdict: Are credit cards as bad as they seem? Credit cards are like tools, if you use them correctly and responsibly there won’t be any negative consequences. What do you think about credit cards?