Monday, June 22, 2015

How Much Cash is Too Much for Your Portfolio?

Cash Position – 6% - 30% Based on Age/Risk Appetite

As per Charles Schwab Corpn’s – SCHW robo-advisor, Schwab Intelligent Portfolios, the cash position of an investor should be between 6 and 30 percent based on age and risk appetite. If one would be looking for a precise percentage, advice from financial experts will inform the individual to focus on capital allocation of 60 percent stock, 30 percent bonds and 10 percent in cash.

Investors though who are more likely to take risk are the younger generations who don’t necessarily need a stable income and could have more capital allocated to stocks. Cash is king as well as trash and nowhere is cash said to be more controversial than using it by way of investment, where too much of it is considered to be a risk but how much could be `too much’?

The debate came up when Charles Schwab had launched Intelligent Portfolios which is an algorithm based platform that automatically builds and rebalances portfolios like the asset-management services of robo-advisors and his treatment of cash in platform had many eyebrows raised, leading to criticism of allocation to cash, depending on the investor’s risk profile.

How Much Cash an Investor Should Hold …?

Charles Schwab replied that there seems to be no right or wrong answer as to how much cash an investor should be holding as an investment and that it is a strategic decision. He further added saying that it is easy to question cash in the 6th year of a bull market and when the Federal Reserve is artificially suppressing interest rates, but they did not invest based on the last six years.

Investment was based on what can be expected in the future. Bull market end and interest rates increase and when they do, a little cash will feel pretty good’.The question raised was, how much should one hold in their brokerage account to which both sides seemed to agree and there was not a single answer that fits all circumstance. When people tend to discuss their investing portfolios they usually refer to the stocks, commodities, bonds and real estate that they own. Regarding cash and how much to hold in a portfolio is based on who you are and how you are investing as well as your investment perspective.

Cash Not As Asset Class – Call Option Which Can Be Priced

When Warren Edward Buffett an American business magnate, investor and philanthropist and the most successful investor of the 20th century had patiently held around $20 billion in cash, he thought of cash not as an asset class which is returning next to nothing but as `a call option which can be priced, relative to ability of cash to buy assets.’ He put in good use at the time of the financial crisis gathering deeply discounted bargains. Most of the investors, lack the discipline of Buffet.

When the market is rallying, cash in the portfolio tends to drag on performance, returning to around zero. The debate for cash in the portfolio is that it does not go down at the time of market crashes but enables the purchases of cheap assets like Buffett, at smart prices. However, investors rarely tend to buy when markets are crashing and are simple apprehensive, to take the plunge. Those who avoided the 2008 crash were stuck with too much cash in their portfolios as the markets recovered.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

New Pensions Crisis as Thousands Can’t Get At Their Own Money

Pension Crisis – Problems at Financial Firm

Problems at the financial firms have left people intending in getting access to their retirement cash under new rules which has become effective in April, blocked by companies’ lack of readiness for the this change. Investigation published in recent Daily Mail conveyed that people have been charged for withdrawals or for changing to rival companies.

To add further to the problem they are also made to wait longer for their pay-outs, in some cases to around three months. Some others state that they have been forced to pay for financial advice up to £1,000 if they say they want their own money. Pension companies in the first month of the alterations, had to handle unprecedented 1.13 million phone calls from individuals intending to take advantage of the new freedom which was an 80% increase in the usual activity leaving several with the inability in coping with the demand.

Besides this, many were caught by the speed of the introduction of the improved rules together with the uncertainties on various aspects of the freedoms leaving them unprepared in dealing with the requests.

New Rule – Individuals Aged 55 Onwards – Distinct Contribution Pension Withdrawal

The head of pension research at Hargreaves, Lansdown, Tom McPhail commented that `given the speed with which the reforms were introduced, it was always likely that some companies would struggle to be ready in time. Investors with these companies should be given the freedom to transfer their money elsewhere without having unnecessary barriers put in their way’.

He further stated that it would be unacceptable for some of the firms in charging people or put barriers to stop them in making use of the new freedoms. He said, `insisting that investors pay hefty exit penalties, use a financial adviser that some may not need or jump through bureaucratic hoops is simply not reasonable or fair’.

The new rule enables individuals aged 55 and above, with a distinct contribution pension for withdrawal if they intend to, though there are massive tax implication if they intend taking it in one go, in other words it is wise for people to get advice before rushing to get hold of their cash. FCA spokeswoman informed that they were monitoring how the firms would be implementing the changes and how it would impact consumers.

Reform Purpose – More Control on Money

Most of the people have been capable of taking advantage of the new rules without much problem thought they were talking to those firms where the problems have come up as the reforms bed in. It is in the interest of everyone to make a note that consumers utilise the new options available to them with confidence. Recently David Cameron indicated that he would be keeping a `careful eye’, on the treatment of companies to pension savers, on receiving rising complaints that the customers have been denied the new freedoms.

He informed that the purpose of the reforms was to give people more control on their money and not to have a new way to charge them and that the need for great transparency in pensions industry is essential. Pensions giant Friends Life, which is now part of Aviva, was forced to apologise recently, to around 1,300 savers who had asked to withdraw an amount of their cash and had informed them that it could not offer them this choice. On the contrary, the savers were told that they could cash in the whole amount which would leave them with a huge tax bill and use the fund to buy an annuity or transfer their money to another company. Friends Life had stated that they would be offering partial withdrawals in due time

Monday, June 8, 2015

India's May Month Iran Oil Imports Hit Highest Since March 2014

India’s Import – Increased to Highest Level – May 2014

Last month, India’s imports of Iranian crude oil increased to its highest level since May 2014 as the refiners enhanced the purchase ahead of a final push by the international negotiator in order to reach a deal on Tehran’s doubtful nuclear program by the end of June.

The increase to a 14 month high just two months after India, dropped its import on crude from Iran to zero under the pressure of U.S. to limit the purchases of the Islamic republics’ oil.For the first time, India did not take any Iranian oil, in at least a decade in March this year. Several analysts state that the United States, Tehran, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia would be reaching an agreement by or littler later after June 30 deadline for a deal, though the sanctions which have cut Iran’s oil exports to less than half of pre-2012 levels are probably not likely to be lifted till next year.

United States along with its five partners have approved a way of restoring U.N. sanctions on Iran should the country tend to break the terms of any future nuclear deal, clearing a major problem of an agreement ahead of the deadline, though there are several other issues that need to be resolved.

India – World’s Fourth Biggest Oil Consumer

India, being the world’s fourth biggest oil consumer and Tehran’s top consumer after China, had shipped in about 367,900 barrels per day-bpd in nine vessels of Iranian crude in May, up 39% over April, as per preliminary data from trade sources as well as a report compiled by Thomson Reuter Oil Research and Forecasts. The data also indicated that the May imports surged by two-thirds from last year.

Between January to May, India had taken 203,100 bpd from Iran which is about 33% less oil than in the same period of last year, since the nations’ refiners had cut imports in the first quarter. This was to maintain the overall imports from the OPEC producers to a 2013/14 level of around 220,000 bpd. Private refiner Essar Oil was the biggest Indian client of Iran in 2014 which was followed by Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd and India Oil Corp.

Iran – Nuclear Programme – Peaceful/Rejects Accusations

The data also indicated Iran’s biggest Indian client in May which was Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemical Ltd – MRPL.NS that shipped in around 207,400 bpd from Iran. Purchases had been stepped up in May ahead of a three month shutdown by MRPL, during the coming monsoon season of a one point mooring site which enabled it to import oil in large crude carrier, according to a source.

The data also revealed that Indian Oil Corp. – IOC.NS, the country’s largest refiner, received around a million barrels of Iranian oil in May. The data also showed that India’s Iran oil imports surged by 43% to 316,800 bpd, in the first two months of the fiscal year being in April.

According to Iran, it states that its nuclear programme tends to be peaceful and rejects accusations from the Western countries that it wants the possibilities in producing atomic weapons. The data indicated that Iran was the seventh biggest oil supplier to India in 2014 and its share in the overall purchases rose to 7.3% last year when compared with 5.1% in 2013.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Money - Oil Prices Drop on Dollar, Oversupply

Oil Prices down – 3%

Oil price fell by nearly 3 percent recently as traders as well as investors disregarded a fifth straight weekly decline in U.S. crude stock piles and instead focused on big build in distillates which included diesel since the peak season for U.S. road travel gets under way. Core Gulf members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries that pumps over a third of the world’s oil intend to have a consensus in maintaining the group’s oil output at the meeting held on Friday.

According to a senior Gulf OPEC sources has informed to Reuters. OPEC delegates informed Reuters in Vienna that `there is consensus among Gulf OPEC countries and others, to keep the –production, ceiling unchanged. Nobody wants to rock the boat.

The meeting is expected to be smooth sailing’. Dollar had gained about 0.4% against a few other currencies since the euro slipped, thus making fuel much more expensive to other currencies holder. Benchmark Brent crude oil for the month of July dropped $1.75 to a low of $63.74 prior to recovering a bit to around $63.90, down to about 2.5%, by 1010 GMT U.S. crude was $1.40 or 2.25% for $59.86 a barrel.

Analyst Gene McGillian – Market Down After Pairing Losses 

Brent had collapsed last year to almost $45 for a barrel in January from $115 last June pressing several oil producers in countries outside OPEC which included U.S. shale drillers as well. OPEC which pumps over a third of the world’s oil is likely to reject any calls for output cuts intending to produce around 2 million barrels per day beyond demand.

Crude stocks at Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub for U.S. oil fell also together with gasoline stocks. However distillate stockpiles including diesel and heating oil rose by 3.8 million barrels, which is four times the 1.1 million barrel build prediction.

According to analyst Gene McGillian of Tradition energy in Stamford, Connecticut, comments, `that he thinks the market came back down after pairing losses at first is telling of the sentiment that people don’t really think this is a very bullish report’. He is of the belief that consistent draws for gasoline and distillates would be an indication of demand. He added. `If not with refinery runs of above 93%, we could end up with a glut of refined products in storage rather than crude now’.

Future Seems Positive

Carsten Fritsch, analyst of Frankfurt based Commerzbank tends to agree stating that `a market that does not rally on falling inventories and a slumping U.S. dollar looks vulnerable to the downside’. Ali al-Naimi. Saudi Arabian Oil Minister stated in a conference organised by OPEC in Vienna recently that the group was `currently meeting global demand and does not see this changing.

In terms of the long-term energy outlook, the future looks very positive’, he added. OPEC, by pumping 2 million barrels per day which is more than needed is helping in filling oil inventories across the world and is keeping the price of oil for delivery now at a discount for future prices.

Some of the analysts are of the opinion that there seems to be a chance OPEC could increase its target on production soon. Barclay is said to have stated in a preview note of a recent meeting that `with heightened geopolitical risk threatening oil supplies in the Middle East and North Africa, it is highly unlikely that OPEC will reduce the quote, but an increase is possible’.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Does the Euro Have A Future

Debt Crisis – Important Failings in Design of Eurozone

Debt crisis in Europe had indicated the important failings in the design of Eurozone and predictions stating that the growth would be returning have not done much to inspire confidence according to Emma Alberici. Top economists and politicians besides Former Chancellors Alistair Darling, Nigel Lawson and Norman Lamont convey that the Eurozone cannot survive in its current form.

 During the interviews and articles for The Independent today, they were questioned on their short-term as well as long term prediction for the future of the euro. Though several are of the opinion that the Eurozone could be surviving the current Greek debt crisis particularly, if the political will invest in preventing disorderly default, none are confident that it would stay on.

They are of the belief that the new European Fiscal Compact that has been agreed in principle recently is unmanageable since it would take key financial powers from the national government as well as their electorates. Several of the economists and the politicians have disapproved the rush to strictness imposed on Italy and Greece recommending that it would be counter-productive by depressing growth and competitive imbalances among Eurozone members would be difficult to overcome. They had recommended that the ultimate consequence of the crisis would be quite a smaller Eurozone with Germany at the centre and countries like Greece, Italy, Ireland and Portugal on the external.

ECB Dropped Official Interest

As per Budget Papers `recent policy action in Europe has meant that some of the worst crisis risks have abated since the end of 2012 and global conditions are expected to gradually improve’. It is now over a year since Mario Draghi, European Central Bank President, had been credited with saving Europe by informing financial markets that he would do `whatever it would take’, to save the euro, which scarcely counts as `policy action’ and Mario’s subsequent move are still to yield any apparent success.

ECB had dropped official interests to 0.5 percent for the Eurozone and the Central Bank also had indicated that it was `technically ready’, to cut the deposit rate from the prevailing zero percent to negative territory. It would need the ECB to charge banks for safeguarding the money which would make it smart for the banks to extend credit to household as well as businesses instead of holding their money in Frankfurt, which is at the ECB headquarters.

Lower interest rate do not boost growth as they did early since people in Europe and Australia tend to be extra cautious when it comes to borrowing. With unemployment in the Eurozone, having a record of 12.1 percent, smaller numbers of people tend to have the capacity of repaying the loans they may have.

Severity – An Anti-Growth Approach 

All over Europe, severity has been considered as an anti-growth approach though no reliable alternative has come up to bring back life in the 17 countries that tend to share a currency. Vice president of the European Commission responsible for the euro, Olli Rehn, sounded the only strong note of optimism and predicted that the currency would emerge stronger from the crisis.

He stated that they would be undertaking nothing less than an economic reformation of Europe and step by step, they would be creating financial stability and the conditions for sustainable growth and job creation. However Mr Darling commented that he does not thing anyone could realistically say the Eurozone would survive with its present membership and the longer the inaction goes on, the greater the chance that one or more countries would be forced out.

Eurozone not About to Collapse but Survive …..?

Professor of Economics, Dartmouth College, Danny Blanchflower, commented that `the fundamental problem which has not been addressed is that there is no growth plan for Greece and even if a new loan is given to them, they will have no means of paying it back. The markets seem to have been priced in an orderly default.

The problem lies in a disorderly default which means default and exit for Greece. There seems to be moments to play out at the final hour though two and a half years down, he has little confidence that there would be an orderly way out’.Professor of Economics, New York University, Nouriel Roubini states his opinion that `the Eurozone is a slow motion train wreck.

 Not only Greece, other countries too are bankrupt. There is a 50% probability that over the next three to five years, the Eurozone will break up. Not all the members are able to stay. Greece and probably Portugal may exit the Eurozone, Greece within the next 12 months while Portugal would take a while longer.

According to Jim O’Neil, Chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, Former head of global economic research at the bank states that `the reality is that too many countries joined the euro in the first place and ultimately without dramatic change, they can’t probably survive. According to some the Eurozone is not about to collapse but whether it could be constant over the long term is not known.