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Pick the best travel credit card like a pro

 

Travel rewards have become about much more than just earning airline miles, and if you’ve been carrying the same card for years, you might be missing out on better rewards for the same or lower fee as banks and airlines fight for your business.

If you don’t want to think much, and just want one card with a good offer, a comparison site like MileCards.com will let you enter your spending habits and tell you which cards earn you the most miles, or you can browse a list of the best travel credit cards.

But travel pros who have racked up millions of miles diversify their loyalty to reap the most rewards.

Gary Leff, an air travel expert who writes the View From the Wing blog, suggests three reasons to get a card. The first reason is the sign on bonus, which can offer significant value. The second is to take advantage of perks offered by the card, including free bags and priority boarding. And third, you should use a card that lets you rack up miles most quickly based on your spending pattern.

Very few cards offer do all three of these things well, so experts often hold more than one credit card to get the most out of things.

For example, many of the airline branded cards offer a first free checked bag. If you tend to use the same airline a couple times a year and check a bag, you can save the annual fee in bag fees, plus get perks like priority boarding. But these cards rarely offer you the most miles for every dollar you spend.

Instead, consider putting your spending on a card that earns transferable points, while keeping the airline card for the perks.

Transferable points are a favorite of Brian Kelly, founder of The Points Guy blog. They let you book travel two ways. First, you can transfer them into real airline miles with several airlines. Second, you can choose to use them like cash to book flights on any airline.

That makes them really flexible – you can add to the miles you’ve earned by flying, or you can use them like cash if you don’t want to deal with the rules of airline miles for a trip. Chase, American Express, and Citibank each have cards that offer transferable points. Many offer special bonuses on spending categories like dining and gas, so they can earn points more quickly than a single airline card.

Regardless of what card you choose – get to know the benefits. Many travel credit cards offer coverage that’s similar to the travel insurance airlines and travel agencies will try to sell you. You could be reimbursed if you need to cancel a trip because you get very ill, or get covered for a hotel if your flight gets delayed. There’s no extra charge – just book your flight with the card to activate the coverage. These benefits aren’t …read more

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Category: bonds, cloud, computers, data, dell, earnings, earnings season, healthcare, nasdaq, nyse, oil prices, stock market, stocks, utilities, wall street, csx, nj, jnj, tast, intc, jpm, fast, gs, bac, ge, lly, wfc, c, unh, emc, tri

Free trade

By The Economist online
BACK in the 1970s, after American regulators abolished fixed commissions for brokers who helped their clients trade shares, the likes of Charles Schwab and Fidelity were the insurgents. They dispensed with the expensive frills that most rivals offered, such as research and investment advice. That, in turn, allowed them to offer share trading to the masses at bargain prices. Twenty years later, the internet spurred the growth of a new wave of discount brokers, including E*Trade and TD Ameritrade. Now for the next challenger.

Whereas full-service brokers demand a percentage of the value of the assets in their clients’ accounts (typically 1-1.75% a year), the discount firms charge around $9 a trade. That is highway robbery, however, by the standards of a new online brokerage, Robinhood, which enables clients to trade shares free of charge, via a new mobile app.

 

Instead of taking commissions from customers, Robinhood receives them from the trading venues to which it steers their orders, a controversial but common practice. It also earns returns from the cash clients leave in their accounts, and plans soon to offer margin trading—the buying of…

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Category: Business and finance, Approved, Finance and economics, FINANCE

Loyal Nike Shareholders Hanging Tough (NKE)

Nike has held up well in the first quarter but has more work to do before entering a new uptrend.

Nike Inc. (NKE) performed well in 2015, gaining nearly 30% while lifting into a leadership role in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. This follows a long tradition of superior performance that’s included six splits in the last 26-years. Volatile price action, starting in November 2015, has brought the stock well off rally highs, raising doubts about the future of its uptrend. Fortunately for bulls, it looks like the malaise will eventually pass, allowing a resumption of its upward trajectory.

The company has expanded out of sporting, textiles and footwear in recent years, into a variety of equipment, accessories and services. It’s made dozens of profitable endorsement deals to build and expand its iconic brand, showing surprising loyalty to its image makers, as we saw after Tiger Woods got into a well-publicized 2009 scandal. The company chose to retain his services at that time, weathering the media maelstrom while he was dumped like a hot potato by other sponsors.

A multiyear uptrend topped out at 9.55 (post-splits) in 1997, giving way to a rounded correction that lasted into a 2004 breakout. That rally failed to gain steam until 2006, when it took off in an assault that booked a 60% gain into the April 2008 top. It sold off with world markets during the economic collapse but held up well compared to broad benchmarks, finding support at a four-year low in single digits.

The stock lifted to a new high in 2010, entering a stair stepping phase that carved brief rallies, interspersed with many weeks of sideways consolidation. This is a typical rally pattern for securities with high institutional ownership that can be frustrating for traders looking to book quick profits. A single major correction marred the nearly textbook price action, dropping price 25% in just three months.

The uptrend ejected into a momentum phase in 2013, lifting into the 2015 high in a rising channel that more than doubled the stock’s price. A sudden decline in August 2015 waved a red flag that warned of rising volatility, which was confirmed when the rally stalled above 66 in October. That yielded a triple top in December, followed by a two-legged selloff into the low 50s. …read more

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Category: NKE

High tech meets low finance

By The Economist online
TECHNOLOGY ought to have revolutionised finance more than any other industry. After all, modern money is mostly an entry on a computer—capable of being transmitted instantly and virtually costlessly around the world. Stockmarket activity is now dominated by high-frequency traders, who make deals faster than they can blink.

The finance sector spends more on technology, as a proportion of its revenues, than any other industry. Nevertheless, compared with the world of e-commerce, banking still sometimes gives the impression of a Volkswagen Beetle instead of a Formula 1 racing car. It took many years of effort to get to a world of “T+2”, where securities are settled two days after the trade is made, rather than the “T+3” system that preceded it.

 

The international payments system still looks like a “spaghetti junction”, in the words of Andrew Haldane, the Bank of England’s chief economist, with money passing through several hands on the way from payer to recipient. The annual revenues earned by the banking system for processing payments are huge, at $1.7 trillion, and rising (see chart).

One reason for…

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Category: Business and finance, Approved, Finance and economics, FINANCE

7 Investment Accounts All 30-Somethings Should Have

By Tim Lemke …

You’re in your 30s now. If you’re finally looking to get settled in your financial life, you may want to consider ways to build wealth over the long term. But that checking account alone isn’t gonna cut it. It’s time to examine the options out there for someone in their 30s who finally has a little bit of money to invest.

Here are seven essential investment accounts all 30-somethings should have.

1. 401K, If Available to You

If you’re employed full-time, your company may offer a retirement plan that gives you access to a number of mutual funds and other investments, plus the great tax advantages that come with it. Under a 401K, 403B, or similar plan, contributions are deducted from your pre-tax income, and most employers will match a certain percentage of what you put in. Now that fewer employers are offering pensions, the 401K has become the primary vehicle for saving for retirement. Pumping cash into this account while you’re still relatively young gives your investments plenty of time to rise in value and give you a sizable nest egg. Even better, your investment is tax-deferred until you begin making withdrawals.

2. Traditional IRA

You don’t necessarily need a traditional Individual Retirement Account if you have a 401K with an employer match. But if you have 401K from an old employer, it might make sense to roll it into an IRA, because you have a much broader choice of investments to choose from – many with lower fees. With an IRA, you can invest in practically anything, including individual stocks, mutual funds, bonds, and even commodities. Traditional IRAs are also great for people who are self-employed or otherwise don’t have access to a 401K. Like a 401K, your contributions are deducted from your taxable income. You can open an IRA at most discount brokers such as Fidelity, TD Ameritrade, and E*TRADE.

3. Roth IRA

This account is a little bit like a 401K in reverse. The tax advantage is on the back end, when you can withdraw money upon retirement without paying tax on the earnings. That’s because contributions to a Roth IRA come from earnings after tax, unlike 401Ks, which draw on pre-tax income. Under a Roth IRA, you can contribute up to $5,500 annually, and you can withdraw contributions (but not your gains) before retirement age without paying a penalty.

4. Taxable Brokerage Account

While your main focus should be investing in tax-advantaged accounts that are designed for retirement, it’s good to have some investments available in this type of account due to the flexibility. You don’t need to wait until retirement age to access funds in this account, for one thing. That means you can use it to boost your income now, through the sale of stock or the gain of dividends. If you hold on to investments in a taxable account for a long time (generally over a year), you’ll pay only the long-term capital gains tax (mostly likely 15%) …read more

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Category: 30s, 401ks, budgeting, economy, investments, IRAs, personal finance, savings

Mortgage Rates Higher After Jobs Report

Mortgage rates moved only moderately higher today after the Employment Situation report came out much stronger than expected. The all-important jobs data showed payroll growth of 242k in February compared to a median forecast of 190k. The unemployment rate held steady at 4.9 percent despite more people joining or re-entering the labor force. Economic data is one of the most important cues for the bond markets that underlie mortgage rates. Stronger data tends to put upward pressure on rates and today’s was no exception. That said, today’s movement wasn’t especially bigger than any other day spent moving higher over the past week. Indeed, rates were likely able to avoid a sharper move for precisely that reason: they’ve been consistently moving higher. The most prevalent conventional 30yr fixed …read more

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Category: currency, dollar, economy, federal reserve, gas prices, inflation, interest rates, janet yellen, job market, jobs, monetary policy, oil prices

3 Specialty Retailers in New Uptrends (ANF, KORS)

By Alan Farley
These retailers have risen to the top of the heap, assuming leadership roles in a challenging environment.

Let’s look at three top-performing specialty retailers that should add to recent gains in coming months. It’s best to focus on the strongest plays when buying this group, given volatile crosswinds impacting industry sentiment and sales growth. Many of these storefronts have failed in their efforts to expand brick and mortar operations into e-commerce and digital sales, giving up market share to more tech-savvy rivals. Those declines are likely to accelerate in coming years, given the millennial generation’s adaptation to all things Internet.

However, these adults and their adolescent siblings have fickle tastes as well, supporting one clothing and accessory style for years and then abandoning it for another style. Fortunately, the sector’s leadership reflects these transitions as well, allowing market players to identify the most profitable opportunities without understanding the aesthetics of modern fashion trends.

Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (ANF) entered a steep downtrend in 2011 after failing to break out above the 2007 all-time high in the lower 80s. The decline unfolded in multiple trend waves over a four-year period, dropping the stock to a six-year low at 16.36 in August 2015. A strong bounce off that level has gained momentum in the last few months, lifting price above the 50- and 200-day EMAs in a new uptrend.

 

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Category: ANF, KORS, PLCE

Boeing May Have Entered a Bear Market (BA)

Boeing price action since 2014 raises odds the multi-year uptrend has come to an end.

Boeing Co. (BA) is currently the third-weakest component in the Dow Jones Industrial Average after a severe decline dropped the aerospace manufacturer nearly 50% in less than three months. Worries about lower demand for new aircraft drove the majority of the decline, while pricing pressures and a slowing rate of older aircraft retirement added to the downside.

Can Seattle’s biggest employer shake off months of selling pressure and resume its upward trajectory or has the long uptrend finally ended, raising the odds for significantly lower prices in coming years? For bulls, what price levels will sound the “all-clear” for long positions and, for bears, where are the most profitable short sale entry points?

The long-term pattern shows a four-year advance that peaked at 108 in July 2007, giving way to a steep decline that bottomed out in the upper 20s in March 2009. The subsequent uptrend carved two multi-year rally waves, with the first buying impulse ending in 2010 in the mid-70s. It then entered a trading range with support in the upper 50s, remaining within those narrow boundaries into a powerful 2013 breakout.

The stock returned to the 2007 high in July 2013 and broke out two months later, lifting quickly to 145, where it dropped into another trading range. This consolidation lasted until February 2015, giving way to a final buying spike above 150 that may have ended the multiyear uptrend. It’s taken two steps down since that time, in vertical impulses that have broken intermediate support levels…read more

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Category: BA

Jobs report is strong, but Fed can wait on hike

Hiring was stronger than expected in February, signaling the economy is far from recession, but the fact there was no wage growth should keep the Fed from raising rates until at least midyear.

There were 242,000 nonfarm payrolls added in February, far better than the 190,000 expected by economists. The unemployment rate remained steady at 4.9 percent, and revisions boosted job growth by a total of 30,000 for December and January. Disappointing, however was the decline in hourly earnings, falling by 3 cents to $25.35, after rising by 12 cents in January. Wages were up 2.2 percent year over year, weaker than the 2.5 percent gain in January.

“The big story right now is the labor market just shows no sign of slowing down,” said Ethan Harris, co-head of global economics research at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. “The labor market has a lot of momentum here and people forget the payrolls are the No. 1 coincident indicator for the U.S. economy. … The idea the economy is slipping into recession is way over done.”

Harris said the report does not change his view on the timing of the Fed’s next rate hike, which he has forecast for June. “It would be very awkward for them to hike at the March meeting, they haven’t really prepared the market for it,” he said.

June would be more likely for the Fed’s second rate increase because the central bank has time to turn market expectations. “The Fed would wait to see the economy develop a bit further, and get more convincing evidence that inflation has turned.”

Stocks waffled early Friday but were higher at midday, and Treasury yields edged up. The Fed sensitive two-year yield was at 0.85 percent. The jobs report is the latest piece of economic news that has beat economists’ expectations, following retail sales and ISM manufacturing data.

“It’s obviously a pretty solid report. There are a few flies in the ointment that cause a little bit of concern. We had the dip in wages in the month, which is presumably a payback for gains in January. We had a drop in the work week which was a little bit negative,” he said. Hours worked declined by 0.2 to 34.4 hours in February.

“It should be positive for markets today because there’s no inflation,” said John Canally, market strategist and economist at LPL Financial. “The key for markets is that the recession fears we had in January and February now feel silly. This report further removes the recession scare. The head-scratcher is the wage number.”

Canally said wages fell most in mining (including oil drilling) and utilities, down 0.6 and 0.5 percent, respectively. But retail wages rose by 0.1 percent. He said another negative was the decline in temporary hires in the past two months, which possibly suggests companies are reaching capacity and will not have to hire so many workers in future months.

Just how overpriced are budget-airline refreshments?

By The Economist online
LAST week Kayak, a search engine for travel, caused a minor kerfuffle when it released the results of a survey examining the price of in-flight refreshments offered by budget British airlines. The survey found price hikes that ran to hundreds or even thousands of percent. Perhaps the most staggering mark-up was that of the humble instant-soup sachet: available on a supermarket shelf for about £0.13 ($0.17), on a Flybe flight you’ll pay £2.50 ($3.60)—a hike of over 1,800%. Ryanair, often the pantomime budget-airline baddie in these kinds of discussions, was a key offender. They demanded the highest prices for three of the items surveyed; their mark-up on water, for example, was more than 1,300%.

Scandalous mark-ups of in-flight snacks are nothing new—Kayak’s findings replicate those of

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Category: Business and finance, Gulliver

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