Reuters Money

Zap zombie funds within your portfolio


zombie index fundsDo you have zombie index funds within your portfolio?

Instead of eating up your brains, they devour your nest egg with high expenses and walking dead performance. They may be lurking within your 401(k)-type plan or individual retirement account.

I like index funds because they generally can track nearly any kind of asset class. As such, they are the white bread of investing and should cost about the same from fund to fund. The cheaper the better. Why pay Nieman-Marcus prices for the same thing you can get at Costco or Sam’s Club for less?

You can vanquish these funds without overtly violent acts, but first you have to identify them. Unfortunately, mandated fee disclosure is still pending, so you have to take the initiative.

So how do you identify a zombie fund? First you need a reliable benchmark for comparison purposes. The easiest way is to look at the index that the fund is supposed to be tracking. A good proxy for the U.S. bond market, for example, is the Barclays Capital Aggregate Bond Index. It’s a basket of listed bonds. If a fund tracks the index return within 0.20 percentage points or less, then that’s pretty good and not expensive.

What the Occupy Wall Street crowd should be saying


A demonstrator from the Occupy Wall Street campaign stands with a dollar taped over his mouth as he stands in Zucotti Park near the financial district of New York September 30, 2011. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson Are the thousands who have taken to the streets in the “Occupy Wall Street” (OWS) protests a bunch of anarchistic slackers or do they have a point?

If they’re protesting their personal financial situations or prospects for the American Dream, they have plenty to howl about, but the “99 percent” crowds could use some message management.

Stock bargains: 5 tips to protect against falling knives


For bargain-hunters, identifying stocks in this struggling market might seem like an easy layup. Some prominent companies are languishing in the 99-cent bin, trading at seemingly laughable price-earnings ratios.

Consider Hewlett-Packard, on offer for a current P/E of 5.7. Then there’s BP at 5.9, Capital One at 5.8, Gannett (GCI) at 4.95 and Hartford Financial at five.

Utility stocks that can plug you into yields instead of losses


Students, walking to school, are dwarfed by power towers in Pickering east of Toronto December 12, 2000. REUTERS

After trailing the market in 2009 and 2010, utilities have emerged as its leading sector, and a number of analysts believe they are on track to maintain that position for at least the rest of 2011.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index fell 3 percent in the first eight months of the year, while utility shares  rose 7.3 percent. In August, the index fell nearly 6 percent, while utilities went up 1.7 percent.

Beat high-frequency trading machines by not playing their game


The days of you trying to make a buck actively trading in the stock market are over.

Individuals don’t stand a chance anymore because they are largely competing against rational machines often guided by herd-like irrational forces. The robots can rule in the blink of an eye.

How much stock should older investors hold?


Jim Dundee’s business is doing well — he’s an optician and owns his own retail optical store near Tampa, Florida. But Dundee started to get nervous about the economy and stock market a couple months ago.

“Even though business has been great here, you could just tell by listening to customers. We serve a pretty savvy clientele, and they were all saying something was brewing and that stocks would take a hit.”

Tempted to bail on stocks? Learn this lesson from 2008 data


Past performance is no guarantee of future results, as the saying goes. But a new Fidelity Investments analysis of what’s happened to retirement investors’ portfolios since the 2008-2009 market crash is worth considering if you’re tempted to pull money off the table during the market’s current volatility.

The big message: Investors who held on tight through the harrowing 2008-2009 crash have been richly rewarded since then.

Is it time to jump back into stocks?


Should I stay or should I go?

This compelling theme, referring to stock investing and not the great Clash song, is like a little gnat buzzing in one’s ear.

The answer depends on how well you can predict the future, your gut check for risk and history. I know that’s a weaselly response, so let me explain.

Beaten down by market turmoil? The case for hedged mutual funds


The following is a guest post by Juliette Fairley. A frequent contributor to USA Today, Investor’s Business Daily, Bloomberg Wealth Manager and The New York Times, she is also the author of three personal finance and investing books. The opinions expressed are her own.

With the markets so volatile, financial advisers are screaming “diversify” from the rooftops. One small corner of the market that might attract attention in down times: hedged mutual funds.

4 ways to hedge the market without playing whack-a-mole


Is the recent market upheaval the growling of a new, prolonged bear market or a tempest in a teapot?

It’s too soon to tell and most of us will guess wrong anyway. As Washington and global traders sort out the impact of the U.S. “Tea Party debt downgrade,” you should employ the best hedging strategies possible.