After spending quite a while looking at different online brokers, I think TradeMonster might be the one I’ll choose. Its commissions ($7.50/trade) are higher than TradeKing and Zecco (and barely higher than Scottrade), but I pay a lot less in commission every year than I do in margin interest. Trademonster’s margin interest rate is super-low, around 3.5% for $0-50,000. This will save me hundreds and hundreds of dollars per year over Scottrade. The cost in commissions will be a bit, but I’m estimating to save money overall. For a heavy margin trader that doesn’t day-trade, this is a pretty good deal.
So, I went to check out Siebert today. Turns out they hate Google Chrome. I guess they’re not getting my business.
So, Zecco works OK, but there could be some major improvements to it.
1. Stock quotes in different tabs interfere with eachother. You’ll be reading about ADBE in one tab, and click to change the stock chart, and all of a sudden you’ll be looking at the chart for MSFT but it will still say ADBE at the top! This is really horrid, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to switch because of it.
2. The charting settings don’t seem to be saveable. I never want to see “Mountain” charts, only Candlesticks. I have to change this every single time. There’s a seperate popup window chart, but I hate popup windows.
3. The margin rates aren’t great – 7.5% for the amount I need. TradeKing is a full 1% less.
4. They don’t show your total daily percentage or dollar change in the positions pane – just the total gain in dollars and percent. I want the change for today! Scottrade had this and it was color coded too! This is not a hard feature to implement!
5. Their streaming quotes thing is pretty crappy – like, worse than Scottrade’s Java thing. And if I want the good one, I have to pay money. Lame!
6. They have a maximum character limit of 16 on password. What possible reason is there for this?
7. Extremely slow transfers into the account. My request was processed the 20th, and it won’t be cleared until the 29th. Scottrade was instant! They would credit your account before the funds cleared once they verified your balance with your bank – it was awesome.
So, I think I might start the transfer process today.
After learning about Zecco’s margin rates, I set out to find a brokerage with a very low margin rate, as this represents more of my cost than commissions. Most traders will be different. TradeKing seems to have a very low rate, and their commissions are very competitive with Zecco. Yet the first thing I encountered when signing up for an account was the “ultra-secure” password entry:
Not only is this extremely insecure because of shoulder surfing, but it’s a problem for the blind. Yet, TradeKing’s CEO seems to think this is OK as long as it stops some fraud due to keyloggers. I can see their point, but anyone with a halfway secure password is going to shorten it to something reasonable to click, which makes the entire idea less secure than just allowing people to type. And it’s your own fault if you get keylogged – if you’re worried about security, get virus protection and stop going to porn sites. If you’re really worried, don’t use Windows. The article discusses all the questions, but I’m very unhappy I can’t request to have this turned off unless I call customer service and say I have a disability.
Zecco is my new favorite discount brokerage. They offer $4.50 trades for stocks and options, as well as $0 trades if you execute more than 25 trades a month or have more than $25,000 in your account. This is huge, as it basically eliminates a big part of the cost of personal investing. I highly recommend switching from whichever brokerage you’re using now.
They have a really nice user community interface that allows you to see what other users are doing in real-time, and how their portfolios are performing. You can also opt to share your performance with others, though I have this turned off currently.
I managed to move my entire account from Scottrade just using a web browser and email (of course, I had to take a picture of a paper document I signed and send in an image of it). But the ability to do this and avoid fax machines is very convenient.
I really like the options strategy builder. It allows you to see a real-time plot of how different straddles, strangles, naked and covered options work. It’s 100% customizable – you can plug in anything you want.
I never really thought about it, but a good strategy would be to sell out of the money puts at your loss point depending on if you’re bullish on a stock. I always tell myself I should set stop loss orders at -5% on all my stock purchases, but I never do, and it ends up hurting my portfolio. This way, I could make some extra cash immediately from selling the contract, and the worst case is I have to sell the covered stock at the price I want!
Also, I could double that money buy selling an out-of-the-money call at my desired profit point – sure, this would be limiting my profit, which is normally unlimited, but I generally sell when I make 20-30% anyway, so why not make money on options when this doesn’t happen (which occurs more often)?
Update: I was wrong, I want to buy the puts or sell in the money calls. Selling in the money calls is a much better plan, since I can make a little premium going in, and still be protected from downside. Here’s a whole article about it.
I got burned by options a couple years ago, and have stayed away ever since. But in the last few days, I’ve been learning how to manage risk using options, especially by using spreads. I decided to try out some spreads today in my optionshouse practice account.
WARNING: If you are not familiar with options, the next part is going to be gibberish. Use Google to find a good resource on educating yourself about options if you are at all interested, and please use a virtual account to try it out before putting real money in the market. Cheers.
2 of them are Bull Call Spreads, which means buying a call option on a security at a realistic strike price out-of-the-money, and at the same time selling a higher-priced out-of-the-money call. What ends up happening is pretty awesome – a lot of the cost is cancelled out since you’re buying and selling a contract, but not all of it since you’re buying the less risky option. If the security goes down in value, you and the person you sold to lose, but your losses are less than they would be just buying a call. On the other hand, if the security rises in value, which one who enters this spread assumes will happen, but not enough to bring the sold option into the money by the expiration date, you keep your profits. The best part is that even if the sold option goes into the money, it doesn’t really matter as long as you keep your call around as long as they do. If they exercise early, all the better, as you can take your profit in safety.
The other spread I’m trying is an Iron Condor. To explain this, you need to understand what a Bear Call Spread is and what a Bull Put Spread is. I’ve linked both of these, so I suggest you read them, especially the examples (that’s how I learn). Now that you know that, imagine combining them. This is what’s known as an Iron Condor. Basically, instead of being bullish or bearish on a security, you are banking on it staying in some range. You can manipulate this range using the strike prices of the options you buy and write.
Here’s a graph from my new favorite discount broker, Zecco:
What’s happening here is an Iron Condor (slightly modified for an upside move). Maximum profit is obtained from the 104-112 range. If the final price falls much outside this range, you’re going to incur a loss. It’s best to do this on stocks that have very little volatility – like indexes.
We’ll see how this goes virtually, and consider trading it a bit in real life, just for kicks.
Here’s some little stock analyses I did today using QTStalker.
Fibo 50% and upward trendline should help this go up a bit, assuming Android continues to get market share.
These guys are in a lateral channel between the 61.8 and the 38.2 Fibo lines. Buying around $25 looks like a win.
This looks good – a bounce off the 38.2 at the same time as a bounce off the uptrend. Also, the RSI is getting back into buyable territory.
At less than $20, this looks pretty good. It’s also about to hit long-term support, as well as the 50% Fibo.
This company makes a bunch of medication. And look at that RSI! It’s also had a perfect bounce off the 38.2 line, and is flirting with the 50% line. I think this one has a bright long-term future with the mass retirement coming up.
They make coffins. How can you go wrong in the next 20 years?
Take Two Interactive
These guys make Grand Theft Auto and a bunch of other games. As more and more adolescents continue to play more and more video games, this stock should soar. Also, it’s really beaten down right now, just bouncing off of major support, and it’s extremely oversold as indicated by the RSI. Buy!
Oh man. I could go for some KFC right now. Or maybe some Taco Bell. Guess what – they’re both owned by one company, Yum Foods! It’s in an upward channel right now, but currently isn’t a good buy as it’s nearing a peak again. Wait for it to drop to channel support and buy.
I called Citibank tonight to confirm that one of my checks I deposited was finally collected. This is a good thing to ask your bank if you are concerned that a check might bounce. They indicated, as is said in the following audio recording, that if a check shows up in your transaction log online, it’s cleared.[audio:http://www.ralree.com/newblog/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/stuff.mp3|titles=Citibank and Checks]