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Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Swaps* (*But Were Afraid To Ask)
Hello, dummies It's your old pal, Fuzzy. As I'm sure you've all noticed, a lot of the stuff that gets posted here is - to put it delicately - fucking ridiculous. More backwards-ass shit gets posted to wallstreetbets than you'd see on a Westboro Baptist community message board. I mean, I had a look at the daily thread yesterday and..... yeesh. I know, I know. We all make like the divine Laura Dern circa 1992 on the daily and stick our hands deep into this steaming heap of shit to find the nuggets of valuable and/or hilarious information within (thanks for reading, BTW). I agree. I love it just the way it is too. That's what makes WSB great. What I'm getting at is that a lot of the stuff that gets posted here - notwithstanding it being funny or interesting - is just... wrong. Like, fucking your cousin wrong. And to be clear, I mean the fucking your *first* cousin kinda wrong, before my Southerners in the back get all het up (simmer down, Billy Ray - I know Mabel's twice removed on your grand-sister's side). Truly, I try to let it slide. Idomybit to try and put you on the right path. Most of the time, I sleep easy no matter how badly I've seen someone explain what a bank liquidity crisis is. But out of all of those tens of thousands of misguided, autistic attempts at understanding the world of high finance, one thing gets so consistently - so *emphatically* - fucked up and misunderstood by you retards that last night I felt obligated at the end of a long work day to pull together this edition of Finance with Fuzzy just for you. It's so serious I'm not even going to make a u/pokimane gag. Have you guessed what it is yet? Here's a clue. It's in the title of the post. That's right, friends. Today in the neighborhood we're going to talk all about hedging in financial markets - spots, swaps, collars, forwards, CDS, synthetic CDOs, all that fun shit. Don't worry; I'm going to explain what all the scary words mean and how they impact your OTM RH positions along the way. We're going to break it down like this. (1) "What's a hedge, Fuzzy?" (2) Common Hedging Strategies and (3) All About ISDAs and Credit Default Swaps. Before we begin. For the nerds and JV traders in the back (and anyone else who needs to hear this up front) - I am simplifying these descriptions for the purposes of this post. I am also obviously not going to try and cover every exotic form of hedge under the sun or give a detailed summation of what caused the financial crisis. If you are interested in something specific ask a question, but don't try and impress me with your Investopedia skills or technical points I didn't cover; I will just be forced to flex my years of IRL experience on you in the comments and you'll look like a big dummy. TL;DR? Fuck you. There is no TL;DR. You've come this far already. What's a few more paragraphs? Put down the Cheetos and try to concentrate for the next 5-7 minutes. You'll learn something, and I promise I'll be gentle. Ready? Let's get started. 1.The Tao of Risk: Hedging as a Way of Life The simplest way to characterize what a hedge 'is' is to imagine every action having a binary outcome. One is bad, one is good. Red lines, green lines; uppie, downie. With me so far? Good. A 'hedge' is simply the employment of a strategy to mitigate the effect of your action having the wrong binary outcome. You wanted X, but you got Z! Frowny face. A hedge strategy introduces a third outcome. If you hedged against the possibility of Z happening, then you can wind up with Y instead. Not as good as X, but not as bad as Z. The technical definition I like to give my idiot juniors is as follows: Utilization of a defensive strategy to mitigate risk, at a fraction of the cost to capital of the risk itself. Congratulations. You just finished Hedging 101. "But Fuzzy, that's easy! I just sold a naked call against my 95% OTM put! I'm adequately hedged!". Spoiler alert: you're not (although good work on executing a collar, which I describe below). What I'm talking about here is what would be referred to as a 'perfect hedge'; a binary outcome where downside is totally mitigated by a risk management strategy. That's not how it works IRL. Pay attention; this is the tricky part. You can't take a single position and conclude that you're adequately hedged because risks are fluid, not static. So you need to constantly adjust your position in order to maximize the value of the hedge and insure your position. You also need to consider exposure to more than one category of risk. There are micro (specific exposure) risks, and macro (trend exposure) risks, and both need to factor into the hedge calculus. That's why, in the real world, the value of hedging depends entirely on the design of the hedging strategy itself. Here, when we say "value" of the hedge, we're not talking about cash money - we're talking about the intrinsic value of the hedge relative to the the risk profile of your underlying exposure. To achieve this, people hedge dynamically. In wallstreetbets terms, this means that as the value of your position changes, you need to change your hedges too. The idea is to efficiently and continuously distribute and rebalance risk across different states and periods, taking value from states in which the marginal cost of the hedge is low and putting it back into states where marginal cost of the hedge is high, until the shadow value of your underlying exposure is equalized across your positions. The punchline, I guess, is that one static position is a hedge in the same way that the finger paintings you make for your wife's boyfriend are art - it's technically correct, but you're only playing yourself by believing it. Anyway. Obviously doing this as a small potatoes trader is hard but it's worth taking into account. Enough basic shit. So how does this work in markets? 2. A Hedging Taxonomy The best place to start here is a practical question. What does a business need to hedge against? Think about the specific risk that an individual business faces. These are legion, so I'm just going to list a few of the key ones that apply to most corporates. (1) You have commodity risk for the shit you buy or the shit you use. (2) You have currency risk for the money you borrow. (3) You have rate risk on the debt you carry. (4) You have offtake risk for the shit you sell. Complicated, right? To help address the many and varied ways that shit can go wrong in a sophisticated market, smart operators like yours truly have devised a whole bundle of different instruments which can help you manage the risk. I might write about some of the more complicated ones in a later post if people are interested (CDO/CLOs, strip/stack hedges and bond swaps with option toggles come to mind) but let's stick to the basics for now. (i) Swaps A swap is one of the most common forms of hedge instrument, and they're used by pretty much everyone that can afford them. The language is complicated but the concept isn't, so pay attention and you'll be fine. This is the most important part of this section so it'll be the longest one. Swaps are derivative contracts with two counterparties (before you ask, you can't trade 'em on an exchange - they're OTC instruments only). They're used to exchange one cash flow for another cash flow of equal expected value; doing this allows you to take speculative positions on certain financial prices or to alter the cash flows of existing assets or liabilities within a business. "Wait, Fuzz; slow down! What do you mean sets of cash flows?". Fear not, little autist. Ol' Fuzz has you covered. The cash flows I'm talking about are referred to in swap-land as 'legs'. One leg is fixed - a set payment that's the same every time it gets paid - and the other is variable - it fluctuates (typically indexed off the price of the underlying risk that you are speculating on / protecting against). You set it up at the start so that they're notionally equal and the two legs net off; so at open, the swap is a zero NPV instrument. Here's where the fun starts. If the price that you based the variable leg of the swap on changes, the value of the swap will shift; the party on the wrong side of the move ponies up via the variable payment. It's a zero sum game. I'll give you an example using the most vanilla swap around; an interest rate trade. Here's how it works. You borrow money from a bank, and they charge you a rate of interest. You lock the rate up front, because you're smart like that. But then - quelle surprise! - the rate gets better after you borrow. Now you're bagholding to the tune of, I don't know, 5 bps. Doesn't sound like much but on a billion dollar loan that's a lot of money (a classic example of the kind of 'small, deep hole' that's terrible for profits). Now, if you had a swap contract on the rate before you entered the trade, you're set; if the rate goes down, you get a payment under the swap. If it goes up, whatever payment you're making to the bank is netted off by the fact that you're borrowing at a sub-market rate. Win-win! Or, at least, Lose Less / Lose Less. That's the name of the game in hedging. There are many different kinds of swaps, some of which are pretty exotic; but they're all different variations on the same theme. If your business has exposure to something which fluctuates in price, you trade swaps to hedge against the fluctuation. The valuation of swaps is also super interesting but I guarantee you that 99% of you won't understand it so I'm not going to try and explain it here although I encourage you to google it if you're interested. Because they're OTC, none of them are filed publicly. Someeeeeetimes you see an ISDA (dsicussed below) but the confirms themselves (the individual swaps) are not filed. You can usually read about the hedging strategy in a 10-K, though. For what it's worth, most modern credit agreements ban speculative hedging. Top tip: This is occasionally something worth checking in credit agreements when you invest in businesses that are debt issuers - being able to do this increases the risk profile significantly and is particularly important in times of economic volatility (ctrl+f "non-speculative" in the credit agreement to be sure). (ii) Forwards A forward is a contract made today for the future delivery of an asset at a pre-agreed price. That's it. "But Fuzzy! That sounds just like a futures contract!". I know. Confusing, right? Just like a futures trade, forwards are generally used in commodity or forex land to protect against price fluctuations. The differences between forwards and futures are small but significant. I'm not going to go into super boring detail because I don't think many of you are commodities traders but it is still an important thing to understand even if you're just an RH jockey, so stick with me. Just like swaps, forwards are OTC contracts - they're not publicly traded. This is distinct from futures, which are traded on exchanges (see The Ballad Of Big Dick Vick for some more color on this). In a forward, no money changes hands until the maturity date of the contract when delivery and receipt are carried out; price and quantity are locked in from day 1. As you now know having read about BDV, futures are marked to market daily, and normally people close them out with synthetic settlement using an inverse position. They're also liquid, and that makes them easier to unwind or close out in case shit goes sideways. People use forwards when they absolutely have to get rid of the thing they made (or take delivery of the thing they need). If you're a miner, or a farmer, you use this shit to make sure that at the end of the production cycle, you can get rid of the shit you made (and you won't get fucked by someone taking cash settlement over delivery). If you're a buyer, you use them to guarantee that you'll get whatever the shit is that you'll need at a price agreed in advance. Because they're OTC, you can also exactly tailor them to the requirements of your particular circumstances. These contracts are incredibly byzantine (and there are even crazier synthetic forwards you can see in money markets for the true degenerate fund managers). In my experience, only Texan oilfield magnates, commodities traders, and the weirdo forex crowd fuck with them. I (i) do not own a 10 gallon hat or a novelty size belt buckle (ii) do not wake up in the middle of the night freaking out about the price of pork fat and (iii) love greenbacks too much to care about other countries' monopoly money, so I don't fuck with them. (iii) Collars No, not the kind your wife is encouraging you to wear try out to 'spice things up' in the bedroom during quarantine. Collars are actually the hedging strategy most applicable to WSB. Collars deal with options! Hooray! To execute a basic collar (also called a wrapper by tea-drinking Brits and people from the Antipodes), you buy an out of the money put while simultaneously writing a covered call on the same equity. The put protects your position against price drops and writing the call produces income that offsets the put premium. Doing this limits your tendies (you can only profit up to the strike price of the call) but also writes down your risk. If you screen large volume trades with a VOL/OI of more than 3 or 4x (and they're not bullshit biotech stocks), you can sometimes see these being constructed in real time as hedge funds protect themselves on their shorts. (3) All About ISDAs, CDS and Synthetic CDOs You may have heard about the mythical ISDA. Much like an indenture (discussed in my post on $F), it's a magic legal machine that lets you build swaps via trade confirms with a willing counterparty. They are very complicated legal documents and you need to be a true expert to fuck with them. Fortunately, I am, so I do. They're made of two parts; a Master (which is a form agreement that's always the same) and a Schedule (which amends the Master to include your specific terms). They are also the engine behind just about every major credit crunch of the last 10+ years. First - a brief explainer. An ISDA is a not in and of itself a hedge - it's an umbrella contract that governs the terms of your swaps, which you use to construct your hedge position. You can trade commodities, forex, rates, whatever, all under the same ISDA. Let me explain. Remember when we talked about swaps? Right. So. You can trade swaps on just about anything. In the late 90s and early 2000s, people had the smart idea of using other people's debt and or credit ratings as the variable leg of swap documentation. These are called credit default swaps. I was actually starting out at a bank during this time and, I gotta tell you, the only thing I can compare people's enthusiasm for this shit to was that moment in your early teens when you discover jerking off. Except, unlike your bathroom bound shame sessions to Mom's Sears catalogue, every single person you know felt that way too; and they're all doing it at once. It was a fiscal circlejerk of epic proportions, and the financial crisis was the inevitable bukkake finish. WSB autism is absolutely no comparison for the enthusiasm people had during this time for lighting each other's money on fire. Here's how it works. You pick a company. Any company. Maybe even your own! And then you write a swap. In the swap, you define "Credit Event" with respect to that company's debt as the variable leg . And you write in... whatever you want. A ratings downgrade, default under the docs, failure to meet a leverage ratio or FCCR for a certain testing period... whatever. Now, this started out as a hedge position, just like we discussed above. The purest of intentions, of course. But then people realized - if bad shit happens, you make money. And banks... don't like calling in loans or forcing bankruptcies. Can you smell what the moral hazard is cooking? Enter synthetic CDOs. CDOs are basically pools of asset backed securities that invest in debt (loans or bonds). They've been around for a minute but they got famous in the 2000s because a shitload of them containing subprime mortgage debt went belly up in 2008. This got a lot of publicity because a lot of sad looking rednecks got foreclosed on and were interviewed on CNBC. "OH!", the people cried. "Look at those big bad bankers buying up subprime loans! They caused this!". Wrong answer, America. The debt wasn't the problem. What a lot of people don't realize is that the real meat of the problem was not in regular way CDOs investing in bundles of shit mortgage debts in synthetic CDOs investing in CDS predicated on that debt. They're synthetic because they don't have a stake in the actual underlying debt; just the instruments riding on the coattails. The reason these are so popular (and remain so) is that smart structured attorneys and bankers like your faithful correspondent realized that an even more profitable and efficient way of building high yield products with limited downside was investing in instruments that profit from failure of debt and in instruments that rely on that debt and then hedging that exposure with other CDS instruments in paired trades, and on and on up the chain. The problem with doing this was that everyone wound up exposed to everybody else's books as a result, and when one went tits up, everybody did. Hence, recession, Basel III, etc. Thanks, Obama. Heavy investment in CDS can also have a warping effect on the price of debt (something else that happened during the pre-financial crisis years and is starting to happen again now). This happens in three different ways. (1) Investors who previously were long on the debt hedge their position by selling CDS protection on the underlying, putting downward pressure on the debt price. (2) Investors who previously shorted the debt switch to buying CDS protection because the relatively illiquid debt (partic. when its a bond) trades at a discount below par compared to the CDS. The resulting reduction in short selling puts upward pressure on the bond price. (3) The delta in price and actual value of the debt tempts some investors to become NBTs (neg basis traders) who long the debt and purchase CDS protection. If traders can't take leverage, nothing happens to the price of the debt. If basis traders can take leverage (which is nearly always the case because they're holding a hedged position), they can push up or depress the debt price, goosing swap premiums etc. Anyway. Enough technical details. I could keep going. This is a fascinating topic that is very poorly understood and explained, mainly because the people that caused it all still work on the street and use the same tactics today (it's also terribly taught at business schools because none of the teachers were actually around to see how this played out live). But it relates to the topic of today's lesson, so I thought I'd include it here. Work depending, I'll be back next week with a covenant breakdown. Most upvoted ticker gets the post. *EDIT 1\* In a total blowout, $PLAY won. So it's D&B time next week. Post will drop Monday at market open.
funny to see that subject pop up again. it was what drove me insane enough to find this sub in the first place. at any rate, the problem is not the bots. I thought it was, but those are just part of the parasitic ecosystem. but to get that, first we need to take a few steps back on web history, ad serving, UX, tracking technology and media advertising. too lazy to gather links, but you know, do your googlin'. I assume that most of you are fairly web literate here, but I'll try to go down into the bare bones as much as possible for those who aren't. so let's start with a basic question - what is a web visitor anyway? from the standpoint of a normal person, that would be a person browsing a given website or piece of content. from the standpoint of technology however all you know is that some device has downloaded content from your server using the http protocol. thanks to the wonderful technology of web browsers, you can plant browser cookies on a visitor - stuff that's used to remember if they logged in, what their preferences are, stuff that your service can read from the device. it also serves usually very basic telemetry like last visit time, session time, and so on. this, over time has evolved in what we call browser fingerprinting, a convoluted bunch of technology that allows websites and web services to uniquely identify you. it still doesn't know if you're a human or not, but from the standpoint of the web technology, you're a visitor. now back in ye old days of the web, when the first banner ads were springing up, these were important questions. most consumers were still to be reached on traditional media channels, and ad spend would have to be justified somehow on the risky ventures of online business. so beyond traditional polls that would infer the value of visitors, websites would start tracking number of visitors, time on page and so on. these were used to milk the advertising cow so to speak, and it gave in to some funny developments like the creation of the popup ad - if I recon correctly on geocities, where they would just but the ads everywhere until some big auto company noticed that they're appearing on porn sites. so - put the ad in the popup, and you can claim it's not in the context of porn! around this point in time the online ad business is still pretty low tech. you actually have to call a physical human being, they send you ppts and pdfs, you send back image files and excel sheets, you wire money, the ads run, and so on. this is called direct sales, and it's tracked again by counting a bunch of visitors, and telling you how much impressions and clicks your marvelous creatives and ad budget generated. now enter google - or more precisely, a technology firm called doubleclick that was to be acquired by google. they developed a tool for automatic ad serving, later to be called programmatic advertising, that keeps the pesky sales dude out of the loop and achieves reasonable amounts of scale for a more hefty price - after all, if the sales are automated, you get a bidding war for attention between different advertisers, and you're paying for clicks. so you can see how this was a strategic move for google - they already had the most valuable data available in this situation. they were seeing in real time what people were searching for, and using the programmatic ad serving system, you could effectively bid not just for general attention - but for attention with an intent to buy. ...and the way that google got this data is because they indexed the web, using bots. at least GoogleBot would identify itself as a site visitor, but in the meantime they developed a service for websites to comprehensively track their own visitors and where they were coming from and what they were doing on your website. incidentally, you could also put on google's ads on your webpage to earn quite a bit of money, as content relevant ads would be shown through the doubleclick system. this kicked off two things: one, the ability to classify your website visitors into different clusters and segments allowed businesses to start tailoring the appearance of the website or service to fit that specific audience segment, starting off the great fracture - segmentation of the web (in the sense that two people viewing the same website at the same time were not seeing the same thing) two, it created a very strong financial incentive for people to trick google into thinking they were having actual human visitors that would click on ads, when in fact they were bots. in an even funnier twist, some of them were from browser hijackers, commonly known as malware at the time, which google cross-financed. look up download valley and crossrider. at the cross section of the above two, you had one interesting twist: websites that would appear differently to the security bots or the compliance officers of Google as they would to fake visitors or malware jacked human beings. the former would get a benign looking website, while the latter would get bombarded with auto clicking ads. this kicked off the billion dollar arms race called online advertising fraud. I'm not here to shed a tear for big money corps bleeding money. the real fallout lay somewhere else, but for that you have to understand that you never really saw the real internet, you only saw your corner and the one that was personalized for you. but if you ever had the pleasure of watching daytime TVs or off channels and witnessing the ads, you could kind of infer what kind of audience must be watching these shows generally. from quite clear rip offs to magic number lotteries and television fortune telling, these sorts of programming was aimed at the most gullible, bought for pennies, where the smallest audience portion had to be converted into a money making operation. ...and with audience segmentation and data gathering, that was now possible at unprecedented scale, automatically. so big was the scale in fact, that it gave birth to an entire new beast of an industry called affiliate marketing, where instead of a regular payroll, you'd get a cut of the sale should you figure out an angle on where to push whatever fucking bullshit the vendors were offering to whoever the fuck would be dumb enough to click on an ad and buy. (the funniest story I recall was someone pulling five figures a month because he figured out that if you buy ads on anime-hentai pages and sell PUA shit courses and e-books you'd make a killing) at any rate, affiliate marketing brought with it the killer landing page, the thing that's supposed to hammer the nail in the coffin once you get through the banner ad. the earliest form of deceptiveness in memory comes from various pirate sites, that had fake download buttons as banner ads and virus alerts as the landing pages. but then at some point, some schmuck realized that for certain type of products, like diet pills or forex trading or whatever, the best lander is in fact a fake news page that comes packed with comments and all. that would convert like crazy, because it had the appearance of social proof. until at least the lawsuits came raining down, and these sorts of landing pages and campaigns for being banned left right and centre on all platforms. which just launched a new arms race as the campaigns would be disguised for the bots doing the checkups, and aged facebook profiles would start selling for like 5K USD - these people were making 30-40k a day, they could afford to spend that much to continue running the shop. speaking of facebook - it came just about the right time for the shit to brew max total. first they were unprecedented in the amount of data they were getting off of their users, and they came just in time to catch the full swing of what we call the 'responsive web' - that no user at the same time would see the same thing on their page, it was all allocated through an intricate web of recommendations, running real time, based on previously gathered and forecast behavioral data. it also ran on one simple premise: take over the starting page position from google for most people, then they do not have to justify, ever, any ad spend that takes place on their platform, as long as it performs. furthermore, it was completely lacking any revenue share sort of scheme (save for the short period of facebook gaming, see Zynga), thus there was no incentive for the amount of bot traffic that the previous internet era had bred. instead, it came with an entirely different one - bots that would offer social proof in the way of shares and likes, but would not directly risk the business model, thus giving no incentive for facebook to fight them. (note that google didn't do much jack shit either besides indiscriminately penalizing websites it deemed suspicious when they reached critical payout thresholds) the rest of the story you kind of sort of know. how the obama campaign was brilliant in using the new social media to inspire hope and blah blah blah, kicking the door open for big money politics who could hire the best snake oil salesmen in the market, who had the data and as you can see from the above, had the ethical standards of a shoe. at around 2014-2015 the press (the mainstream media) started to raise question about the duopoly, the buzzword of filter bubbles started appearing, not entirely unrelated to the fact that facebook by this time cannibalized their traffic with a fucking embedded share / like button and started charging money for them to reach their own audience. after 2016 the cries of fake news were everywhere, because there was no online space left which everyone was viewing the same way, and you had no way to verify what the person next to you was looking at. since then, we've all become grandpa yelling at the television set, with nobody around us seeing what we're seeing on the screen, so we're being accused as bots and looking for bots under the carpet. but it's been a long way coming, and the bots are honestly the least of our worries. trust me, I went bankrupt over that one. truth or fake doesn't even begin to describe the magnitude of the problem: more like we entered the phase where every word, event or picture is defined by who ever the fuck wins the auction over it, as the marketers of human attention grind the gears of the money mill without even understanding how fast they're digging towards hell. don't believe me? look around the marketing and advertising related subs these days. the priests are eating the indulgences, and we're only now entering the period of deep fakes, good algo generated audio and good enough NLP. and in the meantime, the shadowrunners running up between two corp headquarter-highrises are skinning your belief systems. so the best you can do is really, not litter the remnants of cyberspace which are not being mined, astroturfed or being pulled apart by the algos. no human connections on a nuclear trash heap mate.
On Tuesday 16th July, just a few weeks ago I was invited to attend a Karatbit, Karatbars/Karatbank presentation. The presentation was touting everything including a blockchain mobile phone. Someone had approached me over the weekend to investigate an investment, they had made with Karatbit/Karatbars. I attended the presentation with some research which, to be honest, was not that favourable to the company but nevertheless still went with an open mind. KaratBank, a Singapore-based financial organization, has propelled another digital currency that it claims is bound to real physical gold. Is this a progressive thought – or a trick? KaratBank, an organization located in Singapore, has quite recently declared the dispatch of KaratBank Coins (KBC), another digital currency it said is attached to gold. Be that as it may, not just the cost of gold, as different monetary forms — to real bits of gold: they're embedded in plastic cards or banknotes. In any event, that is the way it appears upon first sight. KaratBank is a sister company of KaratBars International, located in Germany. KaratBars really sells gold in exceptionally small quantities (like 0.1g to 1g bullions), inserted into plastic cards (Karatbars) or money like notes (CashGold). The notes are famously overpriced: back when 1 gram of gold was $40, the 1g CashGold note cost $65. As per KaratBank whitepaper, 10,000 KBC can be traded for 0.1g CashGold notes. The initial coin offering kicked off earlier this year and proceeded until March 21, with the ICO starting March 22 (1 KBC = $0.05), Coin Telegraph reports. Be that as it may, KaratBars International as an organization is emphatically connected with scams. A basic search for KaratBars on Google returns three connections with the word "scam" in them on the first page. KaratBars was prohibited in Canada in 2014 over an Autorité des marchés agents (AMF) with a Scam warning. The Canadian government found that KaratBars executes some kind of multi-layered marketing (MLM), or "pyramid" scheme organisation that urged individuals to get new recruits and profit from their sales, promising a return of $15,000 to $136,000 every month. In any case, Is KaratBank is a different story? All things considered, yes and no. Upon a more intensive look at the organization's whitepaper, one finds the following: "United States of America citizens, residents (tax or otherwise) or green card holders, as well as residents of Canada, the People's Republic of China or the Republic of Singapore, are not qualified to partake in the KaratBank ICO." As indicated by the Behind MLM site, the explanation behind this may lie in the way that those nations have actualized strict regulation on ICOs, and KaratBank does not have any desire to have anything to do with them. "ICOs are not unlawful in the US or Canada. In the US, however, ICOs are ordinarily viewed as securities and require registration with the [Securities and Exchange Commission]," the site reads. "Singapore hasn't prohibited ICOs however it is one of the nations KaratBars International works in through the shell companies KaratPay and KaratBars Singapore. Singapore regulators closing those organizations down would cripple KaratBars International. The board most likely figure it's best not to take any risks." To work lawfully in any purview, KaratBars International would need to register itself with the proper securities regulator in that jurisdiction, which the organization appears to need to abstain from, raising doubts. From one's point of view what is disheartening is that blockchain is a great new technology and companies like this seem to mix their existing business with cryptocurrencies. Knowing full well that the general public does not really understand cryptocurrencies, let alone blockchain or Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT). As a blockchain consultant, one feels obligated to pose some questions anyone thinking of getting involved should be asking. At the presentation, I heard the presenters say “ Karatbars is giving its members the opportunity to buy gold in small quantities. They also encourage you to save in gold instead of paper money. This can easily be done by buying as little as 0.1 gram of gold or 1 gram - 2.5 gram or 5 grams.” They said members can keep their gold in Karatbars' vault or ask them to send it to you. Cash gold is the most popular form of buying gold as the gold is embedded in a banknote. 24kt gold 99.9% pure makes it easier for anyone to accumulate wealth. Karatbars is also involved in cryptocurrency and got their own coins, namely KBC and KCB coins. I'm going to get very deep into this, but the main thing to remember is that they say, “these coins are increasing in value and that it is backed by gold”. whereas and another Cryptocurrency is backed by nothing. As a self-proclaimed proponent of blockchain and a graduate of Digital Forensics, I feel obligated to say a few words about this presentation on Karatbit or at least as a conscious citizen of this global world of technology users. Blockchain is a magnificent emerging technology that can be harnessed to do so many things. But most importantly it is a technology that provides one single source of truth. If groups are using this single source of truth technology to spread untruths, someone concerned must come out to say something. Blockchain is a technology that can put everyone on an even playing field but it seems very few understand it. The individuals with even the fleeting basic understanding can influence the general public perception of cryptocurrencies. This leads me to ask a great quote from a book called Richest Man in Babylon …. “if you want advice on investing in expensive jewels, why would you go to a butcher?” The following is what the masses are being manipulated to attach their hopes and dreams. It is that “a further drop in the value of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies has recently left investors nursing heavy losses. Many proponents are holding out for a new breakout “if their digital assets can go mainstream.” The most important part of that statement is “if their digital assets can go mainstream”. This made me ask some questions about Karatbit and this is what I came up with. Something is fishy!! Can someone clarify the following? Claim 1: Gold mine worth $900 million provides security. Can’t find any official source as proof. Reference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TyKQIckXyIU Claim 2: Backed by a gold mine in Africa Can’t find any official source as proof. Reference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d5Q3ZvR4b04 Claim 3: Audit report by MM Revisors for a gold mine in Madagascar Can’t find proof that MM Revisors exists. Not sure if this report was published by Karatbars Int (can’t find it on their official website), but this is being circulated by some investors as if it were. Reference: https://karatbars-me.webnode.es/\_files/200000070-01d6002d18/audit.pdf Claim 4: Karatcoin Bank is a fully licensed crypto bank and is situated in Miami Can’t find proof that they are registered as a licensed financial institute in Miami, Florida. Can’t find Karatcoin Bank as a registered corporation, but found Karat Coin Corp. Reference: http://search.sunbiz.org/Inquiry/CorporationSearch/SearchResults?inquiryType=EntityName&searchNameOrder=KARATBANK&searchTerm=Karatbank Reference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YXip2Fizz5U&t=152s Claim 5: Not a pyramid scheme Karatbit describes this as an affiliate program but clearly is a pyramid scheme at best, see links below; Canada: https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/karatbars-quebec-activities-covered-by-prohibition-orders-514201571.html Namibia: https://economist.com.na/43874/extra/karatbars-international-is-a-scamsays-central-bank/ Netherlands: https://www.afm.nl/en/nieuws/2014/mei/waarschuwing-karatbars Claim 6: 100KBC = 1g of Gold at $40 per gram (1 KBC = $0.40) (guaranteed) Total supply = 12,000,000,000 KBC (can’t find figures of circulating, so using supply instead) Total gold needed to cover buy back of all coins: 12,000,000,000 / 100 = 120 000 000g = 120 tons (South Africa as a whole produced 139.9 tons of Gold in 2017). Total money needed to buy back all the coins: 120 000 000g x $40 = $4.8 Billion Can’t find proof that they have 120 tons of gold in storage (or backed up by the mines as claimed) or that they are at least worth $4.8 Billion to buy the gold? Taking a more conservative approach: According to icobench.com, they raised $100 000 000 with their ICO from 60% of the total supply. Let’s assume the 60% of 12,000,000,000 is in circulation. This equals to 7,200,000,000 KBC. Total gold needed for the buyback of 7,200,000,000 KBC: 7,200,000,000 / 100 = 72 000 000g = 72 tons Total money needed to buy back all coins: 72 000 000g x $40 = $2.88 Billion Loss for buying back the KBC that were sold during the ICO: $100,000,000 - $2,880,000,000 = - $2,780,000,000 A potential loss of $2,78 Billion!!! Or am I taking crazy pills? Reference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KgeHjhlMfn0 Reference: https://icobench.com/ico/karatgold-coin Claim 7: This Forbes.com article gives credibility to the KBC coin This article was written by a Contributor. Reference: https://www.forbes.com/sites/joresablount/2019/05/31/10-blockchain-companies-to-watch-in-2019/#308b507e543f There is no traditional editing of contributors’ copy, at least not prior to publishing. If a story gets hot or makes the homepage, a producer will “check it more carefully,” DVorkin said. Reference: https://www.poynter.org/reporting-editing/2012/what-the-forbes-model-of-contributed-content-means-for-journalism/ “Blogging for Forbes requires being what is commonly referred to as a "self-starter." So far, nobody has said, "Um, you can't do that," or, "Oh, my God, no!" Reference: https://www.forbes.com/sites/susannahbreslin/2011/04/06/how-to-become-a-forbes-blogge#231bb9972862 “Warning over 'scammers paradise' as watchdog reveals victims lost £27m to bitcoin, cryptocurrency and forex frauds last year” • Some 1,850 cases were reported to Action Fraud, a 250% increase on 2017-18 • Victims lost an average of £14,600 - with fewer than 1 in 20 getting money back • Investors are often initially told they've made a profit • They are then encouraged to put in more money - at which point the fraudsters run off with their cash Potential victims have been warned over bogus online 'get rich quick' schemes as it emerged people lost more than £27million to cryptocurrency and foreign exchange scams last year. Fraudsters promise high returns to those who invest, according to Action Fraud and the Financial Conduct Authority. Victims lost an average of £14,600 in 2018-19 and stand little chance of getting their money back. Reports of cryptocurrency and forex investment scams increased by nearly 250 per cent in 2017-18, from 530 to nearly 1,850. The scams work by criminals promoting get-rich-quick online trading platforms through social media. Posts often use fake celebrity endorsements and images of luxury items like expensive watches and cars. Beat the scammers: These then link to professional-looking websites where consumers are persuaded to invest. Often investors are led to believe their first investment has successfully returned a profit, and are then enticed to invest more money or introduce friends in return for greater profits. But the returns stop, the customer account is closed, and the scammer disappears with no further contact. 'Anyone handing over their hard-earned cash should make sure they understand what they're getting into, they've checked it's a legitimate investment, and not rely on hype and excitement from friends or social media. 'Investing isn't a get-rich-quick scheme - and anything that uses fear of missing out or requires you to invest before thinking is best to be avoided.' Those considering an investment to check the following for tips on how to avoid investment fraud at www.fca.org.uk/scamsmart. Scammers can be very convincing so always do your own research into any firm you are considering investing with, to make sure that they are the real deal. 'It's vital that people carry out the necessary checks to ensure that an investment they're considering is legitimate. UK consumers are being increasingly targeted by crypto asset-related investment scams. Certain crypto assets, like Bitcoin and Ether (also known as cryptocurrencies), are not regulated in the UK. This means that buying, selling or transferring these crypto-assets falls outside FCA remit. The same is true for the operation of a cryptocurrency exchange. However, some types of crypto-asset products may be or may involve regulated investments depending on their nature and how they are structured. For example, firms that sell regulated investments with an underlying crypto asset element may need to be authorised by the FCA to do so. In recent months, the FCA claims it has received an increasing number of reports about crypto-asset investment scams. Some of them may involve regulated activities, others don’t, but all use similar tactics. How crypto-asset investment scams work Cryptoasset fraudsters tend to advertise on social media – often using the images of celebrities or well-known individuals to promote cryptocurrency investments. In this case, laughably they said KaratBit was endorsed by Barak Obama’s sister. Who is she and what does she know about cryptocurrencies and blockchain? The ads then link to professional-looking websites. Consumers are then persuaded to make investments with the firm using cryptocurrencies or traditional currencies. The firms operating the scams are usually based outside the UK but will claim to have a UK presence, often a prestigious City of London address. Scam firms can manipulate software to distort prices and investment returns. They may scam people into buying the non-existent crypto asset. They are also known to suddenly close consumers’ online accounts and refuse to transfer the funds to them or ask for more money before the funds can be transferred. Action Fraud has also issued a warning on cryptocurrency scams. How to protect yourself Be wary of adverts online and on social media promising high returns on investments in a crypto asset or crypto asset-related products. Most firms advertising and selling investments in crypto-assets are not authorised by the FCA. This means that if you invest in certain crypto assets you will not have access to the Financial Ombudsman Service or the Financial Services Compensation Scheme if things go wrong. The FCA doesn’t regulate crypto assets like Bitcoin or Ether which are vastly the most recognized cryptocurrencies, let alone KBC, they do regulate certain crypto-asset derivatives (such as futures contracts, CFDs and options), as well as those crypto assets I would consider securities. A firm must be authorised by FCA to advertise or sell these products in the UK – check FCA Register to make sure the firm is authorised. You can also check the FCA Warning List of firms to avoid. You should do further research on the product you are considering and the firm you are considering investing with. Check with Companies House to see if the firm is registered as a UK company and for directors' names. To see if others have posted any concerns, search online for the firm's name, directors' names and the product you are considering. If you’ve already decided you want to invest in gold, this might not be a bad company to side with. But if you’re just looking for an opportunity to earn a sustainable income and become financially independent, there are better options out there.
[educational] Technical analysis, patterns, and charts analysis for the day trader
Chart patterns form a key part of day trading. Candlestick and other charts produce frequent signals that cut through price action “noise”. The best patterns will be those that can form the backbone of a profitable day trading strategy, whether trading stocks, cryptocurrency of forex pairs. Every day you have to choose between hundreds of trading opportunities. This is a result of a wide range of factors influencing the market. Day trading patterns enable you to decipher the multitude of options and motivations – from hope of gain and fear of loss, to short-covering, stop-loss triggers, hedging, tax consequences and plenty more. Candlestick patterns help by painting a clear picture, and flagging up trading signals and signs of future price movements. Whilst it’s said you’ll need to use technical analysis to succeed day trading with candlestick and other patterns, it’s important to note utilizing them to your advantage is more of an art form than a rigid science. You have to learn the power of chart patterns and the theory that governs them in order to identify the best patterns to supplement your trading style and strategies.
Use In Day Trading
Used correctly trading patterns can add a powerful tool to your arsenal. This is because history has a habit of repeating itself and the financial markets are no exception. This repetition can help you identify opportunities and anticipate potential pitfalls. RSI, volume, plus support and resistance levels all aide your technical analysis when you’re trading. But crypto chart patterns play a crucial role in identifying breakouts and trend reversals. Mastering the art of reading these patterns will help you make smarter trades and bolster your profits, as highlighted in the highly regarded, ‘stock patterns for day trading’, by Barry Rudd.
Breakouts & Reversals
In the patterns and charts below you’ll see two recurring themes, breakouts and reversals.
Breakout – A breakout is simply when the price clears a specified critical level on your chart. This level could by any number of things, from a Fibonacci level, to support, resistance or trend lines.
Reversal – A reversal is simply a change in direction of a price trend. That change could be either positive or negative against the prevailing trend. You may also hear it called a ‘rally’, ‘correction’, or ‘trend reversal’.
Candlestick charts are a technical tool at your disposal. They consolidate data within given time frames into single bars. Not only are the patterns relatively straightforward to interpret, but trading with candle patterns can help you attain that competitive edge over the rest of the market. They first originated in the 18th century where they were used by Japanese rice traders. Since Steve Nison introduced them to the West with his 1991 book ‘Japanese Candlestick Charting Techniques’, their popularity has surged. Below is a break down of three of the most popular candlestick patterns used for day trading.
Shooting Star Candlestick
This is often one of the first you see when you open a chart with candlestick patterns. This bearish reversal candlestick suggests a peak. It is precisely the opposite of a hammer candle. It won’t form until at least three subsequent green candles have materialized. This will indicate an increase in price and demand. Usually, buyers lose their cool and clamber for the price to increasing highs before they realize they’ve overpaid. The upper shadow is usually twice the size of the body. This tells you the last frantic buyers have entered trading just as those that have turned a profit have off-loaded their positions. Short-sellers then usually force the price down to the close of the candle either near or below the open. This traps the late arrivals who pushed the price high. Panic often kicks in at this point as those late arrivals swiftly exit their positions. https://preview.redd.it/gf5dwjhbrdh31.png?width=300&format=png&auto=webp&s=437ff856bfd6ebc95da34528462ba224d964f01f
One of the most popular candlestick patterns for trading forex is the doji candlestick (doji signifies indecision). This reversal pattern is either bearish or bullish depending on the previous candles. It will have nearly, or the same open and closing price with long shadows. It may look like a cross, but it can have an extremely small body. You will often get an indicator as to which way the reversal will head from the previous candles. If you see previous candles are bullish, you can anticipate the next one near the underneath of the body low will trigger a short/sell signal when the doji lows break. You’ll then see trail stops above the doji highs. Alternatively, if the previous candles are bearish then the doji will probably form a bullish reversal. Above the candlestick high, long triggers usually form with a trail stop directly under the doji low. These candlestick patterns could be used for intraday trading with forex, stocks, cryptocurrencies and any number of other assets. But using candlestick patterns for trading interpretations requires experience, so practice on a demo account before you put real money on the line. https://preview.redd.it/4yo650lcrdh31.png?width=300&format=png&auto=webp&s=b2aa3cdeef23e44e1e3e3047bbe2604fce0a4768
This is a bullish reversal candlestick. You can use this candlestick to establish capitulation bottoms. These are then normally followed by a price bump, allowing you to enter a long position. The hammer candlestick forms at the end of a downtrend and suggests a near-term price bottom. The lower shadow is made by a new low in the downtrend pattern that then closes back near the open. The tail (lower shadow), must be a minimum of twice the size of the actual body. The tails are those that stopped out as shorts started to cover their positions and those looking for a bargain decided to feast. Volume can also help hammer home the candle. To be certain it is a hammer candle, check where the next candle closes. It must close above the hammer candle low. Trading with Japanese candlestick patterns has become increasingly popular in recent decades, as a result of the easy to glean and detailed information they provide. This makes them ideal for charts for beginners to get familiar with. https://preview.redd.it/7snzz8qdrdh31.png?width=300&format=png&auto=webp&s=f83ff82f0980dd30c33bc6886ae7e7ed3a98b72f
More Popular Day Trading Patterns
Using Price Action
Many strategies using simple price action patterns are mistakenly thought to be too basic to yield significant profits. Yet price action strategies are often straightforward to employ and effective, making them ideal for both beginners and experienced traders. Put simply, price action is how the price is likely to respond at certain levels of resistance or support. Using price action patterns from pdfs and charts will help you identify both swings and trendlines. Whether you’re day trading stocks or forex or crypto with price patterns, these easy to follow strategies can be applied across the board.
This empty zone tells you that the price action isn’t headed anywhere. There is no clear up or down trend, the market is at a standoff. If you want big profits, avoid the dead zone completely. No indicator will help you makes thousands of pips here.
The Red Zone
This is where things start to get a little interesting. Once you’re in the red zone the end goal is in sight, and that one hundred pip winner within reach. For example, if the price hits the red zone and continues to the upside, you might want to make a buy trade. It could be giving you higher highs and an indication that it will become an uptrend. This will be likely when the sellers take hold. If the price hits the red zone and continues to the downside, a sell trade may be on the cards. You’d have new lower lows and a suggestion that it will become a downtrend.
The End Zone
This is where the magic happens. With this strategy, you want to consistently get from the red zone to the end zone. Draw rectangles on your charts like the ones found in the example. Then only trade the zones. If you draw the red zones anywhere from 10-20 pips wide, you’ll have room for the price action to do its usual retracement before heading to the downside or upside.
Put simply, less retracement is proof the primary trend is robust and probably going to continue. Forget about coughing up on the numerous Fibonacci retracement levels. The main thing to remember is that you want the retracement to be less than 38.2%. This means even when today’s asset tests the previous swing, you’ll have a greater chance that the breakout will either hold or continue towards the direction of the primary trend. https://preview.redd.it/ey997b2irdh31.png?width=300&format=png&auto=webp&s=c938aac51e3b3bbf1f45a11c46f4ae3dfd1b6dd4 Trading with price patterns to hand enables you to try any of these strategies. Find the one that fits in with your individual trading style. Remember, you’ll often find the best trading chart patterns aren’t overly complex, instead they paint a clear picture using minimal indicators, reducing the likelihood of mistakes and distraction.
Consider Time Frames
When you start trading with your short term price patterns pdf to hand, it’s essential you also consider time frames in your calculations. In your market, you’ll find a number of time frames simultaneously co-existing. This means you can find conflicting trends within the particular asset your trading. Your stock could be in a primary downtrend whilst also being in an intermediate short-term uptrend. Many traders make the mistake of focusing on a specific time frame and ignoring the underlying influential primary trend. Usually, the longer the time frame the more reliable the signals. When you reduce your time frames you’ll be distracted by false moves and noise. Many traders download examples of short-term price patterns but overlook the underlying primary trend, do not make this mistake. You should trade-off 15-minute charts, but utilize 60-minute charts to define the primary trend and 5-minute charts to establish the short-term trend.
Our understanding of chart patterns has come along way since the initial 1932 work of Richard Schabacker in ‘Technical Analysis and Stock Market Profits’. Schabacker asserted then, ‘any general stock chart is a combination of countless different patterns and its accurate analysis depends upon constant study, long experience and knowledge of all the fine points, both technical and fundamental…’ So whilst there is an abundance of patterns out there, remember accurate analysis and sustained practice is required to fully reap their benefits. The source : https://www.daytrading.com/patterns
Introduction to investing as a U.S. citizen residing in Japan
[meta: I ask for help in making sure this information is accurate and correct. Please contribute as you see fit!] WARNING!! I am not a lawyer, accountant, or broker, nor do I have any experience or training in any of those fields. ALWAYS confirm with a professional before taking any advice you read on the internet. Foreward If you're old enough to pay taxes, you should start investing. The earlier, the better.
Here’s another example to illustrate the enormous benefit of getting an early start. At age 25, Eric Early invests $4,000 per year in a Roth IRA for 10 years and stops investing. His total investment is $40,000. Larry Lately makes yearly deposits of $4,000 in his Roth IRA starting at age 35 for 30 years. His total investment is $120,000. Assuming both portfolios earn an 8 percent average annual return, at age 65, Eric’s IRA will be worth $629,741, but Larry’s IRA will be worth only $489,383. By starting 10 years earlier and making one third of the investment, Eric ends up with 29 percent more.
- quote from "The Boglehead's Guide to Investing" Target audience This is an introduction for U.S. citizens with residency in Japan who want to do long-term investing in U.S. equity (stocks, bonds, etc.). Disclaimer This advice may not be accurate for citizens of countries other than the U.S. or for those U.S. citizens living in Japan who work for the military or are only temporarily living and working in Japan as affiliated with a U.S. company. This is also not advice for ForEx or day traders looking to make money. Nor is it advice for what to invest in. This is also not advice for investing in the Japanese stock market. This is just one way to invest in U.S. equity from Japan. There are other ways. Assumptions
You're a U.S. citizen
Your income is in JPY
You want to invest in U.S. equity (stock market, bond market, etc)
You have basic knowledge about taxes and tax-related terms
You have at least $10,000 USD to invest (or $3,000 USD if age 25 or younger)
Background I am an ordinary guy living in Japan. I have disposable income and, rather than pour all of it into my local izakaya and Philipino hookers (who hang out in front of Mister Donut at night and ask if I "want the massage?" (just kidding, really!)), I wanted to invest in my future by saving for retirement. I'm an early 30's-year-old guy and spent about a month reading up on investing and then set off trying to invest as a resident of Japan. My Story I moved to Japan 3 years ago after working in the U.S. I have an IRA leftover from my time in the U.S., but never contributed to it since moving to Japan (thankfully - find out why in a bit). I recently saw a post from /personalfinance (seriously, go read information in that sub if you want to have more money upon retirement or just get out of debt!) and decided to read the book "The Boglehead's Guide to Investing" based on recommendations there. After that, I started looking into my options for investing from Japan. Before I left the U.S. for Japan, I rolled over my 401k into an IRA using Vanguard (arguably the best broker available for U.S. citizens). Since moving to Japan, I had not contributed anything to my IRA. So, the first thing I wanted to do was start contributing to my IRA again, and use any remainder to invest in U.S. equity. Turns out this is not as easy as it sounds. I found out that in order to legally contribute to my IRA, I had to pay U.S. taxes on my income used to contribute to it. Well, if you're like me and don't make an awful lot of money, you're probably filing with Foreign Tax Credit/IRS Foreign Earned Income Exclusion. This stuff basically let's you deduct all your taxes in Japan, as it on Japanese income and you already paid glorious Nippon taxes on that income. For me, this basically meant that I owed the IRS absolutely nothing every year. Great! Right? Buuuuut since I didn't pay any U.S. tax on my income, I cannot use it to contribute to my IRA! Dammit! (But actually a blessing in disguise because if I had been contributing to my IRA, I would have been breaking U.S. tax law because I didn't pay taxes on it.) So, I started looking into other ways to invest: the U.S. stock market, bonds, etc. After reading The Boglehead's Guide, I knew I wanted to invest in Vanguard's mutual index funds. My first instinct was to open a brokerage account (which is different from your IRA account) with Vanguard. I started filling out the online form, but ran into issues. You have to specify a U.S. address. Also, you have to specify your U.S. employer. I had neither of these, so I called Vanguard (from Japan at a ridiculous call charge) and spoke with someone about doing this. They gave me the OK but said I'd have to submit a paper form through snail mail, and sent me a PDF to fill out and mail in. I mailed it (from Japan using EMS which was like $20..), and got a call about a week later. Surprise! Because I'm not working in Japan temporarily for a U.S. company or living on a U.S. military base (considered U.S. soil, I assume?), I actually can't open a brokerage account with them. Dammit again! What a waste of money calling them and mailing the form overseas. So, I started looking into other options. I read about a few other brokers and most people agreed that I should either use Fidelity or Interactive Brokers. I had never heard of Interactive Brokers and honestly they seemed scary at first, so I decided to go with Fidelity, who I had actually heard of and is a U.S. based firm. I created an account with Fidelity, but once again ran into roadblocks when trying to open a stock trading account. I didn't have a U.S. address or employer, and actually wasn't able to link my U.S. bank account with them either (for reasons unknown). Dammit once again! So, I started reading more about Interactive Brokers. Okay, it's still a little scary, but there are positive reports about using them online. I signed up for an account with minimal hassle, linked up my bank account, was able to transfer money over to them, and then successfully bought U.S. shares! Sweet success! Finally!
How to Invest
Part I: Contributing to your IRA If you do not have an IRA, you probably should, as they are your basic investment option and tax-friendly to boot. However, good luck setting one up as a resident in Japan! Vanguard will happily babysit an IRA you opened prior to leaving the U.S., but they will not let you open a new one with a foreign address. I don't know about other brokers such as Fidelity or Schwabb, but it's probably the same story there. If you are like me and happen to have an IRA leftover in the U.S., you CAN contribute to it, but in order to do so you must not deduct your Japanese tax on your IRS 1040 or file Form 1116, "Foreign Tax Credit". In other words, you must pay U.S. taxes on any income used to contribute to the IRA. Refer to your broker for how to actually get the money to them from Japan. Part II: Investing in U.S. Equity from Japan Using Interactive Brokers First, let me tell you a little bit about Interactive Brokers (IB). They are a service mostly used by regulaprofessional traders. The fees are very low and reasonable. However, they have a service charge of $10/month if your commission is equal to or less than $10 USD in that month. This is probably not a problem for people over 25 years old investing with $10,000+ USD, but for people 25 and under with an initial investment of $3000, it's possible you might not make the minimum commission per month. Beware of this fee. IB lets you fund the account from many different currencies, regardless of what market you are buying (this needs confirmation, but seems to be accurate). So, whether you have a U.S. bank account or a Japanese bank account, you can fund the IB account. You can even fund from both. IB does not let you invest in U.S. mutual funds. This sounds like a deal-breaker, but it's actually not. You can still invest in U.S. ETFs. This includes Vanguard's total stock market index ETF, total bond market index ETF, etc. IB has an iPhone app that is pretty good and probably an Android app too. Although, as someone doing long-term investing for retirement, you probably don't need this and don't want to be checking your account too much (refer to /personalfinance as to why). IB has multiple account types. You will probably see IBLLC and IBSJ. The differences are two-fold: First: an IBSJ is only used to trade Japan domestic equity. You don't want this because you want to trade U.S. equity. Instead, IBLLC is used to trade overseas (U.S. equity). Second: as of 2016, IBJS requires your My Number information, but IBLLC does not. Again, you don't want IBJS, so don't worry about the My Number information. Open a "Japan Resident Individual Account for IBLLC" account online. This is a lengthy process. Make sure you have the required information.
You will need to send info about your current address in Japan, your 在留カード (zairyuu/"gaijin" card), job information, bank account information, and so on. I got confused and sent my My Number card information as well, but this only caused a hiccup in their process and I was told to remove it. Don't submit your My Number information.
You need to choose your base currency. Your base currency determines what currency you trade in and receive dividends/money from selling in. I think you need to specify USD here, but not sure. I chose USD because U.S. stocks are in USD and I used my U.S. bank account to intially fund my account. It may not matter, but this needs confirmation.
You need to specify that you have trading experience. I forget the actual numbers you need to put into the form, but make sure you put enough experience that allows you to trade ETFs overseas. You can fiddle with the numbers right there in the form, and options open up as you change the numbers. Play with it until it's just right. This part is hazy, and just seems to be some safeguards for IB so that new investors can't sue/blame IB for their own trading stupidity when they lose all their money. If you really don't have any experience trading, IB offers virtual "fake" accounts you can use to play around with trading. I suggest you try it.
After about a week you should have your new account. The next step is funding it, or you may have selected to fund it up front when you created the account so it may already be done. Anyway, the easiest way is to have IB request the wire transfer from your bank. I did this. It was really annoying, but it took about another week or so to go through. Beware that you probably can't start buying right away and need to wait for the transfer to clear. Congratulations! You're ready to start buying now. Refer to /personalfinance in what to invest in. Remember that you are limited to buying ETFs and a few other things, and not mutual funds (but you can get their ETF equivalents). Using TBD... (anyone want to fill this out?) Part III: Taxes You need to declare and pay taxes on your dividends and any capital gains you make. Beware. TBD... (this is arguably the most important part, but I just don't have time to go into it now. Someone feel free to help!) TL;DR: Open an account with Interactive Brokers online and buy ETFs.
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