# Investment Analysis and Portfolio Management

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Investment Analysis & Portfolio Management (FIN630)
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Lesson # 5
MARKET MECHANICS
TYPES OF ACCOUNTS:
People who buy or sell stock through a brokerage firm have an individual account in which
they make their trades. While a single account number is associated with each investor,
these accounts have important subsidiary accounts. Two such accounts are cash account and
margin account.
1. Cash Account:
Every investor with a brokerage account automatically has a cash account. In a cash
account, an investor must co0me up with cash equal to the full value of the securities
purchased, unless sufficient funds are already in the accounts. Dividends and interest
accumulate in the cash account as they are earned. The investor did not borrow the busy
stock, so the equity on the balance sheet equals the total assets; there are no liabilities.
2. Margin Account:
Margin account are extremely useful, but, like most investment, need respect. A margin
account permits on investor to borrow part of the cost of investment firm a brokerage firm.
This account allows an investor to round u8p and buy a round lot, or t6o add leverage to
investments the same way a real state speculator gets leverage by purchasing land with
borrowing funds.
Buying power is a measure of how much more can be spent for securities without having to
put up any additional cash. One of the most common question brokers get from clients is,
"What's my buying power?" The software running on a broker's desktop monitor may have
a menu item enabling the broker to quickly bring up the buying power figure when a
customer asks. Brokers and investors both probably should know how to compute this
statistic; fortunately, it is not difficult. Regulation T currently provides an initial margin
requirement of 50 percent. Therefore, an investor can borrow money from the broker up to
the point at which the debt balance equals the account equity. When these two figures are
equal the margin loan amounts to 50 percent of the portfolio total assets. At this point the
buying power is zero. Buying power can be calculated by solving this equation;
B = [1/m-1] E-D
Where
M = initial margin requirement
D = debt
E = equity
With the current 50 percent initial requirement, the formula for determining buying power is
simply the account equity minus the debt balance.
With a 50% initial margin, buying power = equity ­ debit balance.
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Withdrawing Cash:
Buying power can also be used to withdraw cash from the account. Taking cash out reduces
the total assets and the account equity; buying power is doubly reduced by a cash
withdrawal. To determine how much can be withdrawn in cash, subtract the margin balance
from the account equity and divide by two.
Margin Calls:
What happens if the market moves the other way? The maintenance margin enters the
picture in this scenario. If equity declines too far, the investor must deposit more assets
(usually cash and cash equivalents) into the account, or some security position must be
involuntarily closed out to reduce the amount of margin debt. Such a requirement is a
margin call. The minimum portfolio value can be determined by dividing the debit balance
by the quantity one minus the maintenance margin
Minimum portfolio value =
debit balance
.
1- Maintenance margin
Once an investor receives a margin call, most brokerage firms require the investor to deposit
sufficient funds to return the portfolio to the full initial margin condition of 50 percent
equity. This investor is likely to receive a telephone call indicating that margin call is on the
way. A paper notice will arrive in the mail with in a day or so. An investor who is unable to
deposit sufficient funds to meet the margin calls must sell stock to get the balance sheet in
order. Selling stock produces cash that immediately used to pay down the margin loan.
Meeting the margin call this way requires the sale of sufficient shares to meet the dollar
amount of the margin call. A margin call is inevitable if the securities in the portfolio do not
appreciate or generate income. As time passes, interest accrues on the margin loan, so
equity will progressively decreases. Eventually equity will decline to the 30 percent make if
the investment is all dogs. Notice also that if securities must be sold because of margin call,
the sale occurs when the market is down the worst possible time.
percent equity percent equity position.
Variations on the Margin Account:
Some brokerage firms offer products that are similar to a traditional margin account but
offer additional flexibility to the customer. PaineWebber, for instance, offers a "Personal
Security Loan Account" that allows customers to borrow against the securities in their
accounts. This account is set up independently of the regular investment account with the
loan proceeds used for education, home improvement, car payments, or other similar uses.
Because the loan is not being used to purchase additional securities, the Federal Board
considers such a loan to be less risky and therefore permits borrowing a great percentage of
the portfolio value. An investor can borrow up to 70 percent of the value of the stocks and
corporate bonds (compared to only 50 percent in a regular margin account), and up to 90
percent of the value of government securities.
Margin and Speculation:
Some market observers view the level of margin debt as a precursor of things to come with
the market averages. Margin buying has historically moved in tandem with popular
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averages like the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500. As margin debt has
increased, so has the level of stoke prices, and vice-versa. It is always dangerous to assume
the past will repeat itself, but you should not ignore past patterns, either.
According to The Wall Street Journal, in February 2000 total margin debt equaled 1.57% of
overall market value. This is approximately where the percentage stood just before the
October 1987 market crash. In early 2000 total margin debt exceeded \$240 billion, up over
one third in three months. Someone could argue that if margin debt has never been higher
and the market typical follow level of margin, the market is headed down before long.
Other Types of Accounts:
Cash and margin accounts are the two most important types. Many investors will have one
or more of the other types of accounts. Bonds and income-producing securities can be in a
separate account called an income account. Convertible bonds may be segregated into their
own account, as many government bonds or short positions.
Selling Short:
A short sale involves borrowing securities, selling them to someone else, eventually
purchasing similar shares from someone else, and delivering these substitute shares to the
original lender. The notion that you can profitably and legitimately sell something you do
not own has troubled market observers since the early 1600s, when Dutch authorities
attempted to outlaw short selling. While this procedure may be conceptually awkward, it
need not be viewed as an antisocial act.
Short selling involves selling borrowed shares.
Rationale:
Most short sellers are bearish toward a particular stock. If the short seller is able to borrow
shares and sell them at \$25, the purchase of thee share a few months later at \$ 19 results in a
\$6 profit. Instead of buying at a low prices and selling at a higher prices, the short seller
simply revered the order of the two transactions.
The actual lender of the shares is normally an unknowing participant in the entire matter.
For instance, investors with margin accounts at their brokerage house may be involved in
the process. When an investor opens a margin account, he or she signs a hypothecation
agreement giving the brokerage firm the right to lend the shares to someone else. This
arrangement is of no real concern to the investor because the investor can still trade the
shares and continued to earn dividend.
Short sellers sell first and buy later.
Criticisms:
Over the year many discussions have focused on the merits of short selling; these
conversations occur on the floor of the Congress and in the smallest boardrooms. Those in
favor of short selling point out that margin trading actually encompass two activities:
buying on margin and selling short. The sticking point is the leveraged purchase of shares;
why find fault with a related procedure on the other side of the market? Short ­selling gurus
will quickly assert that margin buyers were largely responsible for the events leading to the
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Great Crash of 1929, and those speculative buying forces prices up, so margin buying is
inflationary. Short selling helps this influence.
The opposition will point out short selling has a checkered heritage and has, on occasion,
been destabilizing to the market. Traders have a long memory for manipulation, corners,
and short squeezes, such as the 1862 Harlem Railroad incident starring Cornelius Vanderbilt
and Boss Tweed. Also, people traditionally want the market to advance; few actively root
for a price decline. Because the downward pressure induced by short selling runs counter to
public interest, they argue, short selling is evil.
Mechanics of a Short Sale:
Regardless of where your opinion lies, short selling is a fact of life worth understanding.
Figure 6-16 outline the steps of a simple short sale with common stock. Short sellers
recognize that because they are selling on margin, a margin requirement must be met. An
investor who buys on margin pays interest, but not when selling short because no money is
borrowed. In fact, an investor actually has to deposit money.
Suppose an investor dealing through Merrill Lynch buys 100 shares of XYZ in a margin
account, and Merrill subsequently lends these shares to another of its clients who wants to
sell them short. The short seller then might sell these shares to an account at Kidder
Peabody.
An important point here is that Merrill Lynch does not care who bought the shares, nor is
Merrill Lynch informed. The short seller simply has an obligation to return what has been
borrowed sometime in the future.
At this point, two investors believe thy own shares in XYZ: the lender (who bought the
shares in a margin account) and the person who bought the shares from the short seller.
Dividends are not a problem because the short seller, by industry practice, must pay them to
the lender. The short seller is not hurt by this, because the stock price tends to fall on the ex-
dividend day anyway.
At some point in the future, the short seller covers the short position by purchasing shares (it
does not matter from whom) to replace the certificates borrowed earlier. Buying the shares
at a price lower then that at which they were sold results in a profit to the short seller. Of
course, if the shares must be purchases at a higher price, the short seller suffers a loss.
Note that while selling short is a legitimate investment activity, it is not always the best way
to accomplish the purpose of making profit. On a single security, for instance, the purchase
of a put option is often preferable to selling short. (This important activity will be discussed
later in the book). A short sale involve losses that are potentially unlimited, because the
stock prices could rise astronomically yet shares must still be repurchased.
On most exchanges there is a special trading restriction on short sales. They can only be
executed on an uptick. An uptick means the last change in the stock price was up. A
downtick, not surprisingly, means the last stock price change was down. The tick is based
on minute-by ­minute price changes; it is not relative to the previous day's closing price.
The rationale for the uptick rule is that selling short tends to put downward pressure on a
stock price, and so could accelerate the decline of a stock that is in a free fall. The rule, in
essence, keeps short sales from fanning the flames.
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The short seller has an eventual obligation to replace the borrowed shares.
Short sellers must pay any dividends to the person from whom the stock was borrowed.
Selling Short Against the Box:
A variant of the short sale is against the box. In such a trade, the investor sells short shares
that are simultaneously owned. In this phrase, the term box refers to the safe deposit box
where the share certificate might be held. Selling short against the box is a riskless strategy
designed to shift a tax liability into the future.
A person who sells short against the box creates a perfect hedge. What ever gain or loss
occurs with the stock will be exactly off set by a loss or gain in the short poison. The reason
someone might engage in such a trade is almost always tax related. Suppose an investor
bought XYZ at \$45 years ago and, in late November, would like to sell the stock at its
current market price of \$ 100. Selling the shares results in a capital gain with tax
implications in the current tax year. The investor could wait until after the first of the year to
sell, but then faces the risk that share prices might fall. Instead, the investor sells XYZ short
at \$ 100. The obligation is eventually to replace the borrowed shares. In January, the
investor can cover the short by delivering the shares from the safe deposit box. Regardless
of the shares price in January, the investor has locked in the \$ 55 per share profit, and the
tax liability is pushed back another year. If the share price had fallen to \$90, the investor
would make\$ 10 per share on the short sale, which exactly cancels the opportunity loss on
the long stock position. If the share price instead rose to \$110, the gain in the stock offset
the loss on the short position.
comes through an agent called a broker who makes the trade. As mentioned in the previous
chapter, only members of the exchange may trade there, so most people need someone to
make the trade for them. As a fee for their services, brokerage firms charge a commission.
Perhaps no part of the investment business gets as much discussion or is potentially as
awkward a topic to discuss with your broker as commission. The commission cost is
important, but there are other costs to trading, too.
While commissions are the most obvious costs of trading, there are other very important
costs as well. These falls into two groups: explicit costs and implicit costs.
Explicit costs are the direct cost of trading and include brokerage fees and taxes. Taxes, in
fact are the largest of these. When your tax bracket is such that you lose over a fourth of
your capital gains to the tax collector, you need to consider this before deciding to take a
profit. Individual investors often think much more about commission than they do about tax
consequences.
Implicit costs are especially important to institutional traders because of the size of the
trades they typically make. The most important implicit costs relate to the size of the bid-
ask spread, the price impact of the trade, and the opportunity cost of being unable to execute
the trade when you want to.
Suppose a stock routinely trades at a spread of 1/8 of a point and that its true value is the
midpoint of the spread. When you buy it you pay a bit more than the true value, and when
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you get a bit less. Regardless of whether the stock goes up or down in the future, when you
sell it you will probably do so at a price 1/8 less than the corresponding ask price. On a
Price impact refers to the fact that a large trade will clear out the bids or offer prices t a
particular level and cause the market price to move. A large market order to buy, for
instance, will almost certainly cause the stock price to rise. You might place the order when
the stock was at \$ 45, but find that you purchased shares at prices ranging from \$45 to \$46;
the very fact that you placed the trade caused you to pay more. The same thing happens
when a quantity of shares is dumped all at once. Institutional investors know that they have
to be careful when trading large blocks.
The opportunity cost relates to this last point. You may decide to make a trade based on
your expert analysis, but discover that by the time you can actually execute the trade the
other people have come to the same conclusion about the stock and its price has already
There are both implicit and explicit costs of trading.
The Commission Structure:
Commission Schedules:
Commission schedule vary widely among broker firms. In general, though, the size of the
commission charged is a function of two things: the dollar amount of the trade and the
number of shares involved. It is also common to face a minimum commission, ranging from
\$30 to \$40 at most retail brokerage firms.
Commissions occur when a trade is actually executed; there is no charge, for instance, to
raise the stop price on a stop order or to submit a limit order to buy. Only when a trade
occurs is a commission paid.
Commissions are usually a function of the dollar amount involved and the number of
Commission and Limit Orders:
Limit orders are useful, and many investors routinely use them to control the price at which
they make their trades. Limit order user should be familiar with one particular commission
issue, however.
Suppose an investor placed an order to buy 1,000 shares of Community West Bancshares
(CWBC, NASDAQ) at \$5 ˝, good till canceled. CWBC is a thinly traded stock. Thin
trading is an inexact term referring to a general lack of trading activity. Shares that are
specialist's book. Assume the stock is trading t 5 3/8 to 5 ˝ at the time the limit order is
placed. Even though the CWBC ask price is \$5 ˝ 1,000 shares are not likely to be available
at that price. Perhaps only four lots are offered at 5 ˝, and once these are sold the ask price
jumps to 5 5/8.
If the specialist is unwilling to enter the sell side of the market for his or her own account,
the floor broker would instruct the specialist to put the other 600 in the book. The investor
would then get confirmation that "you bought 400 CWBC at 5 ˝ ". It would be logical for
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the investor to question this action, saying, "Wait a minute, I wanted 1,000". As it
happened, 1.000 was not available at the specified price.
A few days later CWBC might again become available at 5 ˝, and the rest of the investors
order would be filled. A second confirmation would be received, indicating a purchase of
600 CWBC at \$5 ˝. The second confirmation would also show a second commission even
though the investor placed a single order.
The policy is as follows: an order filled at various prices on a single day is charged one
commission, but an order filled over several days is charged separate commissions for each
day on which a trade was made. Many brokers can tell a tale of one of their clients who was
unhappy upon first discovering this convention within the brokerage industry. With a thinly
traded stock, the extra commission (or two) might mean an investor would have been better
off buying the shares with a market order and not `Trying to get the last eighth".
Commission Discounts:
At most brokerage firms, the broker who deals with the public personally keeps between 25
percent and 45 percent of the actual commission charged. Especially productive brokers
with a large number of active clients command the highest rate. Some brokers are willing to
discount their commissions with active clients. Such a discount comes from the broker's
share of the commission.
Suppose a commission is \$100 and the broker earns \$35 from this trade. If the broker
wished, he or she could reduce the commission to \$65 and earn nothing on the trade. It is a
broker's advantage to be good citizen, respected in the community, and active in the affairs.
For this reason, many brokers reduce their commissions as much as possible for work they
do for local nonprofit organizations such as YWCA endowment or a hospital building fund.
Full-Service Brokers:
Some firms are full-service brokers. A few well-known examples are Merrill Lynch,
PaineWebber, Kidder Peabody, and Smith Barney/Shearson. At a full-service firm,
individual brokers provide personalized service to their clients. Brokers are expected to be a
familiar with their clients, their needs, and their individual circumstances. Extensive
research is available, and accounts holders can ask for and receive free of charge an
enormous quantity of market commentary and specific opinion regarding security issues.
A full service firm also performs a function commonly called handholding. Some people
absolutely require the reassurance they get from face-to-face meeting with their financial
advisor. There is nothing wrong with handholding, and a good broker understands this type
of customer service is part of the job. Some investors, of the game; and they do their own
research. Such investors may choose to reduce their commission burden and trade through a
discount brokerage firm.
Discount Brokers:
A discount broker works for an organization that executes traders for its clients, but does
statements, but research will generally not be available for the asking and handholding will
be limited.
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In fact, most client of a discount broker never meets a broker face to face. Rather, they call a
toll free telephone number and place their order with whoever answers the phone. Brokers
at a discount firm are largely order takers, meaning they do what the client direct and do not
question the wisdom of the trade. (They will ask for clarification of the trade or point out an
invalid request.) Broker at a discount firm are salaried; they have no particular incentive to
An ongoing debate continues to rage within the investment community about the use of
discount brokers. Some full-service brokers will claim that an investor gets better order
execution at a full-service firm. Sometimes this claim is true, but it is not a general rule.
Discount brokerage firms (and some financial planning people) believe that people who
make their own decision are foolish to pay more than necessary in trading fees.
The difference in commission rates between a full-service house and a discount house can
be significant. For example with one particular it was possible to buy 1,000 shares of a \$ 5
stock, sell them at \$ 5 1/8, and make a profit after the two commissions. The wall Street
journal has advertisements from discount brokerage firms virtually every day in which the
discounted commissions are compared with a sampling from major full-service houses.
Discounts as high as 75 percent are possible.
About dozen firms, including Exxon, Ker-McGee, Texaco, and Mobil, permit individuals to
buy shares of stock directly from the company. In some instances this may be done at no
cost to the shareholder, while in other cases a modest commission of perhaps seven cents
per share is charged. For the investor interested in one of these firms, the trading fees
approach the ultimate discount: zero.
Electronic Brokers:
The advent and of online trading along with the growth of the Internet will be a significant
event in the stock market history book discussion of the late 1990s. firms such as
E*TRADE, Datek, Ameritrade, DLJ direct, TD Waterhouse, and numerous others make it
easy for investors who know what they want to do to trade inexpensively, reliably, and
quickly from their personal computer. A trade that would cost several hundred dollars on a
full-service commission schedule might cost only \$ 12 via one of these firms. Some pundits,
in fact predict that online trading will be free in a few years. It is logical to ask how these
firms make a profit with such low rates.
The typical online brokerage firm probably makes only about half its revenue from
brokerage commissions. The remainder comes largely from interest charged on margin
account and from payment for order flow. This latter source is extremely important, long
established, and perfectly legal despite appearances of being a kick-back. When someone
places an order to buy 500 shares of General Electronic this order is likely sent to a stock
trading firm in exchange for a "referral fee." Even if the customer pays no commission at
all, the online brokerage will still get payment order flow. In essence, the stock trading firm
is returning part of the spread to the online broker, as the volume of trades directed to a
particular trading house increase, the percentage paid to the referring broker typically
increases, too.
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Current Event:
Broker Compensation:
There are approximately 91,000 stockbrokers in the United States. The Securities Industry
association reports that in 1993, the median annual compensation for a retail stockbroker
was \$90,000. This figure is nearly double the amount earned a decade earlier. Broker
compensation statistics frequently appear in the financial press, but they must be taken with
a grain of salt. The superstar brokers can make well over \$ 1 million per year. These curve
busters naturally pull up the arithmetic average, making it appear that the typical broker is
doing better than he or she actually is.
NASDAQ Commission:
There may be an incentive for some brokers to trade via the NASDAQ system rather than
on the exchange. Most firms pay their brokers 40 percent of the gross commission charged
on NASDAQ stocks for which the brokerage firm is a market maker. This rate compares to
an average of about 33 percent for listed shares.
Also, spreads are sometimes wider on the over-the counter market. From the customer's
perspective, the spread contributes to the cost of trading. According to an article in Forbes
in May 1993, the average spread on NASDAQ National Market System firms was 59 cents,
an increase from 43 cents in May1989. In contrast, the average NYSE spread remained
constant at 21 cents over this period. In Forbes' words, "No question where investors get the
Forthcoming Changes in the Reward System:
The SEC is applying increase pressure on brokerage firms to alter the manner in which
brokers earn commissions. The official SEC position seems to be that a commission
structure in which "more trades mean more commissions" tends to encourage active trading
and may lead to account churning.
Some firms are experimenting with a compensation structure based on the dollar value the
broker brings into the firm rather than the level of activity within the broker's accounts.
This type of structure might encourage a portfolio approach to investing rather than a stock-
picking attitude. At least brokerage firm offers investors virtually unlimited trading for a flat
annual fee.
A precise protocol should be followed when placing order with a broker. This protocol
helps eliminate uncertainty about the investor's exact wishes. The most common types of
orders are the market orders, the limit order, and the stop order. Stop orders are especially
useful in protecting profits, but can also be used to minimize losses. Unfortunately,
investors seldom use them.
The stock exchange specialist helps maintain a fair and orderly market in his or her assigned
securities. They maintain an inventory of shares for sale and are willing to be buyers for
those who wish to sell. If the spread gets too wide, the specialist may enter the market on
both sides to provide better price for customers.
The ticker tape provides a chronological listing of trades at the exchange. No longer on
paper, this electronic displays stock symbols, volume, and the price at which trades
occurred. On busy days the tape may run late.
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The two main types of accounts are the cash account in which the investor pays for the
share in full, and the margin account, where a portion of the share cost can be borrowed
from the brokerage firm. If the account equity deteriorates too far, the investor may get a
margin call under the rules of Federal Reserve Board Regulation T, requiring the deposit of
additional funds or the sale of some securities position.
Selling short involves the sale of borrowed securities in anticipation of a decline in security
prices. Shares sold short must eventually be covered (brought back). Brokers receive a
commission for executing customer trades. Some firms are full-service firms, providing
extensive research and advice. Other are discount firms, executing orders but providing few
other services. Many firms also provide for making trades via a home computer.
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