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5 reasons to upgrade from Amex Gold to Amex Platinum – The Points Guy


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Higher earning on gas and more: New sign-up offers on the Chase Freedom cards – The Points Guy


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Best Online Life Insurance Companies for 2022

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Additional Resources

In the old days, applying for life insurance was tedious, time-consuming, and stressful. The process took weeks to complete, much of that spent waiting on the results of a medical exam. And you didn’t know how much your policy would cost until everything was said and done — or even if you’d qualify for a policy at all.

Fortunately, the old days are over, at least for life insurance applicants who apply online. Also known as algorithmic underwriters or algorithmic insurance companies, online life insurance companies give you an up-or-down decision within minutes, often without a medical exam or many questions about your medical history. You can apply over lunch or dinner and then get on with life.

Best Online Life Insurance Companies

Not all online life insurance companies are created equal, of course. These are among the very best.

Each of the companies on this list does at least one thing really well, and our top pick offers the best overall value for the widest number of potential applicants. Here’s what you need to know about each.

Best Overall: Ladder

Ladder Life Insurance Logo

Ladder is one of the best life insurance companies. It tops our list of the best online life insurance companies thanks to a potent collection of strengths:

  • Up to $3 million in term life insurance coverage without a medical exam — double what most competitors allow
  • In-home medical exams for policies larger than $3 million — the application process remains all-online otherwise
  • Choose from 10- to 30-year term coverage options
  • Option to scale down coverage over time without reapplying
  • Approval within minutes for many applicants
  • Backed by national insurers with strong financial strength ratings

Best for Fast Approval: Bestow

Bestow Life Insurance Logo

Bestow earns its spot as one of the best no-exam life insurance companies thanks to a streamlined digital application and underwriting process that produces results in as little as five minutes. If Bestow doesn’t need any additional information from you, you can apply for life insurance and get an up-or-down approval decision during your coffee break.

Its features include:

  • Term life insurance only
  • Term lengths from 10 to 30 years
  • Policy death benefits as low as $50,000
  • Coverage up to $1.5 million per policy with no medical exam required
  • Open to applicants ages 18 to 60
  • A+ (Superior) financial strength rating from A.M. Best

Best Premium Membership Rider: Haven Life

Haven Life Logo 1

Haven Life is one of the best online term life insurance companies around, but it really shines for a reason that’s not directly related to insurance. Haven Life offers the best premium membership rider — an optional add-on filled with potentially valuable features.

That rider is Haven Life Plus. It’s free to policyholders wherever it’s offered and provides at least $150 in annual value to policyholders. It includes:

  • A customizable and legally binding will that you can store online
  • A subscription to Adaptiv, a workout video and music library
  • A subscription to Timeshifter, an app designed to fight jet lag
  • A subscription to Lifesuite, a secure digital storage vault
  • A 15% discount on eligible MinuteClinic products and services

Haven Life has some additional features worth noting, including:

  • Term life coverage up to $3 million with a medical exam
  • No-exam coverage up to $500,000 through Haven Simple
  • AgeUp, an annuity product that can supplement your retirement income after you turn 90

Best for Nontraditional Underwriting: Sproutt

Sproutt Life Insurance Logo

Sproutt is an online life insurance broker that uses an innovative model called the Quality of Life Index (QL Index) to assess life insurance applicants’ risk. 

While it doesn’t completely replace traditional considerations in Sproutt’s application process — or in the underwriting processes of the insurers Sproutt works with — the QL Index goes beyond the usual medical and lifestyle information to consider factors like:

  • How often you exercise and what kind of exercise you do
  • How much and how well you sleep
  • Your emotional health
  • Your eating habits and overall nutrition
  • Your work-life balance

Additional features:

  • Access to fully medically underwritten term life, no-exam life (simple issue life insurance), and guaranteed issue life insurance
  • Multiple types of permanent life insurance available, including whole, universal, and variable universal
  • Get quotes within minutes
  • Apply directly with the insurer with help from Sproutt agents 

Best for Guaranteed Issue Life Insurance: Ethos

Ethos Life Insurance Logo

Ethos is rare among online life insurance companies because it offers permanent life insurance. Most competitors stick with term life.

Ethos’ permanent life insurance offering is a low-value whole life insurance policy for people between the ages of 66 and 85. Its features include:

  • Death benefit between $1,000 and $30,000
  • Guaranteed issue life insurance, meaning you can’t be turned down for medical reasons
  • No expiration, meaning the policy is effective until you die or stop paying premiums
  • Guaranteed level premiums, meaning your premiums won’t increase over time
  • Accidental death is covered right away
  • Nonaccidental death coverage kicks in two to three years after the policy effective date in most cases

Ethos’s term life offering is no slouch either. Its benefits include:

  • Amount of coverage ranges from $20,000 to $1.5 million
  • 10- to 30-year terms
  • Guaranteed renewable after the term ends, albeit at a higher premium

Best for Higher Coverage Limits: Fabric

Fabric Life Insurance

Fabric offers online life insurance policies with coverage up to $5 million. That’s an unusually high limit for a streamlined, all-online application process. And Fabric offers a no-exam option for applicants with uncomplicated health histories, although not up to the $5 million coverage limit.

Additional features:

  • Accidental death coverage available up to $500,000
  • A+ (Superior) financial strength rating
  • Low pricing, with monthly rates starting as low as $1 for $1 million in coverage
  • Will-making services available
  • Secure online vault for financial and personal documents at no additional cost

Best for Price Transparency: Walnut

Walnut Life Insurance Logo

Walnut sets itself apart with what it calls “price-first” term life insurance. Basically, you know how much you’ll pay for 10-year term coverage before you apply, making it easier to fit a new monthly payment into your budget (or decide to go a different direction). You never have to take a medical exam as a condition of coverage.

Walnut also offers a broad lineup of value-adds through a premium membership program included in the cost of insurance. Starting at $10 per month, this includes subscriptions to:

  • Headspace Plus, an app offering guided meditation and self-directed therapy
  • ClassPass Digital, a library of home workout videos
  • Dashlane Premium, a password manager and auto-fill app

According to Walnut, this package is a $25 monthly value. If you want even more, upgrade to a Digital Protection membership for an additional monthly fee and enjoy:

  • 24/7 access to a cyber support helpline
  • Up to $1 million in stolen funds reimbursement if you’re the victim of identity theft

Best Online Broker for Life Insurance Only: Quotacy

Quotacy Life Insurance

Quotacy is an online insurance broker specializing in life insurance quotes. In fact, a life insurance quote is the only type of insurance quote you can get through Quotacy. 

Quotacy’s narrow focus on life insurance gives it some advantages over other online insurance brokers:

  • Access to term life policies as long as 40 years — elsewhere, policies generally top out at 30 years
  • Access to a variety of types of life insurance, including term life
  • Multiple permanent life insurance options, including whole life policies and universal life policies
  • A five-minute, all-online quote creation process
  • Dedicated agents who understand life insurance
  • A vast insurer network that ensures competitive life insurance rates

Best Online Broker for Other Policy Types and Bundles: Policygenius

Policygenius Logo

Policygenius is an all-purpose online insurance quote aggregator. Unlike Quotacy, it focuses on a variety of different types of insurance, including: 

If you’re shopping for more than one type of insurance right now, Policygenius is your best choice for fast answers. And if you’re paired with a life insurance provider that offers other types of insurance too, there’s a good chance Policygenius can hook you up with a money-saving bundle discount. 


Methodology: How We Select the Best Online Life Insurance Companies

We use several criteria to evaluate online life insurance companies and select the very best for our readers. Some relate to the application process or policy underwriting, while others speak to the overall user experience and quality of the insurers themselves.

Financial Strength and Customer Satisfaction

Third-party financial strength ratings assess insurers’ ability to pay out death benefits in the future. When possible, we use ratings from A.M. Best, a highly respected rating agency that specializes in the insurance industry.

Customer satisfaction is another important measure of insurer quality. The top authority for customer satisfaction ratings in this industry is J.D. Power, which ranks life insurance companies and life insurance products annually.

Policy Types Available

Many online life insurance companies offer term life insurance only. Those insurers that also offer permanent life insurance coverage generally require medical underwriting for it, lengthening the application process.

That said, if you prefer to have both options available when you apply, you’ll want to focus your attention on insurers that can accommodate.

Term Options

Online term life insurance policies typically range from 10 to 30 years. Some insurers offer shorter-term policies, down to five or even two years. 

Unless otherwise specified in the terms of the policy, you can renew your policy once the initial term expires. However, this may require another round of underwriting and will definitely involve a higher premium.

No-Medical-Exam Options

One of the core benefits of online life insurance is the seamless application process. This process is helped along in many cases by a lack of medical underwriting. 

The insurer might ask some basic questions about your personal and family medical history and lifestyle. It’ll check your answers against your health records as well. But it won’t require you to undergo a medical exam as a condition of coverage.

No-medical-exam coverage costs more than fully medically underwritten coverage because it provides less information about your risk of premature death. However, this is a price many would-be policyholders are willing to pay, especially if they have reason to believe a medical exam would turn up health-related red flags.

The best insurers for no-exam coverage have high coverage limits — above $1 million — and terms of at least 20 years for younger and middle-aged applicants.

Coverage Amount (Death Benefit)

Online life insurance death benefits typically range from as low as $25,000 to $50,000 for final expenses insurance to upwards of $1.5 million. If you have higher life insurance needs, look to an insurer that can accommodate — Haven Life’s coverage amounts range up to $3 million, for example.

Policy Add-ons (Riders)

Many online life insurance companies offer policy add-ons, also known as riders. Some of the most common include:

  • Return of premium riders, which reimburse the policyholder for premiums paid during the policy term
  • Accelerated death benefit, which allows terminally ill policyholders to claim a portion of the death benefit before they die
  • Accidental death rider, which pays out an additional death benefit if the policyholder dies in an accident covered by the rider

Online Life Insurance FAQs

You have questions about getting life insurance online. We have answers.

Do You Need to Get a Medical Exam When You Apply for Life Insurance Online?

Often, no. If you’re applying for a life insurance policy worth less than $500,000, you probably won’t have to get a medical exam if you don’t want to. Many insurers offer no-medical-exam coverage as high as $1 million or $1.5 million, and a few go higher still — up to $2 million or $3 million.

That said, if your top concern is paying as little as possible for coverage and you have no known health issues, opt for the medical exam. As long as the exam doesn’t raise any red flags about your health, you’ll pay less for a policy that requires one.

How Much Does Online Life Insurance Cost?

How much you pay for an online life insurance policy depends on a number of factors:

  • The policy value — coverage amount or death benefit
  • The policy term — the longer the term, the higher the premium
  • The type of policy — term life is always cheaper than permanent life
  • Your personal medical history
  • Your family medical history
  • The results of your life insurance medical exam if you take one
  • Your age when you apply
  • Your lifestyle, including whether you use or have ever used tobacco and whether you have any risky hobbies

The best way to estimate your life insurance cost is to use an online quote aggregator like Policygenius or Quotacy. 

What Do You Need to Apply for Life Insurance Online?

To apply for life insurance online, you’ll need some or all of the following:

  • A good idea of how much life insurance you need
  • Basic personal information, like your address and Social Security number
  • Basic financial information, such as your annual income
  • Your height and weight
  • Your recent medical history
  • Information about your lifestyle and personal habits

If required, you’ll need to take a medical exam in the days or weeks after you send in your initial application for coverage. Many insurers offer in-home exams, but some ask you to visit a testing facility. 

You’ll also need to give your consent for the insurer to pull your Medical Information Bureau file. This file contains important information about your medical history and previous insurance applications, helping would-be insurers check the information you provide on your application against the public record.  

Is Life Insurance Worth It?

Often, yes. One of the most harmful myths about life insurance is that only certain people need it, such as parents of young children or people with lots of debt. In fact, there are many reasons to buy life insurance:

  • Covering final expenses, such as funeral and burial costs
  • Preventing major debts from passing to a surviving spouse or partner
  • Covering higher costs borne by survivors, such as child care and health insurance
  • Covering future education expenses for your children
  • Protecting your business partners’ financial interests
  • Maintaining your survivors’ standard of living
  • Creating a store of cash value that you can borrow against during your lifetime

Chances are, at least one of these reasons applies to you. And if that’s the case, some form of life insurance is probably worth it.


How to Choose the Best Online Life Insurance Company

These are the best online life insurance companies on the market right now, but that doesn’t mean they’re interchangeable. The best choice for your life insurance needs might not be the best choice for your neighbor — or even your spouse.

To choose the best online life insurer for you, think about why you’re applying for life insurance in the first place.

Do you want an affordable term life policy that lasts until you pay off your house in 15 years? Do you want to make sure your future kids’ college education is paid for, 20 or 25 years down the road? Do you want a policy that lasts indefinitely, creating a cash value reserve that you can tap as you age and possibly establishing generational wealth for your heirs?

Likewise, think about what you want out of your relationship with your insurer, beginning with the application process. Are you willing to pay more to forgo medical underwriting? Or do you prefer a seamless, super-fast application process that produces an answer — and an active policy — within minutes?

It’s your call. Fortunately, you can’t go wrong with any of the options on this list.

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Brian Martucci writes about credit cards, banking, insurance, travel, and more. When he’s not investigating time- and money-saving strategies for Money Crashers readers, you can find him exploring his favorite trails or sampling a new cuisine. Reach him on Twitter @Brian_Martucci.

Source: moneycrashers.com

Average Directional Index (ADX) Explained

The Average Directional Movement Index, or ADX, is an indicator used in technical analysis to help determine the strength of a pricing trend. The indicator was developed by Welles Wilder as part of his Directional Movement System for commodity trading. Since then it has been used for other tradeable investments such as stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and foreign currency.

The ADX can help investors understand when to buy and sell positions. Here’s a closer look at what ADX is, how to calculate it, and the role it plays in making investment decisions.

What is ADX?

ADX shows an average of price range values that indicate expansion or contraction of prices over time — typically a period of 14 days, but, in some cases it may be calculated for shorter or longer periods as well. Shorter periods may respond quicker to pricing movements but may also have more false signals. Longer periods tend to generate fewer false signals but may cause the indicator to lag the market.

The Average Directional Index is part of Wilder’s Directional Movement System, which attempts to measure the strength of pricing trends in both the positive and negative directions, by using DMI+ and DMI- indicators. The DMI+ indicates positive directional movement, and the DMI- indicates negative directional movement. ADX is calculated as the sum of the differences between DMI+ and DMI- over time. These three indicators are often charted together.

ADX Formula

Calculating the Average Directional Index on your own is a bit complex; it requires a series of calculations to be carried out in a specific order. Luckily, you probably won’t ever have to do it yourself — instead take a look at advanced chart settings for publicly available stock charts on websites like the Wall Street Journal . There is often an option to add an ADX or DMI overlay to the chart.

For those who are curious, here’s a look at the formulas required to calculate ADX:

+DI = (Smoothed +DM/ATR) X 100

-DI = (Smoothed -DM/ATR) X 100

DX= (|+DI – -DI|/|+DI + -DI|) X 100

ADX = ((Prior ADX X 13) + Current ADX))/14

Assumptions:

DM = Direction Movement

ATR = Average True Range

+DM = Current High – Previous High

-DM = Previous Low – Current Low

Smoothed +/- DM = ∑14 t=1DM – ((∑14 t=1DM)/14) + CDM

CDM = Current DM

How to Interpret ADX Results

It’s possible that prices within a given market could be moving up or down within a given range without ever developing into a trend. The ADX is used first and foremost to determine whether or not an up or down trend exists in a market at all.

According to Wilder’s calculations, when ADX is above 25, it indicates a strong trend; when ADX is below 20, that indicates there is no trend.

Generally, analysts conclude that between 20 and 25 represents a bit of a gray area in which some say that a developing trend is possible. It’s also possible that prices are simply ranging back and forth rather than trending.

For those who follow ADX, an ADX between 25 and 50 may represent a moderate strength trend. A result of 50 to 100 indicates trends that are increasingly strong.

How to Read an ADX Chart

Identifying the direction of trends is relatively easy when looking at an ADX chart. A line that’s moving in the upward direction indicates a strengthening trend, while a line moving in the downward direction indicates weakening. The steeper the slope of the line, the stronger the trend.

When ADX turns down, it may be an indicator that a trend is ending, which could be an opportunity for investors to consider whether they want to continue holding a position. If ADX has been low for a period of time and begins to rise by four or five points, it may be a bullish indicator that investors should consider buying to take advantage of a potentially burgeoning trend.

Using ADX, +DMI, and -DMI in tandem can generate crossover signals that can help signal opportunities to buy or sell. For example, the +DMI line crossing above the -DMI line is a potential signal to buy when ADX is above 20.

Investors tend to use ADX in conjunction with other technical analysis indicators such as moving averages to help them analyze price movements.

ADX can be used as a momentum indicator that can signal potential reversals in trends. For example, if ADX and market price are moving in an upward trajectory together, that can indicate that prices are strongly trending higher. However, if ADX declines but prices continue to rise, it may be an indicator that the market is losing momentum and prices will turn down soon.

ADX Comparisons

ADX is related to some other indicators. Here’s a breakdown of similarities and differences.

ADX vs DMI

Like ADX, DMI can be used as an indicator to help determine if the price of a security is trending and how strong that trend is. DMI does not take the direction of the trend into account.

DMI can be positive or negative. Positive DMI, or +DMI, is the difference between a stock’s high price today and its high yesterday. Values from the previous 14 days are then added up.

Negative DMI, of -DMI is the difference between a stock’s low from today and its low price from yesterday. A sum is then taken for these values for the previous 14 days.

ADX is calculated as the sum of the difference between positive and negative DMI over time.

ADX vs the Aroon Indicator

The Aroon Indicator is made up of two indicators, the Aroon-Up and the Aroon-Down. Aroon-up reflects the number of days since the last 25-day high, while Aroon-Down represents the number of days since the 25-day low.

The Aroon Indicator is similar in many ways to ADX. It’s used to identify the beginning of a trend or changes to trends, and determine whether a trend exists or if prices are just fluctuating within a range. It can also help investors determine the strength of a trend.

Higher Aroon values indicate a trend, while low values represent a weakening or nonexistent trend.

Pros and Cons of Using ADX

Like any indicator, the ADX has benefits and limitations. Here’s a look at some of the pros and cons:

Pros Cons
Helps identify whether a trend exists or if prices are simply fluctuating within a given range. False trading signals can occur, for example when crossovers are happening too frequently, which can result in confusion as trades quickly shift direction.
Can indicate shifts in trends to help investors make buy and sell decisions.
When used in conjunction with +DMI and -DMI, investors can examine crossover signals to make buy and sell decisions.

The Takeaway

When using technical analysis to decide when to buy and sell investments, individuals may make use of a wide range of research and analytic tools, such as ADX, DMI, the Aroon Indicator, and other trend indicators.

For investors who prefer this type of hand-on approach, a SoFi Invest® brokerage account offers active investing. For others, who may prefer a more hands-off approach, SoFi Invest offers automated investing accounts — an automatically managed portfolio based on their risk tolerance and goals.

Find out how to get started with SoFi Invest.

Photo credit: iStock/Pekic


SoFi Invest®
The information provided is not meant to provide investment or financial advice. Investment decisions should be based on an individual’s specific financial needs, goals and risk profile. SoFi can’t guarantee future financial performance. Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC. SoFi Securities, LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . SoFi Invest refers to the three investment and trading platforms operated by Social Finance, Inc. and its affiliates (described below). Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of the platforms below.
1) Automated Investing—The Automated Investing platform is owned by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor (“Sofi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC, an affiliated SEC registered broker dealer and member FINRA/SIPC, (“Sofi Securities).

2) Active Investing—The Active Investing platform is owned by SoFi Securities LLC. Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.

3) Cryptocurrency is offered by SoFi Digital Assets, LLC, a FinCEN registered Money Service Business.

For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above, including state licensure of Sofi Digital Assets, LLC, please visit www.sofi.com/legal.
Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform. Information related to lending products contained herein should not be construed as an offer or pre-qualification for any loan product offered by SoFi Lending Corp and/or its affiliates.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
Third Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
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Source: sofi.com

Stock Market Today: Tech Leads on Turnaround Tuesday

Markets opened Tuesday in the red, suggesting another day of selling on Wall Street ahead, but bounced off their mid-morning lows to blaze a trail higher into the close.

One potential catalyst for the rebound in stocks was Fed Chair Jerome Powell’s reconfirmation hearing in front of the Senate Banking Committee this morning, where he told lawmakers that the central bank is prepared to “raise interest rates more over time” if inflation continues to run high.

Powell’s testimony comes ahead of the latest inflation update: December’s consumer price index is due out tomorrow morning. Gargi Chaudhuri, head of iShares Investment Strategy, Americas, thinks the data will show a broad-based increase in prices and come in well above the Fed’s comfort level.

“We expect to see core inflation breach 5% – the highest in 30 years – as well as headline inflation above 7%, the highest in almost 40 years,” she adds.

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The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite led the charge higher, gaining 1.4% to end at 15,153 – thanks in part to a big earnings boost for genome sequencing stock Illumina (ILMN, +17.0%). The S&P 500 Index rose 0.9% to 4,713, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average added 0.5% to 36,252.  

stock price chart 011122stock price chart 011122

Other news in the stock market today:

  • The small-cap Russell 2000 gained 1.1% to end at 2,194.
  • U.S. crude oil futures jumped 3.8% to $81.22 per barrel, sparking gains in the likes of Exxon Mobil (XOM, +4.2%) and APA (APA, +8.8%).
  • Gold futures also finished solidly higher, up 1.1% to $1,818.50 per ounce.
  • Bitcoin spiked 2.6% to $42,818.79. (Bitcoin trades 24 hours a day; prices reported here are as of 4 p.m.) 
  • International Business Machines (IBM, -1.6%) was off Tuesday following a downgrade from UBS analyst David Vogt. Despite the company’s spinoff of its legacy IT lines in Kyndryl Holdings (KD, +0.7%) to focus on higher-growth businesses, Vogt says “our detailed bottom-up analysis of IBM’s remaining segments supports our view that roughly 50% of IBM’s top line is unlikely to grow long-term and could decline.” The analyst also cited “an elevated valuation that leaves the shares vulnerable over the next 12 months” in cutting the stock to Sell from Neutral (equivalent of Hold) and dropping his price target to $124 per share from $136.
  • E-commerce stocks, which have largely been battered over the past few months, enjoyed a brisk relief rally on Tuesday. Amazon.com (AMZN, +2.4%) was the largest such name with the wind at its back; PayPal (PYPL, +4.7%), Chinese e-commerce firm JD.com (JD, +10.3%) and Latin American marketplace MercadoLibre (MELI, +10.7%) were among other notable industry names making advances.
  • A day after Moderna (MRNA, -5.3%) popped after its CEO said the biotech firm was working on a vaccine booster targeting the omicron variant, the stock suffered a bout of outsized profit-taking on no other news.

Keep an Eye on Chip Stocks

One of the biggest pockets of strength today was in semiconductors, which surged 1.7%, and there could be more where that came from. 

True, chipmakers have sold off alongside their fellow tech stocks in 2022, but several Wall Street firms see big things for the industry.

iShares’ Chaudhuri, for one, says “Investors may need to be increasingly selective in their equity allocations, with a preference for value and quality, as well as industries with pricing power, such as semiconductors,” adding that “semiconductors are the backbone of powerful emerging technologies including artificial intelligence and digital payments, and the subsector offers a relatively high free cash flow yield.”

Meanwhile,  BofA Global Research strategists “see a worthwhile 2022 setup” and highlights several “top themes” to watch out for, including cloud – gaming and the metaverse, for instance – and automotive, namely electric vehicles (EVs).

For those looking for opportunity among semiconductor stocks, consider this list of names that are poised for growth this year and beyond. While some are established leaders, others offer investors the chance to find under-the-radar gems.

Source: kiplinger.com

Understanding Economic Indicators

An economic indicator is a statistic or piece of data that offers insight into an economy. Analysts use economic indicators to gauge where an economic system is in the present moment, and where it might head next.

Governments use economic indicators as guideposts when assessing monetary or fiscal policies, and corporations use them to make business decisions. Individual investors can also look to these indicators as they shape their portfolios.

There are different types of economic indicators and understanding how they work can make it easier to interpret them.

What Is an Economic Indicator?

An economic indicator is typically a macroeconomic data point, statistic, or metric used to analyze the health of an individual economy or the global economy at large. Government agencies, universities, and independent organizations can collect and organize economic indicator data. In the United States, the Census Bureau, Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) are some of the entities that aggregate economic indicator data.

Some of the most recognizable economic indicators examples include:

•   Gross domestic product (GDP)

•   Personal income and real earnings

•   International trade in goods and services

•   U.S. import and expert prices

•   Consumer prices (as measured by the Consumer Price Index or CPI)

•   New residential home sales

•   New home construction

•   Rental vacancy rates

•   Home ownership rates

•   Business inventories

•   Unemployment rates

•   Consumer confidence

Private organizations also regularly collect and share economic data investors and economists may use as indicators. Examples of these indicators include the Fear and Greed Index, existing home sales, and the index of leading economic indicators.

Together, these indicators can provide a comprehensive picture of the state of the economy and shine light on potential opportunities for investors.

How Economic Indicators Work

Economic indicators work by measuring a specific component of the economy over a set time period. An indicator may tell you what patterns are emerging in the economy — or confirm the presence of patterns already believed to be established. In that sense, these indicators can serve as a thermometer of sorts for gauging the temperature of the economic environment or where an economy is in a given economic cycle.

Economic indicators can not predict future economic or market movements with 100% accuracy. But they can be useful when attempting to identify signals about which way the economy (and the markets) might head next.

For example, an investor may study an economic indicator like consumer prices when gauging whether inflation is increasing or decreasing. If the signs point to a steady rise in prices, the investor might then adjust their portfolio to account for higher inflation. As prices rise, purchasing power declines but investors who are conscious of this economic indicator could take action to minimize negative side effects.

Recommended: How to Invest and Profit During Inflation

Types of Economic Indicators

Economic indicators are not all alike in terms of what they measure and how they do it. Different types of economic indicators can provide valuable information about the state of an economy. Broadly speaking, they can be grouped into one of three categories: Leading, lagging, or coincident.

Leading Indicators

Leading indicators are the closest thing you might get to a crystal ball when studying the markets. These indicators pinpoint changes in economic factors that may precede specific trends.

Examples of leading indicators include:

•   Consumer confidence and sentiment

•   Jobless claims

•   Movements in the yield curve

•   Stock market volatility

A leading indicator doesn’t guarantee that a particular trend will take shape, but it does suggest that conditions are ripe for it to do so.

Lagging Indicators

Lagging indicators are the opposite of leading indicators. These economic indicators are backward-looking and highlight economic movements after the fact.

Examples of lagging indicators include:

•   Gross national product (GNP)

•   Unemployment rates

•   Consumer prices

•   Corporate profits

Analysts look at lagging indicators to determine whether an economic pattern has been established, though not whether that pattern is likely to continue.

Coincident Indicators

Coincident indicators measure economic activity for a particular area or region. Examples of coincident indicators include:

•   Retail sales

•   Employment rates

•   Real earnings

•   Gross domestic product

These indicators reflect economic changes at the same time that they occur. So they can be useful for studying real-time trends or patterns.

Popular Economic Indicators

There are numerous economic indicators the economists, analysts, institutional and retail investors use to better understand the market and the direction in which the economy may move. The Census Bureau, for example, aggregates data for more than a dozen indicators. But investors tend to study some indicators more closely than others. Here are some of the most popular economic indicators and what they can tell you as an investor.

Gross Domestic Product

Gross domestic product represents the inflation-adjusted value of goods and services produced in the United States. This economic indicator offers a comprehensive view of the country’s economic activity and output. Specifically, gross domestic product can tell you:

•   How fast an economy is growing

•   Which industries are growing (or declining)

•   How the economic activity of individual states compares

The Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates GDP for the country, individual states and for U.S. territories. The government uses GDP numbers to establish spending and tax policy, as well as monetary policy, at the federal levels. States also use gross domestic product numbers in financial decision-making.

Consumer Price Index

The Consumer Price Index or CPI measures the change in price of goods and services consumed by urban households. The types of goods and services the CPI tracks include:

•   Food and beverages

•   Housing

•   Apparel

•   Transportation

•   Medical care

•   Recreation

•   Education

•   Communications

CPI data comes from 75 urban areas throughout the country and approximately 23,000 retailers and service providers. This economic indicator is the most widely used tool for measuring inflation. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which compiles the consumer price index, it’s a way to measure a government’s effectiveness in managing economic policy.

Producer Price Index

The Producer Price Index or PPI measures the average change over time in the selling prices received by domestic producers of goods and services. In simpler terms, this metric measures wholesale prices for the sectors of the economy that produce goods, including:

•   Mining

•   Manufacturing

•   Agriculture

•   Fishing

•   Forestry

•   Construction

•   Natural gas and electricity

The Producer Price Index can help analysts estimate inflation, as higher prices will show up on the wholesale level first before they get passed on to consumers at the retail level.

Unemployment Rate

The unemployment rate is an economic indicator that tells you the number of people currently unemployed and looking for work. The BLS provides monthly updates on the unemployment rate and nonfarm payroll jobs. Together, the unemployment rate and the number of jobs added or lost each month can indicate the state of the economy.

Higher unemployment, for example, generally means that the economy isn’t creating enough jobs to meet the demand by job seekers. When the number of nonfarm payroll jobs added for the month exceeds expectations, on the other hand, that can send a positive signal that the economy is growing.

Consumer Confidence

The Consumer Confidence Index can provide insight into future economic developments, based on how households are spending and saving money today. This indicator measures how households perceive the economy as a whole and how they view their own personal financial situations, based on the answers they provide to specific questions.

When the indicator is above 100, this suggests consumers have a confident economic outlook, which may make them more inclined to spend and less inclined to save. When the indicator is below 100, the mood is more pessimistic and consumers may begin to curb spending in favor of saving.

The Consumer Confidence Index is separate from the Consumer Sentiment Index, which is also used to gauge how Americans feel about the economy. This index also uses a survey format and can tell you how optimistic or pessimistic households are and what they perceive to be the biggest economic challenges at the moment.

Retail Sales

Retail sales are one of the most popular economic indicators for judging consumer activity. This indicator measures retail trade from month to month. When retail sales are higher, consumers are spending more money. If more spending improves company profits, that could translate to greater investor confidence in those companies, which may drive higher stock prices.

On the other hand, when retail sales lag behind expectations the opposite can happen. When a holiday shopping season proves underwhelming, for example, that can shrink company profits and potentially cause stock prices to drop.

Housing Starts

Census Bureau compiles data on housing starts. This economic indicator can tell you at a glance how many new home construction projects in a given month. This data is collected for single-family homes and multi-family units.

Housing starts can be useful as an economic indicator because they give you a sense of whether the economy is growing or shrinking. In an economic boom, it’s not uncommon to see high figures for new construction. If the boom goes bust, however, new home start activity may dry up.

It’s important to remember that housing starts strongly correlate to mortgage interest rates. If mortgage rates rise in reaction to a change in monetary policy, housing starts may falter, which makes this economic indicator more volatile than others.

Interest Rates

Federal interest rates are an important economic indicator because of the way they’re used to shape monetary policy. The Federal Reserve makes adjustments to the federal funds rate — which is the rate at which commercial banks borrow from one another overnight–based on what’s happening with the economy overall. These adjustments then trickle down to the interest rates banks charge for loans or pay to savers.

For example, when inflation is rising or the economy is growing too quickly, the Fed may choose to raise interest rates. This can have a cooling effect, since borrowing automatically becomes more expensive. Savers can benefit, however, from earning higher rates on deposits.

On the other hand, the Fed may lower rates when the economy is sluggish to encourage borrowing and spending. Low rates make loans less expensive, potentially encouraging consumers to borrow for big-ticket items like homes, vehicles, or home improvements. Consumer spending and borrowing can help to stimulate the economy.

Stock Market

The stock market and the economy are not the same. But some analysts view stock price and trading volume as a leading indicator of economic activity. For example, investors look forward to earnings reports as an indicator of a company’s financial strength and health. They use this information about both individual companies and the markets as a whole to make strategic investment decisions.

If a single company’s earnings report is above or below expectations, that alone doesn’t necessarily suggest where the economy might be headed. But if numerous companies produce earnings reports that are similar, in terms of meeting or beating expectations, that could indicate an economic trend.

If multiple companies come in below earnings expectations, for example, that could hint at not only lower market returns but also a coming recession. On the other hand, if the majority of companies are beating earnings expectations by a mile, that could signal a thriving economy.

The Takeaway

Economic indicators can provide a significant amount of insight into the economy and the trends that shape the markets. Having a basic understanding of the different types of economic indicators could give you an edge if you’re better able to anticipate market movements when you start investing.

You can use these indicators to help shape your investing strategy. One way to get started building a portfolio is by opening an online brokerage account on the SoFi Invest trading platform, which you can use to trade stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), cryptocurrency and even IPOs.

Photo credit: iStock/FG Trade


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Amex opens new wellness area in the Houston Centurion Lounge – The Points Guy


Amex opens new wellness area in the Houston Centurion Lounge


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