Perdidos por mil.
É assim que muita gente se perde no labirinto da procura de melhor sorte.
Uns tentam o totobola, outros o totoloto, outros o euromilhões, outros as slot-machines, outros persistem na lotaria da santa casa. Nos EUA, com as consequências da crise às costas, há muitos que procuram bater o mercado. Uns ganham, outros perdem. Dos que ganham, a grande maioria persiste até perder tudo; aos que perdem espera-os um futuro sempre ameaçado.
Entretanto, uma nova ordem financeira internacional, que imponha a transparência necessária à não ocorrência de fraudes que estiveram na origem da actual crise, continua por acontecer. As bolsas persistem em concorrer com os casinos estendendo-se, através da internet, até às casas e aos locais de trabalho dos apostadores.
Se uma nova crise ocorrer dentro de pouco tempo muitos culparão os economistas de não preverem as crises. E mesmo alguns economistas acusar-se-ão mutuamente como se lhes tivesse sido atribuída alguma competência divina para prevenir a pulhice humana
By Walter Hamilton
Los Angeles Times
In a Battered Market, Many Opt to Gamble
Stung by punishing losses in the bear market, some investors are souring on traditional buy-and-hold investing in favor of aggressive trading aimed at scoring big gains.
Trading at online brokerages has soared in recent months as investors have tried to capitalize on rising securities markets. But individual investors are increasingly embracing strategies that carry outsize risks.
In some cases, for example, investors have ventured into a relatively new type of investment product designed to magnify the movement of the underlying markets, which can yield big gains if investors bet correctly but bruising losses if they don’t.
To critics, the push into aggressive trading is the equivalent of doubling your bets at a casino to recoup earlier losses.
“It would be a terrible tragedy if people try to recover from the devastation of the financial crisis by creating even more devastation in their personal investment accounts by taking on risks they don’t understand and can’t afford,” said Barbara Roper, director of investor protection for the Consumer Federation of America.
Financial experts have long preached portfolio diversification, caution and patience when it comes to long-term investing. Still, some people think they have no choice but to take matters into their own hands.
Two bear markets — after the bursting of the Internet bubble in 2000 and the housing bubble two years ago — have decimated portfolios and left many people poorer than a decade ago.
With losses incurred by mutual funds and stockbrokers and figure they cannot do any worse on their own by darting in and out based on market conditions.
“The equity markets have not been steady long-term gainers for a long time now,” said Nicholas Colas, market strategist at BNY ConvergEx Group, a New York brokerage. “There is a growing sense of frustration, and [investors feel that] if you do want to play in equities you have to have a shorter time frame.”
Susan York was fed up with the dismal performance of her 401(k) retirement account. Then her husband saw a Sunday-morning infomercial in January touting the benefits of trading options, which give an investor the right to buy or sell stocks and other securities at predetermined prices.
The 50-year-old from Naples, Fla., had limited investment knowledge but attended several seminars before beginning to trade in May. So far, York said, she’s up an average of 40 percent a month and is trading full time.
“It’s the best job I’ve ever had, not just for the enjoyment but from the compensation standpoint,” said York, who previously sold telecom equipment. “I’ve replaced a significant six-figure income.”
Trading activity at online brokerages jumped in the second quarter as the stock market began rebounding in early March from its deep sell-off. Compared with a year earlier, activity was up 28 percent at E-Trade Financial and 36 percent at TD Ameritrade Holding.
Frenetic trading also is rising among Wall Street professionals.
High-frequency trading, which involves souped-up computers trading stocks in milliseconds, makes up at least half of total trading volume, according to estimates.
Among individuals, activity is picking up in risky areas.
Currency trading by retail investors, for example, is expected to jump to $125 billion a day this year from $100 billion last year, according to Aite Group, a research firm. It has risen steadily from $10 billion in 2001.
Some people recently have jumped into leveraged ETFs, one of the newest and riskiest investment products.
An ETF, or exchange-traded fund, is a mutual fund that trades like a stock and can be bought and sold continually throughout the day leveraged ETF is like a regular fund on steroids. It gives two to three times the return of an underlying stock index. For example, if financial shares rise 2 percent on a given day, a fund could jump as much as 6 percent. Some leveraged funds move in the opposite direction of an index. If an index rose 2 percent, an inverse fund could fall as much as 6 percent.
Leveraged funds are among the fastest-growing products on Wall Street. Total assets surged to $32 billion at the end of June from $11 billion 18 months earlier, according to State Street Global Advisors. The first leveraged fund debuted three years ago. There are now 126.
Concern is mounting, however, that small investors don’t understand the risks of leveraged funds.
In some cases, critics say, the funds have suffered sharp and unexpected losses.
According to a lawsuit filed this month by a Connecticut stockbroker, one fund was supposed to return two times the inverse performance of an index of real estate stocks. Thus, the ProShare Advisors’ UltraShort Real Etate Fund should have risen if the index declined, according to the suit.
But even though the index sank 39 percent through much of last year, the fund also fell, by 48 percent, according to the suit.
“This should have been an extraordinary home run, and yet he lost money,” said Thomas Grady, the broker’s attorney. “It’s just preposterous.” Many other funds have suffered similar fates, according to Morningstar, a research firm.
Over the past year, 55 percent of leveraged ETFs have gone in the opposite direction from where they were expected to, said Scott Burns, a Morningstar analyst. The reason is that the funds are designed to track daily market moves but can fluctuate wildly over longer periods.
ProShares, the suit said, “touts the simplicity” of the funds when there are actually enormous risks.
ProShares said in a statement that the allegations are “wholly without merit.” Fund companies say they warn investors about the danger in holding the funds for extended periods.
“I think we’ve done a very good job in disclosing what these funds are, what they’re not, and what they do and don’t do,” said Michael Sapir, chairman of ProShare Advisors.
Still, leveraged funds are raising concerns among securities regulators.
Massachusetts issued subpoenas to four brokerages last month to determine whether investors are adequately warned of the risks. Some companies have suspended sales of the products, while others have issued warnings to customers.
Still, experts worry that in their haste to recover bear-market losses, people are rushing in blindly.
“People shouldn’t be messing around with stuff they don’t understand,” Burns said.
York has another view: Doing nothing is riskier than taking action.
She has devoted a lot of time, she said, to understanding how options trading works and believes she can prosper in good markets or bad.
“I saw with my 401(k),” she said, “that buying and holding was just not working out.”