Three Factors that Affect Futures Trading

When prices fluctuate, it affects every area of the economy, and it is a desire to be shielded from any negative fallout that often drives investors to add futures trading to their portfolios. The perfect tool to reduce volatility for both businesses and individuals alike, such contracts can serve an invaluable purpose when it comes to safeguarding your market successes.

However, futures trading should be approached in the same way as any other type of trading, and many investors fail to appreciate this. In order to properly understand what drives these investment instruments, and thus be able to use them to your best advantage, you therefore need a grasp of the various factors that affect them.

To help you out, here are three that you need to know…

#1: General Factors 

Like any sort of investment, general economic conditions will affect the value of assets. Where a nation is experiencing a financial boom, for example, price rises are likely; where it is not, decreases are more probable.

The wider factors that impact these must also be taken into account, and this means that political uncertainty, social instability, and commercial or industrial prospects should all be evaluated when choosing your futures investments.

#2: Commodity Factors

 One of the largest and most popular segments of the futures markets is commodities, and this means that any factors affecting this area will also need to be considered. Thus, events or happenings which influence the supply or cost of production of a particular commodity will have the ability to impact its value on the futures markets.

In the case of agricultural futures, for example, this will mean looking at any recent unfavourable weather patterns, such as droughts in particular countries or floods in certain regions.

In addition, export and import policies or restrictions might also affect prices, so the impact of events such as Brexit should be thoroughly assessed.

#3: Currency Factors

 Currency futures are as volatile as the currency markets they’re based on, as experts like FxPro can attest. Influenced by a huge range of factors, from central bank decisions to government policies regarding taxation, conflict, and even political upheaval, trading these contracts requires an in-depth understanding of the foreign exchange and all of its intricacies.

The factors discussed above offer only an initial insight into all of those that you will need to understand, and this means that futures trading is not something that should be entered into lightly. However, provided that you’re willing to put the effort into developing the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in such a specialist area, the opportunities are there for those talented enough to take them.

Copyright 2015 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Blogger Tip: Update One Plugin At A Time

The other day, I had a slight outage here at Money Beagle.  Chances are you missed it, as it wasn’t down for very long, but it was only by sheer luck that I was able to get it fixed so quickly.

I run my blog on WordPress, which is the platform for a huge number of blogs, due to the ease of use and flexibility to make each site unique.  With the popularity of WordPress means that there are a lot of extras that you can add, and these are called ‘Plugins’.

For example, the little buttons that give you the ability to Tweet my post, or the checkmark that appears next to the comment box to weed out spammers are just a couple examples of plugins, and they are some of the ones that users can ‘see’.

There are some other plugins that run more back-end functionality, which don’t necessarily provide anything extra that the user can see, but can improve things like security, monitoring, speed and other performance.

I have 26 active plugins on my site, which is probably high for some bloggers, low for others, but I think is about right for me.

One of the nice things about plugins is that they are often updated by the original author.  They may be updated to improve performance, fix bugs, fix security, add new features, or maintain compatibility with the underlying WordPress install.

One of the cool features of WordPress is that, when you login to the administrative console, you’ll instantly see when there are updates available to your plugins, as a little orange circle with a number inside appears next to the Plugins menu item, with the number corresponding to the number of plugins that currently have updates available.

If you click Plugins, you can then click a link to show only plugins that have updates available, and it’s only a couple of clicks to have WordPress go out, get the updates, install them, and re-activate them for you.  Being able to do them in a ‘batch’ has saved quite a bit of time over the years, and had worked flawlessly.  Until this last time when it didn’t.

I logged in the other morning and saw that I had three plugin updates available.  I went through the steps noted above to do the updates, and happened to be watching my screen.  One of the plugins that works to improve performance, called W3 Super Cache, was the first to go.  While watching, I saw the status change from ‘Installing’ to ‘Update Failed’, and then my page immediately vanished and a 500 Internal Server error appeared.

I confirmed that this was happening on all pages and that it wasn’t going away.

Crap.  A 500 Internal Server Error is just what it sounds like, noting that the server is responding but is not providing the information that a browser could used to display a page.  So, it was doing something but apparently nothing good.

Luckily for me, a couple of quick Google searches for ‘500 error WordPress’ yielded some pretty quick results basically suggesting that an errant plugin was probably responsible.  This I sort of knew, since I watched it crash and burn right in front of me.  Now, I just needed to know what to do about it.

I was able to find that if you could browse to your folder, either by having access to your site’s control panel (cPanel) or via File Transfer Protocol (FTP) to the server.  Essentially, where the WordPress admin console takes you one step backward from the blog, you need to go one step further back.

My host provides cPanel access, which I access a few times per month, and I was able to quickly get in and temporarily bring the site back up, which in this case simply meant renaming the folder that held the configuration files for the plugin, which automatically ‘stopped’ the plugin.  This brought the site back online and WordPress was throwing up all kinds of error codes about missing files.

mb-2014-12glassI attempted to update the plugin again, and it did the same thing.  Site was down again for another minute while I again renamed the folder.

Then, I manually removed all the files associated with the plugin (after another quick Google search) and attempted to reinstall it from scratch.

No bueno.

Now, as noted above this is a ‘back end’ plugin that handles a service called web caching.  This is a common tool that basically figures out which parts of the site don’t change, and will then place these on the computer of people who browse to the site, so that when they come back again, they don’t have to pull as much information down, as some of the information exists on their computers.  Caching is an age-old technology, and very highly recommended.

The bad news is that I couldn’t get the plugin to work.  The good news is that because this is such a common technology, there are lots of other plugins available to do the same work.

I did another Google search (I think we were up to three now), found one that I liked except it cost $39 (nope), and then settled on another one.  I installed that, went through a couple of configuration changes that the previous search had recommended, spent some time testing things, and everything was back in business.

Still, this experience did change how I will handle updates in the future.

  • Backups and timing – I do a few different backup types on my site on a weekly basis.  In addition my host provider backs everything up on a server level.  I really had no schedule on when I installed plugins, doing them whenever I noticed, but I realize that if they weren’t close in time to a recent backup, I could end up having to restore things from quite a few days back.  So, now I’ll make sure to do plugins in line with my backup schedule.
  • No automatic plugin updates – WordPress is so easy to use that you can actually configure the site to just go out and do updates automatically.  I used to have this turned on, and at one point turned it off, and I’m glad I did.  Had I had this enabled, I likely would have not had any clue that an update had failed, and for that matter, I wouldn’t have really known that the failure was even tied back to a plugin.
  • One update at a time – As mentioned, I used to do updates in batch, which has worked well.  I won’t do that anymore.  I got really, really lucky in that I was watching the screen when the update failed, so I knew exactly which folder to target.  Of course, I could have looked for folders and files that had been more recently updated, but even that would have meant more time narrowing things down.  From now on, I think I’ll stick to one update at a time.

Readers, have you ever had to recently troubleshoot an issue with your blog or some piece of technology?   Did you do it on your own or did you have someone else get you back up and running?

 

Copyright 2015 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

How We Got Halloween Costumes Done Early This Year

Halloween is just about a month away, but I’m proud to say that our entire family is all set for costumes this year.  This never happens, so it feels really good that it fell into place this year.

I’d love to say that it was by great planning or trying to get ahead of the game, but it was really by circumstance and a few events that sort of made it happen.

  1. The birthday party invitation – Earlier this month, one of my daughter’s friends sent an invitation for a birthday party.  She loves super heroes and so the theme of the party was super heroes.  An idea was formed.  My daughter instantly said that she wanted to be Batgirl.  My wife found a few options, and asked her if she would also want to be Batgirl for Halloween.  This was met with an enthusiastic Yes!  Early September, and already one down, three to go!
  2. My son saw the costume – Once she had her costume, my son immediately was impressed.  He wore the
    Image courtesy of MorgueFile via Jillibean.
    Image courtesy of MorgueFile via Jillibean.

    same costume for both of the past two years (by choice) so we knew he’d want something different.  Since his sister was Batgirl, he thought about either being Batman or Superman.  We gave him a few days to think about it and he decided he wanted to be Batman.  He often changes his mind, so we gave a couple of more days to ‘think about it’, but he was firm, so we found a costume he liked and were all set.  Mid September, and two down, two to go.

  3. We fell in line with the theme – Our favorite state park campground (as well as a bunch of others throhough the state) turn weekends in October into Halloween weekends.  It’s a great idea and it always means a full campground every weekend.  With this, everybody dresses up, so my wife and I also knew we needed costumes.  We figured since the kids were already in superhero mode, we’d go with the same theme.  Should we all be Bat people?  Well, I decided that I wanted to be Superman, and we found a really cool shirt that would fit the bill.  My wife found a matching shirt, and two days later (thank you, Amazon Prime), we both had our costumes in hand.  Late September, and we are done!

Getting our costumes early meant that we still had a lot of inventory to choose from, and we were all able to find sizes and colors that fit us well.

And, to think, it all started with a simple birthday party invitation in the mail.

Now, onto the candy and decorations….

Readers, how prepared are you get for the ever growing Halloween festivities?  How big do you go for the celebrations and such?  Please let me know in the comments below.

Copyright 2015 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Can One Bad Decision Cost You $450,000?

Note: The post below contains spoilers for the recent season of Big Brother (USA version), which ended on September 21, 2016.  You have been warned.

Reality TV is not at all my thing, with one notable guilty pleasure, and that is watching Big Brother.  My wife got me into it over 10 years ago, and it’s something we enjoy.

Some might be familiar with the show, but for those who aren’t, here’s a very quick run-down: 16 ‘houseguests’ start off living together, and one houseguest per week is voted out by the other contestants.  There are a few mental and physical competitions each week, with the winners having the opportunity to pick who is up for vote, and everybody else getting to decide.  After roughly thirteen weeks, there are only 3 people left going into the finale.  The winner gets $500,000, second place gets $50,000 and third place gets nothing.

The whole show is pretty trashy, but it’s a whole lot of fun.

We watched the show all summer and when it got down to the finale, the three people remaining were:

  • Paul – A pretty strong player who won a lot of competitions but who had a hand in voting a lot of people out
  • Nicole – Another strong player who laid low for most of the summer and then kicked it into gear at the end
  • James – A weak player who is a lot of fun, but who won pretty much nothing all summer long.

Now, the way the finale works is that, first, the three get whittled down to two.  This is done by:

  • Competition 1: All three players compete and there is one winner
  • Competition 2: The two ‘losers’ of competition 1 square off
  • Competition 3: The winners of the first two competitions compete.
Image via Morguefiles courtesy of Alvimann
Image via Morguefiles courtesy of Alvimann

The winner of Competition 3 is assured at least $50,000 and they also get to determine, of the remaining two players, which one stays and which one goes.

Now the way it worked this year is that Paul won Competition 1 and Nicole won Competition 2.  Neither of these surprised me as everybody pretty much knew that James was a weak player and probably wasn’t going to win.   And he didn’t.

Now, the dynamic above has played out before in seasons past, where you have two strong players and one weak player.  See, it’s not an accident that a weaker player makes it.  Why?  Simple.  The strong players want a weaker player sitting next to them as that increases their odds of winning.

So, when Competition 3 started, I assumed that when Paul or Nicole won, that either of them would take James along.  This means that a strong player ends up with nothing, but it’s one of the quirks of Big Brother.

Competition 3 is done live during the finale, and I think that just about everybody was as shocked as I was when he picked James to leave, meaning that he would be facing off against Nicole.  Another strong player.

Well, since you read this far and you saw the title, you probably already guessed what happened.  He lost.  The way that it works is that the 9 most recent houseguests that are evicted (including James) get to cast the final vote.  Nicole got 5 votes and Paul got 4.

I’m convinced that had Paul done the smart thing and brought James along that he would have won $500,000.  Paul said and did some mean things in the house, and that tipped the scales against him when he was against another strong player who wasn’t as mean, but I think against a weaker player, his better play would have trumped that.

Now he won $50,000.  That’s not too bad for 3 months or so worth of work.  But, after he has time to reflect, I’m sure that knowing that he potentially left $450,000 on the table by making one poor decision is going to eat at him.

It just goes to show that, while a bad decision isn’t going to cost most people $450,000, that any decision has the potential to be a ‘game changer’, so to speak.

Readers, what do you think about Paul’s decision?  What would you have done in his shoes?  

Copyright 2015 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.