When U.S. markets tank and stay there, talk turns to investing overseas. If you're an international investor or think you should be, what sites and services are best for you?
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That's the next
topic. I'd like to hear from readers on three scores. First, if you use a regular online broker, say a
, how strong is it at placing your trades in foreign stocks? What about commissions and fees? And how helpful are the informational services, like quotes? Second, I'd like to know about niche sites for online trading of foreign securities, sites like
. Are the services these sites
provide that much more valuable -- and cost effective -- than what the standard online brokers offer?
Finally, what sites provide the best information for international investing decisions? What's a good place to research, say, American depositary receipts (a way to buy shares of foreign-based companies on the U.S. markets)? How about closed-end country funds? Individual foreign securities? What about iShares, exchange-traded funds that track international indices? Or even general international news?
As always, I'll be doing my own ferreting on these questions. But I'd like to hear what you find helpful, or not. If you have thoughts on these or other issues on international investing, email
firstname.lastname@example.org, and please include your full name.
Thanks for all of the terrific feedback on my two-part series on the best brokers at tax time. The
first part discussed which brokers offer a direct download into the tax prep program
second part talked about other tax-friendly features your broker should offer, like the ability to track the cost basis (price paid) on shares bought at a prior broker, and whether the broker supplies detailed year-end tax info either online or in hard copy.
pointed out in email that several brokers that don't offer a direct download into TurboTax do have a download into personal finance programs like
, which then can transfer into TurboTax software. It's a good point. But while plenty of folks aren't inclined to track investment activity all year in a personal finance tool, we all have to prepare taxes. Brokers that make that process easier -- and less error-prone with a direct download -- got my thumbs up.
If you do want to pursue the less direct route, keep this in mind: You can't currently download from a Web portfolio, like Quicken.com's or MoneyCentral.com's, into a tax program. TurboTax for the Web and TurboTax desktop software only accept imports from the desktop software versions, like Quicken or Microsoft Money, which will cost you. (There are various rebate deals if, for example, you purchase both a TurboTax and Quicken product.)
Still, those software programs do sync up with the Web trackers, so you can import info from your broker to a software finance program to a tax program, or from your broker to a Web portfolio to a software program to a tax program.
Quicken.com carries a list of brokers it accepts imports from on its
Web site. Quicken software has a separate, more extensive list. Again, if you want to import trading info into TurboTax for the Web or the TurboTax software program (and can't do so directly from your broker), you need to be using a desktop software program like Quicken or Microsoft Money. At Microsoft's MoneyCentral.com, a broker list for import into that Web portfolio tool is provided under "import" under "file" in the "portfolio." Microsoft Money software has a broader list than the Web site, though the software and site also sync up. You can download from the Money software to tax software or TurboTax on the Web.
accepts personal finance software imports, but not direct broker downloads.
Margin and Idle Cash Rates
Several What Works readers lately have urged
to track brokers' margin and idle cash rates, and understandably so. The interest investors pay on funds they borrow to buy stocks on margin can have a big impact on an account's bottom line; bigger, in fact, than the cost of a commission. Same goes for the rates brokers pay customers on cash sitting idle in accounts.
metrics editor, has started
tracking these rates for the biggest online brokers.
Brokers, online and off, who are not listed but would like to have their rates included should contact him at
You Can, But Should You?
As if low-cost online trading weren't accessible enough, a 401(k) company said Wednesday it's hooking up with
to offer stock trading through these corporate retirement accounts.
401(k) participants will be able to trade online through Ameritrade. I'm all for investor choice, but exercise it wisely. As details emerge (
will follow the story), consider whether this option will serve you well in the long term -- the period that 401(k)s are all about. I question how many investors will
to start trading with their 401(k) retirement money after their experiences in 2000.
Higher Fees for Citibank Investors
customers who trade through CIS, the investment subsidiary of the bank, will face steeper commissions as of March 5. Citibank is moving to the same pricing scheme as
, the online trading site of financial services giant
. That means electronic stock trades for bank customers made online or via touchtone or the ATM are jumping from $19.95 (any number of shares of at least $1 per share) to $29.95 plus 3 cents per share for every share over 1,000.
The change puts Citibank in the same commission league as costly Schwab, with its Cadillac commission schedule. A small silver lining: Citibank customers will no longer have to pay an absurd $2.50 "postage and handling fee" for each electronic trade, which a spokesman said covered written confirmation.
Is there anything more grating that being unable to unsubscribe from an email newsletter? One that I cannot extract myself from is
. I've clicked the "cancel email" link on the Company Sleuth letter at least three times this month and each time got an error or "page cannot be found" message. Any other nightmare unsubscribe stories out there? Send them to me at
email@example.com. I'll keep a most-wanted list until we can put an end to this email abuse.