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Emerging Market Debt Holders Beware
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Investors hunting for better yields amidst rock bottom rates in established markets have caused the amount of emerging market corporate debt in the global market to explode.


Here's Why I Sold All My Berkshire Hathaway Shares - Hedge Fund Mgr.
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Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway has too many large positions in high-cost businesses.


Don't Want to Touch Volatile Chinese Stocks? Soon You Might Have To
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TAIPEI, Taiwan -- China has done what it can to make foreign funds want to invest in volatile "A" shares, but many still don't. Someday soon they may be forced to. China-traded shares are being considered for inclusion in the influential MSCI index of emerging market stocks, possibly in the first half of this year, analysts and media reports say. Inclusion would prompt ETFs tracking that index to rebalance by shifting money to China. Mutual funds that use the index as a benchmark may also feel compelled to reallocate. No one would be happier than China. The government has gone on buying sprees, tweaked its rules and liberalized the yuan currency to control volatility in "A" shares since a 40% slide in mid-2015. But prices keep falling, including a 13% decline this year on the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index. Gradual inflows of foreign investment, including some of the $1.7 trillion now benchmarked to the index, would lift the market. "They're looking at (MSCI) as a way to gain a global standard for 'A' shares, and there would obviously be more flows into A shares over the long term," said Charles Salvador, investment solutions director with Z-Ben Advisors in Shanghai. MSCI is reviewing "A" shares for inclusion again after declining to add them in June due to concerns about liquidity and ownership, CNBC reported in November. The index of 23 countries now covers 837 companies, including Chinese firms that are listed offshore. MSCI, one of the world's most influential builders of indexes, covers multiple markets. But cheers from China would not drown out fears among foreign institutional investors forced to take positions in the "A" shares that MSCI picked. Individual foreign investors are barred from direct trades in China but can buy into funds offered by institutions. Among the funds affected would be BlackRock's iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF, a 13-year-old fund with assets of about $18.1 billion. BlackRock supports MSCI's "process on the inclusion of China 'A' shares into its global indexes," a spokesperson for the giant American asset management firm said Friday. "China is an important investment destination for our clients globally, and the opening of its markets is a hugely significant event, giving access to its vast markets," the spokesperson said. Multinational investment banks Amundi, HSBC , Lyxor,  and UBS also offer funds that track the same index, according to Internet database justETF.com. The $662 million Van Eck Emerging Markets Fund would also stand to be affected. The New York-based investor believes it's "inevitable" that MSCI will add "A" shares, portfolio manager David Semple said. "China will become a bigger part of the global equities universe," he said. Some of China's moves over the past year to make "A" shares more attractive to foreign funds may also be aimed at impressing MSCI before the next review. The government is considering new links between domestic markets and more freely traded counterparts offshore. It also eased rules on foreign institutional investors this month. Beijing looks to its stock market to capitalize smaller local firms that could lead China's transition from a manufacturing economy to one driven by private investment and consumption. But China-listed stocks could turn out to be too restrictive, for now, to include in the index. Only 279 qualified foreign institutions have been granted quotas to invest in Chinese equities, meaning other institutions that track the emerging markets index could not legally add "A" shares. China is expected to stick to market reforms until it qualifies for the index. "I don't see how they could include 'A' shares in the MSCI until every institution -- small and large, those with QFII quotas and those who don't have them -- can invest," said Jack Perkowski, managing partner of merchant bank JFP Holdings in Beijing. "I think we are a ways off from the inclusion of 'A' shares in popular indices."

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4 Low Volatility ETFs for a Wild Market
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Investors have good reason to feel whipsawed this year considering the VIX, or so-called fear index, has been bouncing off levels not seen since last summeras market meltdown.


Shield Yourself Against Wild Market With This Fund
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Investors are only a month into a brand new year, yet already many are worn out from the marketas mayhem.


Teva, Biomarin Offer Convertible Opportunities Says MainStay Manager
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The convertible bond market has been fairly flat in 2015, closely following the slim returns seen in equities.


Sustainable Investing Not Solely for Stock-Pickers Says CCM Strategist
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Fixed income fund managers also have a lot to offer on the subject, said David Sand, chief investment strategist at Community Capital Management (CCM).


Vanguardas ETF Ideas for 2016: Limit Orders, Backtests, Active Funds
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Investors need to follow best practices when trading ETFs and perhaps the foremost among them is using limit orders.


Hereas What You Need to Know About Buying and Selling Exchange Traded Funds
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Demand for exchange traded funds remains strong. Year-to-date, investors have directed some $201 billion into ETFs, on track to reach the $243 billion invested during 2014 -- according to ETF.com.


Improve Your Returns Through Impact Investing Says Merrill Strategist
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Investors most certainly can achieve their environmental and social goals without sacrificing their financial goals through impact investing.


Make Sure Your Target Date Fund Is Playing Offense and Defense
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To grow long-term wealth, target date funds (TDFs) need an aggressive glide path with meaningful equity exposure to manage longevity risk.


Bulls Better Pull Back Horns Says Wilshire Funds President
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Bullish investors would be well served to pull back their horns because the market is seeing a bearish alignment of technical, fundamental and economic risks coming into focus.


This Retirement Savings Mistake Could Cost You $100,000
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Delaying your retirement savings will cost you dearly.


Loews, Apache and DuPont Offer Value Says T. Rowe Priceas Linehan
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Value stocks play an indispensable role when constructing a portfolio and actually outperform growth over the longer term, said John Linehan, portfolio manager at T. Rowe Price.


High-Yield Bonds Almost a Buy, Says Sierra Strategic Income Fund Manager
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NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- High-yield bonds have been selling off due to worries about the economy and valuation warnings from billionaire investor Carl Icahn. But Ken Sleeper, portfolio manager for the Sierra Strategic Income Fund , said investors should view the next substantial pullback as a buying opportunity. "Right now we are not allocated to high-yield bond funds, but we have our eyes on that asset class because we know that the world isn't going to be down forever," said Sleeper. "We know that eventually there will be a turnaround." The Sierra Strategic Income fund is down 60 basis points this year, according to fund-tracker Morningstar. The multisector bond fund, which has a trailing 12-month yield of 3.4%, is made up primarily of fixed income mutual funds. The first goal of the Sierra Strategic Income Fund is to protect capital by attempting to limit volatility and downside risk. Specifically, the fund managers attempt to limit declines to 4% or less, even in a month or quarter in which the market is very negative. The second goal is to produce satisfying total returns, with a goal to average 6% to 8% per year on average over a market cycle. The Fed's decision not to raise rates is helping to cause a lot of the recent volatility in both the equity and fixed income markets in Sleeper's view. Savers, insurance companies and banks, for example, continue to suffer in a zero interest rate environment and generally conservative investors are being forced to buy risky assets. And it certainly makes it hard for Sleeper to achieve his total return goals without stretching for yield. "Personally, I think their actions have been more destructive than constructive recently," said Sleeper. "I would have liked to have seen a tiny rise in rates. That would have been more productive for the market." About a quarter of Sleeper's fund is in corporate bonds, although he says he has been trimming his exposure lately. He said he has been increasingly bullish on preferred stock funds, as well as municipal bond funds to increase yield while keeping principal safe. "We look for portfolio managers that have experience," said Sleeper. "We monitor each of those mutual funds and if they fall beyond a certain point we just sell. We move to the sidelines."

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High Yield Bonds Almost a Buy Says Sierra Strategic Income Fund Manager
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High yield bonds have been selling off due to worries about the economy and valuation warnings from billionaire investor Carl Icahn.


Here's Why You Should Read Your Brokerage Statements in Down Markets
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Brokers who tell clients to ignore their brokerage statements during times of market volatility are giving dangerous advice, according to Susan Antilla, Founding Fellow at TheStreet.


Expanding Shorts on Treasuries, Adding to Blackstone Fund, Twitter, Facebook: Doug Kass' Views
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NEW YORK (Real Money Pro) -- Doug Kass shares his views every day on RealMoneyPro. Click here for a real-time look at his insights and musings.  A Heads Up on Bonds Originally published at 1:54 PM EDT on August 27, 2015Bond prices are at the high of the day and yields at the low of the day -- this is not, historically, a RISK ON message or signal. Expanding shorts. Position: Long TBF, short TLT Adding to Blackstone/GSO Originally published at 12:15 PM EDT on August 27, 2015 High yield has clearly stabilized; I added to Blackstone/GSO Strategic Credit  . Position: Long BGB  Long Twitter, Short Facebook (Part Deux) Originally published at 10:23 AM EDT on August 27, 2015 As I suggested earlier that I'd be doing, I've added to my paired trade of going long on Twitter  and short on Facebook . Position: Long TWTR, short FB  More SPY Shortin' Goin' On Originally published at 1:41 PM EDT on August 27, 2015 I am getting much more serious on the short side with SPDR S&P 500 ETF  at $199.15 now. I have moved from modestly short today to medium-size short. Position: Short SPY Must Read: How To Invest In Dividend Stocks

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6 Solid Reasons You Should Invest in U.S. Stocks Now
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NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- When China -- the planet's second-largest economy -- takes a dive, it understandably unnerves investors globally. It's the most cash-rich, with the biggest hoard of foreign exchange reserves in the world and low levels of debt compared to other G20 countries. China's government debt amounts to 41% of GDP versus 92% for the Eurozone, more than 100% for Uncle Sam and 230% for Japan. Must Read: 10 Stocks George Soros Is Buying However, you must put in perspective that the People's Republic makes up only about 17% of global gross domestic product. In addition, the Chinese powers that be have more armaments to juice economic growth. On Wednesday, China pumped $22 billion into its economy. To be sure, the global economy may be frail, but the U.S. stands strong. There's a bifurcation between the domestic and foreign stock markets. Here are six solid reasons why you should invest in U.S. stocks now in light of the stock market correction. 1. Real U.S. GDP growth in the second quarter will probably be revised up to a 3.0% annual rate from the 2.3% rate reported initially. Most of the revision upward reflects final sales numbers. UBS projects real U.S. GDP to grow 2.3% for 2015 and 2.8% in 2016. Therefore it's not likely that the high for the S&P 500 from May 20th was the final high for this bull market cycle given that over the last 25 years, bear markets have occurred because of a looming U.S. recession. Quantitative easing is credited for fueling the first stage of the bull market while hearty economic fundamentals support the second stage. Must Read: 10 Stocks George Soros Is Buying 2. The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index bounced back in August to its highest reading since January after a poor reading in July. The index added 10.5 points to 101.5, topping consensus forecasts of 93.4. One main reason was a low 5.3% unemployment rate, as of July -- the lowest since 2008. Owing to a robust labor market, an equal number of survey respondents said they see jobs as plentiful as do not. In the months before, more people said thought jobs would be hard to come by. 3. New home sales jumped 5.4% month over month in July and a mighty 25.8% year over year to 507,000 units, the Census Bureau reported. The inventory of new homes for sale on the market -- at 5.2 months supply -- gives sellers the upper hand. Six to seven months of supply is deemed a healthy balance between sellers and buyers. A low unemployment rate and high consumer confidence levels should promote household formation, and decrease "doubling up." 4. "Household formation finally has started to materially pick up, as surveys show increased plans to either buy or rent on the part of adults currently living with friends or relatives," UBS wrote in a report Aug. 24. In June, the S&P/Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index rose 4.5% year over year versus a 4.4% uptick in May 2015, according to the S&P Dow Jones Indices. Since the March 2012 trough, the 10-City and 20-City Composites have rebounded 33.8% and 34.9%. Considering that some 63% of families in the U.S. own their homes, the resulting wealth effect from home value appreciation on top of cheap energy prices should spur consumer spending. At the same time, low-interest rates decrease people's motivation to save. Personal saving rates should drop below their longer-term averages. Must Read: How To Invest In Dividend Stocks 5. The question around the timing of the Federal Reserve's interest rate hike is giving the stock market indigestion. The consensus expects the Fed to delay an interest rate hike because of the global stock market turbulence. U.S. quantitative easing has to end eventually. The stock market and economy can benefit either way. If the Federal Reserve leaves rates the same, investors will want to take on more stock market risk for lack of better options in bonds. If the Fed increases interest rates, banks would have more motivation to lend, especially to small enterprises. As a result, that would stoke job creation and economic expansion. Also, Federal Reserve policy will want to be supportive of economic improvement ahead of the presidential election of 2016. 6. A strengthening greenback has dampened demand for U.S. exports, squeezing sales for multinational companies. But a strong U.S. dollar in a low-growth global environment has many economic benefits and will be supportive of the U.S. stock market in the long run. A strong dollar boosts American's buying potential by making imports cheaper. It enhances the terms of trade as the U.S. receives more imports for every dollar of exports. That in turn improves the country's living standards. Where To Invest Now We have reached the bottom in terms of price but perhaps not time. Expect seasonal volatility in September and October. The timing is right to invest on pullbacks or dollar-cost averaging into U.S. large-cap value stocks with big dividends. Vanguard High Dividend Yield shows a dividend yield of 3% -- about 50% greater than the SPDR S&P 500's dividend yield of 2.19%. Vanguard High Dividend Yield is trading at an attractive valuation of 17 times forward earnings with lower volatility than the SPDR S&P 500, as shown by its 0.90 beta. SPDR S&P 500 trades at a larger price-to-earnings ratio of 18.7. VYM's biggest holdings among 437 are Exxon Mobil  , General Electric  , Johnson & Johnson  , Microsoft and Wells Fargo  . Correction Overdue For A Long Time One reason this correction is so jarring is because U.S. stocks have been flat for a number of months. Going into last Friday, stock markets were flat for the year. The past three years have been calm for stocks. The stock market was way overdue for a 10% correction or more. It has gone some 1500 days without a 10% pullback - the third biggest streak in the past five decades. In the summer of 2011, the Dow Jones Industrial Average sold off 16% from a peak of about 12,724 to an August trough at 10,700 and found a bottom in October at 10,655. The catalysts back then were the eurozone sovereign debt crisis (Greece, Portugal, and Spain) and the U.S. credit rating downgrade to AA+. It was painful - as is the current correction. But looking back long-term, it just a blip for the bull market that kicked off in March 2009. Must Read: 10 Stocks Billionaire John Paulson Loves

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MDC Holdings, Qualcomm Shares Well-Positioned for Growth, Says TCW Fund Manager
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NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Homebuilder stocks will continue to be hot as millennials enter an already tight housing market. Investors seeking to capitalize on the sector may want to start building a stake in conservatively run MDC Holdings  , said Iman Brivanlou, portfolio manager for the TCW High Dividend Equities (TGHDX) fund. Brivanlou said MDC's CEO Larry Mizel saw the 2008 downturn early and built a strong balance sheet in advance, which allowed the company to navigate the downturn much better than its peers. He added that MDC's management was also a little slow to catch the upside during the recovery, but he appreciates a cautious management team in a cyclical sector. "The company weathered the downturn much better than its peers," said Brivanlou. "Part of that conservatism prevented Larry from getting back into the game as early as some of his competitors, but we think the market overly punished MDC for that specific reason." The TCW High Dividend Equities fund is up 2.3% year-to-date, according to fund-tracker Morningstar. Shares of MDC Holdings are up 17% so far this year. Brivanlou is also bullish on WP Glimcher, a $2.5 billion mall REIT that was spun out of Simon Property Group . Shares of WP Glimcher WPG have dropped 21% year-to-date, but Brivanlou said the company's assets are of a higher quality than implied by the company's current valuation. Finally, shares of Qualcomm   are down over 17% thus far in 2015 primarily because its chip business has come under pressure. However, Brivanlou remains positive on the company, saying the stock's current valuation of 13 times forward earnings is supported by the royalty stream alone. "You have a very high quality royalty business," said Brivanlou. "It is our viewpoint, based on our analysis, that the current valuation embeds only the value of that royalty business plus the company's cash. So we view any recovery or turnaround in the chip business as potential upside for the company." Must Read: Warren Buffett's Top 10 Dividend Stocks

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Fed Rate Hikes Will Hurt High-Yield Bonds First a Altegris CEO
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NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Investing in the bond market might not be as safe as one might think, especially as the Federal Reserve begins raising rates, according to Jack Rivkin, CEO and Chief Investment Officer for Altegris Advisors. Altegris, based in La Jolla, CA., is a fund manager that specializes in alternative investments. While interest rates have been in a declining trend for more than 30 years, that's about to change, Rivkin said, noting that investors should think about restructuring their portfolios. "Credit is going to become an issue at some point here, and that's going to cause some accidents," said Rivkin. "We're moving into a period where it's not as easy just to buy ETFs or play beta in the market. I think you're going to have to be a little more careful." Assets that have had strong returns in the past might not have them going forward due to the changing interest rate environment, Rivkin added. "No matter what the path is for how rates increase, they're going to increase," said Rivkin. "If one is looking at fixed income as the safe haven, I think they're making a big mistake here. And if one is looking at simply buying indices, they're making a second big mistake as well." He doesn't expect a major market correction, but thinks there will be dispersions between individual stocks and sectors. Rivkin said he expects credit problems to begin in the high-yield market. Investors looking for income should instead consider dividend-yielding stocks, he said. "One could create a very interesting portfolio of dividend-yielding stocks, who over a long period of time have been increasing those dividends, and they may do better than taking risks on the fixed income market here," said Rivkin. He spoke to the TheStreet's Rhonda Schaffler at the Camp Kotok, a meeting of economists, money managers, and others in the financial industry, held each year in Maine. Must Read: What Stocks Are Value Investors Buying?


Despite Shenanigans at Credit Suisse, Barclays, ITG, Donat Dismiss Dark Pools: Convergex CEO
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NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Dark pools are back in the headlines following reports about Credit Suisse , Barclays and Investment Technology Group ,  settling allegations of manipulation with the government.  Eric Noll, CEO of Convergex, says the current commotion is nothing new and won't likely last long. "This is part of a series of activities that has been going on in this space for quite a while now," said Noll. "I think it's out of concern driven by the Flash Boys book and other concerns about the space, but clearly this is part of a longstanding series of investigations into the space." Convergex is a global agency brokerage and trading-related services firm. Convergex transacts more than 2% of equity-exchange volume and executes trades for institutional clients in more than 100 markets. So-called dark pool trading involves trades that are routed through broker-run exchanges, but are not disclosed until the order is complete, thus keeping the public uninformed. Institutional investors, such as mutual funds, hedge funds and pensions, often favor dark pools because it is less likely that parts of their large orders will get picked off before they're fully executed. However, potential abuses can occur in dark pools. ITG, for example, said this week it will pay $20.3 million to settle charges that it ran a secret trading desk that profited from confidential customer-trading information obtained from dark pools. Convergex operates a pair of dark pools and Noll said they will continue to offer them because they offer a valuable service to the market as long as they remain liquid and fair. "You have to do it in a way that adds value for your client," said Noll. Convergex is also actively trading for clients in the Chinese market, which has seen huge volatility since the currency devaluation as well as government-instituted trading restrictions in reaction to the massive spring selloff. "One of the big challenges is the volatility that whips through the market when there is a yuan devaluation, for example," said Noll. "Your clients start moving their order flow around very quickly in that kind of environment. Being nimble and being able to accommodate them in their needs, in times of market crises, is very important for us."Must Read: Warren Buffett's Top 10 Dividend Stocks

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Wells Fargo Muni Expert Says Puerto Rico Default Could Prompt Reforms
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Puerto Ricoas debt default earlier this month may lead to government reform on the island nation, which still faces a major cash shortfall.


10 Reasons to Love the Strong Dollar
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NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The surge in the greenback has some stock investors screaming foul, but they shouldn't be. Instead, they should embrace the strength.  It is true that the trade-weighted value of the U.S. dollar has climbed more than 21% in the last 13 months, according to recent data from the St. Louis Federal Reserve. It's also true that the rally is taking its toll on the earnings reports of some multinational companies -- their foreign revenues take a hit when translated back into dollars.Must Read: 7 Stocks Warren Buffett Is Buying in 2015 Still, there is plenty to feel great about. Here are 10 reasons to smile. It makes imports cheaper. A dollar will now buy at least 21% more imported stuff. That means retailers can buy more knickknacks for the same money and either lower prices to their customers or increase profit margins. Possibly they can do both.  Keep a close eye on stocks of retailers that depend on so-called discretionary spending (items or services you don't have to purchase.) The Vanguard Consumer Discretionary exchange-traded fund holds a basket of such stocks. It's good for the housing industry. The raw materials for building homes, like copper and lumber, are both traded in dollars. It takes around 400 pounds of copper (for the electrical circuits) and thousands of feet of lumber to make a standard single-family home. A stronger dollar makes these essential materials cheaper. Lumber and copper prices have both slumped recently and the dip should help homebuilders hold down costs. Watch the SPDR S&P Homebuilders ETF, which holds a basket of homebuilding companies. It makes oil cheaper. As with copper and lumber, crude oil is priced in dollars. When the dollar is strong, you get more oil for your money. Eventually, as we have seen, the lower price filters through to lower gasoline prices; for many people, that is like getting a tax cut. It also means people can spend more of their money at retailers, if they choose. It keeps a lid on inflation. By its very definition, inflation is the declining spending power of the dollar. So when the dollar is strong, we have the opposite -- if the greenback isn't declining then we have less inflation. It keeps the dollar at the top of the currency food chain. What central bank wants to hold a currency that is quickly dwindling in value? The fact that the dollar is strong makes it worth holding. That is actually more important than many people realize. Since the end of World War II, the greenback has been the bedrock of the world financial system. This allows the U.S. government to borrow at lower interest rates than it would otherwise be able to, because the dollar and dollar-denominated Treasury securities are a big portion of holdings by foreign countries. It should keep the cost of borrowing lower. Lower than it would have been otherwise, that is. Clearly the Federal Reserve has indicated it will raise the cost of borrowing money sooner or later. But still, with inflation under control and the greenback at the top of the food chain, the pressure to continue raising rates will be less than otherwise. It makes foreign holidays cheaper. If you wanted to go on a romantic trip to Paris, now might be the time. The dollar will now buy you more luxurious dinners than previously.  It's great for domestic manufacturers. Companies that primarily sell to U.S. customers won't be harmed by lower foreign revenues, but could be helped by lower costs of dollar denominated materials such as steel. Think about the enormous benefits to machine tool manufacturers supplying bigger multinationals.  It makes investing overseas a better value. If you have a billion dollars in the bank burning a hole in your corporate pocket, it will now buy you a bigger company overseas. As I have written previously, M&A activity and stock market gains tend to move in tandem. Who knows, maybe we'll see a cross border merger boom. It might boost the world economy. Since the end of World War II, the U.S. economy has been the locomotive that has pulled the rest of the world along. There has been talk of so-called decoupling with the idea the other economies might be able to grow without the U.S. pulling. Unfortunately, it hasn't really played out that way. Now that the U.S. is growing, albeit slowly, maybe it can help pull Europe and other stagnating economies like Japan along. That will happen by Americans importing lots of things from overseas. Investors might want to take a look at the Vanguard European Stock Index mutual fund, which invests in European securities.   Must Read: Warren Buffett's Top 10 Dividend Stocks  

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Security Lapses at Vanguard, Schwab Could Put 401K Money at Risk
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Your 401K money might not be as safe as you think, according to an investigative story on mutual fund customer security written by Susan Antilla, Founding Fellow at TheStreet Foundation.


Investor Warning: Keep an Eye on J.P. Turner Brokers After Shutdown
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NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Management of J.P. Turner Associates, a small Atlanta-based brokerage that sports 37 fines, censures, arbitrations and injunctions on its regulatory record, said in late July that the firm will shut its doors this fall. InvestmentNews first reported that Larry Roth, CEO of Cetera Financial Group, a brokerage network that includes Turner, said it was "winding down" Turner's operations. It's a win for the investing public, although it does come with some caveats. When it came to violating securities laws, Turner was a doozy. In recent years, three of its managers -- counting the firm's former president -- were suspended or barred from the business by regulators. One supervisor was suspended from acting as a principal for two months when it came to light that a rogue broker under his charge had done 335 unsuitable mutual fund switches in the accounts of 54 customers. That supervisor, by the way, flunked the Series 7 broker's test three times before passing with a 74. (On his first try, he got a 36). You can start to understand why the securities industry fights to be sure that investors will never find test scores on brokers' Finra records.  Spokespeople for Turner and RCS Capital, which owns Cetera, didn't respond to email inquiries.When RCS purchased Turner, its executive chairman called it "one of the finest independent retail broker-dealers in the nation." Unlike some shutdowns that are prompted by unmanageable legal liabilities or decrees by regulators, the Turner move came about as a business decision. RCS Capital purchased Turner to be part of its Cetera group of brokerage firms in 2014, and the Turner brokers were anxious to upgrade to the clearing firm that serviced the other firms in the Cetera network - Pershing Securities. But Pershing "would not take them" because of the firm's reputation, said Jon Henschen, president of the recruiting firm Henschen & Associates in Marine on St Croix, Minnesota. The solution: Move half of Turner's 300 brokers to Cetera's Boca Raton-based Summit Brokerage and let the rest find work elsewhere. Paul Patella, a spokesman for Pershing, declined to comment. Must Read: Build a Billionaire Portfolio With These 20 Stocks Henschen said the weeding-out process involved a combination of finding the people with the highest production and the fewest regulatory problems - a neat trick when you consider that it's often the rogues who deliver the most revenue. Brokers with low production and three or four dings in their records didn't make the cut, said Henschen. Big producers with problems had a better chance of being invited to join Summit, but would likely require what the industry calls "heightened supervision," which requires a manager to devote extra time to babysitting his troublemakers. As for the 150 or so who weren't selected, investors beware. When firms with dicey regulatory histories shut their doors, out-of-work brokers scatter like roaches to new employers who typically have low standards. In May, for example, the Securities and Exchange Commission barred three former Turner brokers whose churning of 7 customers' accounts generated $845,000 in fees and commissions to Turner even as the investors cumulatively lost $2.7 million. Churning refers to a type of fraud where the broker "overtrades" a customer's account to generate inflated sales commissions. All three brokers found gainful employment in the wake of the SEC's initial complaint against them -- which they appealed and lost. One of the three joined National Securities Corp., a firm whose Finra records include 72 regulatory events and arbitrations. Another went to DPEC Capital, whose own chairman has 15 regulatory disclosures on his Finra dossier. Henschen says it's getting harder for rogues to get jobs. Finra has gotten tougher with firms whose compliance problems are above the industry averages, he said. If the portion of a firm's brokers with a high number of regulatory problems is unusually high, for example, Finra might make more frequent audits, Henschen explained. Wall Street's self-regulator wound up with egg on its face in 2013 after The Wall Street Journal investigated "the pattern of brokers moving from one problem firm to another" - something you'd think Finra would have been tracking on its own. Michelle Ong, a Finra spokeswoman, said "We are watching broker migration with a laser focus." Those are the same words that Finra's executive vice president of regulatory operations used in response to the Journal's inquiries back in 2013. But if Henschen is right that firms are more reluctant to hire rogues now that Finra's badgering them, it could be the self-regulator is not only watching, but doing something about it. Let's hope they'll be watching those departing Turner brokers, after all. Must Read: Warren Buffet's Top 10 Stock Buys


Is Vanguard Making It Too Easy for Cybercriminals to Access Your Account?
From feeds.thestreet

Originally published Aug. 10, 2015. At first, the technology-support expert on the other end of the line didn't believe what Vanguard Group's client relationship administrator, Karen Brock, was telling him. An angry Vanguard customer had called her to say heawas able to log into his account, even though he'd deliberately provided a misspelled security answer, Brock explained toaher tech colleague, named Mike, who took her call on May 7, 2013. Mike, who identified himself on the recorded line only by his first name, initially insisted that the security system of the world's largest mutual fund companya"wouldn't allow" something like that. But when he checked to see if he could access his own account after misspelling a personal security answer, his tone changed. "This is messed up," he said in the recording, a copy of which Brock supplied to TheStreet. Despite repeated efforts over the past two years to flag that and other issuesashe considers potential threats to the security of Vanguard's 20 million customers, Brock says management has never offered her a formal response. Another security issue with the company's voice verification systemahas been addressed, she said, but the security answer glitch remains. For the most part, Brock says her bosses either have ignored her or have told her to stop complaining. Although Brock's allegations -- outlined in whistleblower tips she filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission and Finra -- do not cast Malvern, Pa.-based Vanguard in a favorable light, they in some cases mirror a challengeaall financial firms face: Investment clients seeking online convenience don't always want what's in their best interest from a security point of view.a "I hear over and over when I'm onsite with financial firms that customers don't want additional security," because it slows down their ability to do transactions, said John Reed Stark, a consultant who is former chief of the SEC's Office of Internet Enforcement. "Maybe enhanced security requirements should be like seat belt laws, where everyone is required to be inconvenienced to protect them from themselves." Even as some customers complain they don't want to jump through hoops to access their own money, others protest loudly on social mediaaabout weak security policies. That leaves companies like Vanguard and its competitors caught in the middle -- struggling to make their sites easy to use while doing their best to make sure accounts are secure. From Brock's point of view, Vanguard leans too far in the direction of accommodating convenience. Customers who can't access their accounts wind up making more calls to customer service, she says, and that costs the firm more money. Brock says that comports with the firm's low-expenseacredo -- a corporate goal she thinks the firm pursues at the expense of security. Vanguard spokeswoman Arianna Stefanoni Sherlock said in an email that the firm investigated Brock's claims "and we remain confident in our security practices and our efforts to keep our clients' confidential information and their assets safe." Vanguard, which ranked 48thaon ComputerWorld's "Best Places to Work in IT" list released in June, has "one of the strongest programs in the investment management industry in place to protect our clients," according to Sherlock. Brock, a 56-year-old telephone representative in Vanguard's Scottsdale, Ariz. office, says that after speaking to her colleague in technology that day in 2013, the problem with misspelled security answers was immediatelyafixed. She checked periodically to be sure it was still working after that, only to discover 18 months later that Vanguard was again allowing access to accounts despite answers infected with typos. On a dozen occasions in recent months, I have logged into my own Vanguard account despite dropping letters and introducing other typographical errors to my security answers. On several occasions, I was able to reset my password after entering typos of between one and two characters into three separate security answers. The process did require that I provide my date of birth, zip code, the last four digits of my Social Security number and email address. But security experts say such information is easily stolen or found online, making accurate security answers critical. "I don't have enough words to express what a stupid decision that would be" to allow variations in the spelling of a security answer, said Fred H. Cate, a senior fellow at the Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research at Indiana University in Bloomington. For the cybercriminal using a computer program to randomly guess security answers, "it dramatically increases the number of right answers," he said. Cate added that many customers don't even bother to memorize or look up their passwords, opting instead to reset passwords over and over. So the answers to those challenge questions that ask for the name of your favorite pet or the street you grew up on become "the critical thing," he says. At a time when data breaches of health care records, customer information at financial firms and targets of government background checks are at the top of the public's mind, Brock says Vanguard, the darling of the small investor that pioneered low-cost investing, is leaving doors open for intruders to come in. Last fall, the company saw a spike in fraudulent activity that generated a series of memos alerting employees to be particularly vigilant, she says. Vanguard says that it was among many companies experiencing a surge in phishing attacks during that period and that no customers lost money. Brock, who serves 640 of Vanguard's affluent, $1 million-plus "Flagship" accounts, says she has alerted her managers and technology support staff in person, in writing and over recorded lines about shortcomings in the firm's procedures for customer security. She said in an interview that, on one occasion, she reported an incident in 2013 where Vanguard's voice verification system allowed a customer's son to mimic his father's voice and get full access to his father's account. The father had asked the son to do that, so he could assure himself the feature couldn't be hacked. On another occasion, she had to interrupt the instructor at a training session at the firm's Scottsdale, Ariz. offices last fall to point out that names, email addresses, phone numbers and account numbers of several current or prospective clients had evaded the redaction process and wound up being published in a 97-page hard-copy training manual. The document, which Brock says also had been used in previous training sessions, had no markings that designated it fora"Internal Use Only." Brock says new manuals were produced for subsequent sessions. Vanguard didn't respond to written questions about the voice verification and training manual glitches. The company said that it would have to decline to answer some questions about online security and fraud safeguardsain order to protect its clients and its security measures. Management hasn't taken kindly to her badgering, says Brock, who joined Vanguard in its Scottsdale office in 2011. "I've been told 'You need to stop talking about these things because it really upsets people,'" she said. In May of 2014, frustrated that Vanguard had not corrected the security answer deficiency, Brock filed whistleblower complaintsawith the SEC and Finra, Wall Street's self-regulatory group. Several officials in the SEC's whistleblower office interviewed her for nearly two hours in January, according to Brock. The SECadeclined to comment about Brock's complaint. Finra told Vanguard in a May 29, 2015 letter that it had closed its examination of the case. Asked to comment, a Finra spokeswoman said, "Regulatory tips are confidential." During an hour-long interview with Sherlock and three other Vanguard officials in late July, the company stressed that it has made strides in customer safetyathat include the launch in December of an enhanced security optionato make customers' login process safer. Its so-called "two-factor authentication" service requires not only that a customer enter a user name and password, but that they also submit a 6-digit code that Vanguard sends by text message to the customer's cellphone. The firm doesn't require that customers use the service, because there may be clients who don't want the cost sometimes attached to receiving texts, said Jeffrey Lampinski, who runs Vanguard's information security team. Vanguard also beefed up its login requirements in late 2013, said Lampinski, adding the options of longer and more complex passwords.a Customers commenting online in late 2012 had engaged in an extended conversationaabout Vanguard's policies after the firm was criticized for being in the "Password Hall of Shame." Image courtesy of Bogleheads.org In October 2014, customers of the mutual fund giant received a detailed educational article about online "phishing" scams that appeared on Vanguard's site. Authored by Lampinski, the piece walked clients through the red flags they should look for -- phony Web addresses and unsolicited emails seeking social security numbers among them -- to steer clear ofacrooks who seduce investors to compromise their online credentials. The firm itself had been grappling with phishing attacks that it had first become aware of two months earlier.aIn phishing scams of financial companies, cybercriminals blanket the public with emails that trick them into thinking they're clicking on a link of a company they do business with. Once customers are fooled into clicking on a link, criminals steal credentials and attempt to enter their accounts. Every company that does business online faces regular attacks by cybercriminals and other fraudsters, and customers typically get wind of only the most alarmingaamong them. A series of memos shared by Brock gives an idea of how companies mobilize when fraud is on the increase. Last August, a Vanguard manager sent out an internal memo warning of a "huge increase" in fraud activity, noting that rogues were attempting to impersonate clients on the phone. A week later, another missive told of a fraudster who had successfully orchestrated an $80,000 wire transfer after imitating a 79-year-old Vanguard client on the phone. The man's identity had been stolen. Asked if his money had been retrieved or reimbursed, Sherlock said in an email that the firm doesn't discuss specific clients and their assets.a "Flagship is up to 100 fraud cases this year," the second memo noted, referring to its blue-chip clientele with accounts of $1 million and more. That was up from a total of 38 the previous year, the memo said. Sherlock noted that while the increase is "huge" by Vanguard's standards, it is relative to a small base the previous year and is "modest" relative to the firm's 20 million accounts.a Then, on Oct. 21, aBrock saysaVanguard's Web site was downanearly three hours. Sherlock says the Web site outageawas not related to the phishing incidents and was "the result of an error during a technology update." She initially told me the site was down for "three hours during the night when the markets were closed," but corrected that to "about two hours in the late afternoon," after I pointed out that customers online were talking about the site being down during trading hours. It was early afternoon when customers on Facebook first said the site was down, posting comments beginning at 12:25 p.m.aComplaints about the site being downawere still being posted just before 6 p.m. that day on Twittera . No client accounts or data were compromised as a result of the outage, according to Sherlock. Images courtesy of isitdown.com A week after the outage, a manager sent Brock a memo asking her to help the Fraud department make calls to clients whose account credentials "may have recently been compromised." In a separate email that day, the same manager referred to "malicious account access" in the account of one of Brock's clients. Those memos were related to the phishing attacks, according to Vanguard. With $3 trillion under management at Vanguard, where 90% of its 20 million clients access their accounts online, much is at stake. During the months-long phishing attacks last year,aVanguard spokesman John Woerth told me that no customers lost money; Lampinski added that the phishing sites were shut down. Vanguard would not tell me whether there were customers who lost moneyabut were later made whole by theafirm. Sherlock said in an email that when Vanguard detects a fraud attempt, it immediately freezes the account to protect the client from unauthorized activity. In most cases, the firm is able to shut down attempted fraud, she said. "In other cases, we are able to recover the assets," she added. "And in a still smaller subset of cases, we are not able to recover the assets and we will reimburse those clients -- depending on the circumstances -- on a case-by-case basis." To receive reimbursement, customers must meet certain requirements. Vanguard has an online fraud policy that promises customers that if assets are lost in an unauthorized online transaction, they will be reimbursed. For the guarantee to kick in, customers must regularly check their accounts; be sure they have up-to-date anti-spyware and firewall software; and use passwords that are different from their passwords on other sites, among other requirements. And they mustn't click on links in suspicious emails. Brian Donadio, senior counsel at Vanguard, said it is still possible for customers who do not meet the criteria to get a reimbursement, but that Vanguard makes those decisions on a case-by-case basis. Given Vanguard's ownership structure, if it does reimburse a client, the cost "is gonna work its way back across the entire client base," he said. He would not say how often Vanguard denies a reimbursement. Unlike publicly owned brokerages such as Charles Schwab & Co. and T. Rowe Price, or Fidelity, which is owned by private shareholders, Vanguard is owned by the same people who invest in its funds. Vanguard says it keeps costs low for clients because it doesn't need to generate profits for outside owners. Vanguard's competitors have their own security shortcomings.aI decided to test the integrity of the security questions at Schwab .aI was able to enter an inaccurate answer and access my account, sans password, just as I did with Vanguard. Schwab emailed me a temporary password, and I was in. Schwab spokeswoman Sarah Bulgatz said that's because Schwab doesn't consider the answer to your security question after the eighth character, which is a head-scratcher considering the question I was being asked required a 10-digit telephone number. She said on July 8 that Schwab had "recently discovered" the problem and plans to fix it by the end of the year. In January, Schwab posted a memo on its Web site saying it had taken "to heart" that clients were complaining about its password protocol, and that it would offer the option of more complex passwords by year-end. On July 15, the firm announcedait would introduce the new standards this month. Images courtesy of Twitter.com For Vanguard's part, the ability of customers -- or anyone else -- to access accounts despite typos is a sensitive topic. Woerth at first wouldn't comment when I asked if he was aware that Vanguard allowed typos in its security answers. But when I followed up to ask if there was anything he could say on the topic, he offered this: "I think that goes back to that boundary of convenience versus prevention, or, you know, inconvenience." Tolerance of typos results in fewer phone calls to the humans who work Vanguard's call centers, says Brock. But the pros say there are times when convenience shouldn't be a consideration. "It should not be up to the firm to decide what's acceptable," said Anand Mohabir, principal consultant ataACA Compliance, a regulatory compliance and cybersecurity-risk company. "They should not accept any variation" in the information that customers provide. Vanguard gets deserved kudos for running a low-cost operation that focuses on the interest of its owners, who are the investors who buy shares of its funds. That unusual structure for years has been a plus for its customers. But it also may shape the company's decisions when it comes to spending. Woerth says, "I don't think we would scrimp a dime in ensuring" that clients' assets were safe. But he also concedes that Vanguard's client-ownership structure "certainly makes us more judicious in how we spend the clients' money." Every financial firm faces challenges on the difficult questions of security vs. convenience. In Vanguard's case, investor ownershipamay make those decisions even tougher.

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When You Invest in Mutual Funds, You Give up Your Voice
From feeds.thestreet

The following is an exclusive excerpt from Uninvested: How Wall Street Hijacks Your Money & How to Fight Back, a new title from Penguin Random House, out August 4, 2015.  Investing in One Dimension Third-party analysts, such as Morningstar, credit- rating agencies, traditional accounting firms, and the financial media, have trained investors to consider their investments in exclusively financial terms. Mutual funds, in particular, encourage this one-dimensional perspective. Because funds and pundits are most comfortable with conventional metrics such as earnings per share, market capitalization, and quarterly returns, they emphasize these topics in their assessments. The success of an investment is nearly always measured by its return. This highlights one of the major sacrifices one makes by investing in mutual funds and underscores a major missed opportunity for many kinds of investors. Though the financial component of investing is critically important, invested capital can also be a powerful way to influence social, environmental, and economic issues that are important to you. Investment must be seen as an endorsement of a corporation's practices, activities, and values. Investing in a company is like voting with your dollars. Doesn't it make sense to support the companies, products, and services that you like and believe in? And to withhold your capital from corporations that you don't like or believe in? Mainstream mutual funds make selective, values-based investing nearly impossible, given their typical blanket approach. There is, however, a small and growing subset of funds that do acknowledge issues-based investing; the number of "socially responsible investing" vehicles increased from 55 in 1995 to 493 in 2012.41 Still, these types of funds account for a relatively modest share of the market overall, and they don't resolve many other issues inherent in mutual fund investing. Funds require a transactional type of investing: an investor's involvement begins with handing over her money and ends with a quarterly statement. Though mutual fund investors have been trained to stand on the sidelines, their money connects them to hundreds of companies and makes them complicit, consciously or not, in their activities. The most rewarding (and financially productive) investments offer investors the opportunity to open a dialogue, exert influence, and express an opinion. When you buy a share of stock, for example, your investment entitles you to attend the company's annual meeting and vote on important corporate issues such as executive compensation and who sits on the company's board of directors. If you can't attend the meeting in person (few investors do), you can vote by proxy- sort of like absentee voting in a political election. This proxy voting is a major opportunity for investors to advance their own agendas and influence the decision making within corporations in which they've invested. The potential of this mechanism for influencing corporate behavior remains largely untapped, however. There is a critical difference between owning stock outright and "owning" a stock through a mutual fund. When you buy a stock outright, you are eligible to vote your proxy. When you buy into a mutual fund, you are not. While the vast majority of stock is "owned" through mutual funds, the fund managers vote on the investors' behalf- usually without their input- on corporate issues with social, environmental, political, and financial implications. Though some funds may solicit opinions from their shareholders on proxy issues, ultimately fund managers have full discretion over the vote. When you buy into a mutual fund, you surrender your vote and your voice. This excerpt appeared on TheStreet.com in agreement with Portfolio, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © Robert C. S. Monks, 2015. Must Read: Warren Buffett's Top 10 Dividend Stocks


Wall Street Is Stealing Your Money Says aUninvesteda Author Monks
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Wall Street is systematically fleecing millions of Americans and that includes the major mutual fund companies and ETF providers, said Bobby Monks, author of 'Uninvested'.


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HernA!ndez: Canelo Alvarez had a chance to elevate his ambitions, and it's gone
From feeds.latimes

Canelo Alvarez blew it with his match against Callum Smith on Saturday. He should have sought out a more worthy opponent.


After feud with Oscar de la Hoya, Canelo Alvarez refocuses on boxing
From feeds.latimes

Canelo Alvarez fought a punchless battle with Oscar De La Hoya to become boxing's most prized free agent. Now he's focused on beating Callum Smith.


Betting odds for Errol Spence Jr. vs. Danny Garcia fight
From feeds.latimes

Who's the favorite to win in Saturday's welterweight title fight between Errol Spence Jr. and Danny Garcia? Also, who are pro boxers picking to win?


How to watch the Errol Spence Jr. vs. Danny Garcia fight
From feeds.latimes

Here's how to watch Saturday's fight between Errol Spence Jr. and Danny Garcia for the WBC and IBF welterweight titles.


After nearly dying, Errol Spence Jr. eager to make most of second chance
From feeds.latimes

Errol Spence Jr. nearly died after crashing his Ferrari last year. He now wants to show the boxing world he can still win by defeating Danny Garcia.


Snoop Dogg launches boxing league, seeking success where others in hip-hop have failed
From feeds.latimes

Snoop Dogg launches a boxing league called Fight Club a but will it fizzle like hip-hop's previous attempts at the sport?


Commentary: Boxing has no socially redeeming qualities. I can't believe how much I miss it
From feeds.latimes

Former L.A. Times boxing writer Bill Dwyre says the sport is intoxicating, fascinating, mind-boggling a not in the ring, but everything outside it.


Mike Tyson's latest act in life begins with comeback fight against Roy Jones Jr.
From feeds.latimes

Mike Tyson, 54, rediscovered his passion for boxing during quarantine. He's returning to the ring Saturday for an exhibition against Roy Jones Jr.


Gervonta Davis knocks Leo Santa Cruz out cold with uppercut in sixth round
From feeds.latimes

Gervonta Davis stopped Leo Santa Cruz in the sixth round in San Antonio to retain his WBA lightweight crown and take Santa Cruz's WBA junior-lightweight title.


Leo Santa Cruz witnessed 'a miracle' amid pandemic; now he plans to shock the world
From feeds.latimes

For Gervonta Davis, a win over Leo Santa Cruz would strengthen his bond with Floyd Mayweather Jr. An upset win for Santa Cruz would make his father proud.


HernA!ndez: Boxing industry tries to recover from a strong uppercut delivered by COVID-19
From feeds.latimes

Young fighters such as Vergil Ortiz Jr. have missed out on chances to raise their profiles, while top star Canelo Alvarez might be further sidelined.


UFC 250: Amanda Nunes beats Felicia Spencer; Conor McGregor says he's retiring
From feeds.latimes

Amanda Nunes defended her UFC featherweight title with a unanimous decision over Felicia Spencer. Conor McGregor said on Twitter that he's retiring.


Markazi: Why Dana White is staging UFC 249 amid coronavirus
From feeds.latimes

Dana White is staging UFC 249 on Saturday night in Florida. It will be the first live major professional sports event in the U.S. in nearly two months.


HernA!ndez: Sobriety a struggle in this time of isolation for former boxer Mia St. John
From feeds.latimes

Former boxing champion Mia St. John attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings six times a week. She struggles with gatherings banned because of the coronavirus.


A unique housing solution in the tough L.A. market: Make her gym her home
From feeds.latimes

Like any good fighter, kickboxer Kendra Smith figured out a way to tackle the insane L.A. housing market: Move into a storefront where she could live and work.


Deontay Wilder's costumes are as legendary as his knockout punches
From feeds.latimes

When Deontay Wilder enters the ring Saturday for his rematch with Tyson Fury, he will be wearing a costume and mask that cost more than $60,000.


Physical faceoff between Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder ends in peace
From feeds.latimes

The news conference between heavyweight boxers Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder turned into a scrum of pushing and profanity before coolers heads prevailed.


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