Market Wrap-Up for Oct.31 (HUM, MCY, CVX, C, MF, GS, MS, more)

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It was the last day of the month (and Halloween as well), so I'll be bracing for door duty tonight as the kids make their rounds looking for treats. Unfortunately no treats for investors today as the markets took it on the chin to end what was an otherwise solid month of gains for the indices.

Outside of the headline story regarding MF Global ( MF ) filing bankruptcy (more on that below), there were only a few earnings reports out today moving the needle. Shares of Humana ( HUM ) came in with solid results and tacked on more than $4, while shares of Mercury General ( MCY ) reversed earlier gains and closed lower.

With the tape moving lower, Wall Street analyst downgrades weighed on several stocks, including shares of Cablevision ( CVC ), Arch Coal ( ACI ), and Chevron ( CVX ). Also moving down hard were the financials, with names like Deutsche Bank ( DB ), Morgan Stanley ( MS ), Goldman Sachs ( GS ), and Citigroup ( C ) pushing lower.

The MF Global/Jon Corzine Disaster

Just this past February, a Barron's article suggested investors should not bet against former Goldman Sachs ( GS ) CEO Jon Corzine in his quest to build commodities and futures broker MF Global ( MF ) into a successful financial enterprise. Here we are only eight months later and the company has just filed for bankruptcy protection. The lure for value investors was that Mr. Corzine was building up the company's capital levels as well as attracting big-name talent following the 2009 Wall Street tumble, during which many people in finance lost their jobs.

MF Global had apparently expanded business around the firm's trading activities, which involved sometimes taking the other side of clients' trades using money from the company's balance sheet.

For sports fans, this practice is the equivalent of taking a bet for a friend to put into a bookie, but then deciding to take on the risk yourself. You're betting that your friend will be wrong, and you'll keep the winnings (instead of the bookie). Obviously, a big problem arises when you bet the wrong way, and don't have the money to pay your friend. In MF Global's case, it appears they don't have the funds "pay off" the bets they took the wrong side on.

I'm sure it was another scary weekend for the Federal Reserve. They were probably very concerned about how much MF's losses would amount to, and whether there needed to be a sudden rescue package put in place. Thankfully, no bailouts were needed this time.

Trading has gotten much more dangerous these days, with all sorts of complex instruments that are based upon little more than a couple of back-testing models. Now we have firms and traders trading double and triple leverage ETFs that many have blamed for the market volatility (although most tend to complain only when the markets are falling).

Adding insult to injury, reports out this morning state Jon Corzine could be set to receive a $12 million severance package from MF Global. Wow!

To everyone that feels the desire to take on the markets as a trader, just know the risks involved and be prepared for any worst-case scenarios. It seems like almost no one really considers all the angles and appreciates how extremely difficult trading is.

Financial Smarts Decline In Your Later Years

A recent Texas Tech University study found that scores on a test measuring knowledge of investments, insurance, credit and money basics fell about 2% each year starting after age 60. I've often talked about the importance of staying up-to-date with one's own finances, as well as those of your parents. The percentage of adult children providing personal care and/or financial assistance to a parent has more than tripled over the past 15 years, and currently represents a quarter of adult children, mainly Baby Boomers.

If you have parents that are in their older years, be sure to help them avoid any major financial mishaps. If you can get your parents to divulge their financial matters, it makes sense to know what their obligations are, and how you may be able to step in to help manage things in the event of unexpected circumstances. If you can, obtain access to bank account and credit card information, and make a list of what their monthly expenses are.

You certainly want to stay on top of any investment accounts, as well. Having a will/trust set up is also a smart move. Make copies of any key documents your parents possess that will be a factor in their estate. Set up an annual check-up when it comes to taxes and updating the regular financial obligations. Keep all the account numbers and passwords in a safe place for when you need them.

These are all good tips to keep handy and share with anyone that is facing a situation with aging parents. And if you're an aging parent yourself, make sure you're comfortable in sharing these key financial facts with your kids so as to avoid potential family fall-outs later on.

Did You Miss Our Weekend Updates?

I hope everyone had a chance to check out our Premium members-only weekend articles, including new features that highlight some of the biggest winners and losers from the week that was, such as analyst upgrades/downgrades and earnings/story stocks. These articles are a great way to catch up on the week that was in the markets. We also have a rundown of how various Dividend ETFs performed on the week.

Thanks for reading everybody. I'll see you tomorrow!

Be sure to visit our complete recommended list of the Best Dividend Stocks , as well as a detailed explanation of our ratings system here .

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The NASDAQ, Inc.

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This article appears in: Investing , Stocks

Referenced Stocks: ACI , C , CVC , CVX , DB

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