Wednesday Twofer

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Yesterday at the gym I saw a guy on the treadmill with a Walkman-like device that looked older than the one pictured to the left. He had cassettes and everything to pop into that thing; truly old school.

While this is not the most efficient way to listen to music while you work out, it was the size of a small phone book, and does not take advantage of recent technology (my iPod is the size of coin) it gets the job done for this guy. As a side note am I the only who is amazed something this old would still work?

Back when (I think) this baby was brand new there were no ETFs and while mutual funds certainly existed, it was still early days for 401k plans and so traditional mutual funds played less of an everyday role than they do now.

There was also far less awareness or need for foreign investing. Information was obviously much tougher to come by as the internet had not become a utility in every house yet. Twenty five years ago we would have never heard of something like Zhejiang Expressway and probably would not have even found anything after driving to library. Today, after finding the name in an article, you can plug the name into Google, get a link to the home page which is in English and be looking at the financials within 30 seconds.

If you like the idea of a Chinese tollroad but do not want an individual stock then maybe you would instead buy the iShares Emerging Market Infrastructure ETF (EMIF) which has 4% in Chinese toll roads or buy the iShares Infrastructure ETF (IGF) which although only has 1.5% in Chinese toll roads has about 10% in toll roads from various countries. Both EMIF and IGF are in our ownership universe.

The above is just an example but breaking new portfolio ground has been important for the last ten years and will continue to be so which for some folks means things like toll road stocks from Asia and for other folks very specialized ETFs. Both are now accessible through innovation and evolution.

Back in the mid 1980s a portfolio of Philip Morris, Pepsico, IBM and Texaco did the job but that type of mix is nowhere near the one way bet it used to be and the ability to realize this and take advantage of modern tools available makes life and investing easier. We own the modern version of Philip Morris for clients and in my wife's Roth Ira.

Next is this screen grab of the Yahoo Finance widget I have on my desktop taken yesterday afternoon. On it I track the S&P 500 one ETF for each of the sectors (these funds are not necessarily ones I use in any client accounts) along with a few other things. It is an easy way to quickly know what is going on at the sector level during the day and whether foreign might be having a good day.

Needless to say that at that moment something was wrong. I do not know if it was a glitch at Yahoo or somewhere further up the line, but the data is clearly erroneous. This sort of thing happens in markets now and then with the most famous example being the flash crash from last May.

During the actual flash crash I made fun of it being a panic and that these things come along. Whatever is pictured to the left here, although after hours, is just as obviously erroneous. Just as there were no $50 ETFs really only worth a penny last May the Rydex Euro ETF did not go up 133% after hours yesterday. Both are equally silly and hopefully you recognize this sort if thing the next time the market has some sort of malfunction.

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

This article appears in: Investing , Investing Ideas

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Roger Nusbaum

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