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QUICKEN: Still The Best Tool For Keeping Track Of Your Money

I am a chronicler of minutiae by nature. A few years ago, I started keeping track of every book I read, with the list arranged chronologically, and then rearranged at the end of year in order from best (Vanity Fair) to worst (Water for Elephants).

Somewhere among my possessions is a tattered piece of paper with the first names of every guy I’ve ever kissed (this one is purely chronological).

Quicken is perfect for people like me; I like to keep some record of my life, but journaling is time-consuming, labor-intensive and, frankly, embarrassing. I don’t necessarily need to filter and examine every aspect of my life, but I do want to look back and have some idea of what I’ve been up to.

The way it works isn’t terribly complicated: You enter your income and expenses into the program, slotting the latter under various preset categories (groceries, clothing, gifts given). You can also include notes that provide a bit more detail (“Cheetos,” “psychedelic dress,” “wooden jigsaw puzzle – Mom’s birthday”). I like to be detailed, except when the charge is from CVS, because I can never remember what the hell I went in there for. I slot it under “grooming,” but it’s a guess.

The real magic (magic! my standards are low) comes once you’ve got a few months of expenses totted and jotted, which is when you can pull up all kinds of fancy charts. You can see your net worth rise and fall, you can break down all your spending by category, you can find out exactly how much money you’ve spent since the beginning of time (if the beginning of time coincides with your adoption of Quicken). You can compare income and expenses month by month, to make sure you are living within your means. Which bar is higher? By how much? Did the net worth dot go up or down this month? Try not to obsess.

Read the rest at The Billfold >


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At Least Facebook's Weak Stock Market Debut Stopped Short Sellers Latching On

Facebook Ipo

Facebook's weak stock market debut has a potential silver lining for the social media giant - some short sellers may have been scared off.

About 8.1 percent of the 421 million shares in the initial public offering were sold short as of May 31, about two weeks after its trading debut, according to a Reuters analysis of exchange data.

That percentage is lower than for Pandora Media Inc, LinkedIn Corp, Angie's List Inc and Groupon Inc - half of the other Internet companies that went public in the past year. And Google Inc, with which Facebook is often compared, attracted a much higher short interest in the first couple of weeks after its IPO in 2004.

Short sellers borrow stock and then sell it, betting that it will decline in value and that they can then buy it back more cheaply.

Facebook had a tough first few weeks of trading. Its debut was marred by technical glitches on Nasdaq and reports that analysts at top underwriters reduced their revenue and earnings forecasts only days before the offering. Its shares rose only 23 cents on opening day and in subsequent days fell as low as $25.52, 33 percent below the $38 offer price.

But short sellers, after initially sensing a chance to profit from negative market sentiment and Facebook's rich valuation, may have backed off as the shares plunged.

"The opportunity to make money on short selling is greatest when a stock is overvalued," said Jay Ritter, a University of Florida IPO expert who reviewed Reuters' analysis. When the price falls, it signals "time to take profits" because "the possibility of a further decline becomes smaller."

Among the companies that were more heavily shorted, LinkedIn's shares soared as much as 173 percent above their offer price on their first day; Groupon, 56 percent; Pandora Media, 62 percent; and Angie's List, 44 percent.

Facebook's stock price gain in the first few minutes of trading was limited to 18 percent before the decline set in.

DOESN'T MAKE SENSE

Steve Spencer began shorting Facebook at $32 per share the Tuesday after the public offering, but has since stopped. Indeed, Facebook's shares have recovered in the past two weeks to trade around $32 on Tuesday.

"The risk/reward doesn't make sense to me right now," said Spencer, who co-heads SMB Capital, a proprietary trading shop in New York. "If people wanted to make a bet on the short side, they were doing it in the mid-30s."

To be sure, in terms of the raw number of shares shorted, Facebook's initial short bets in the first two weeks of trading are bigger than those of any Internet company listing in the past year.

More than 34 million shares were sold short as of May 31, the latest date for which the data is available. But the figure is not surprising, given the size of Facebook's offering.

Some small investors have kept their Facebook shares, hoping they will bounce back.

"I didn't think it would do this badly," said Tony Allen, a Detroit real estate entrepreneur who bought 50 shares on the day of the offering at $42 and has watched his investment sink in value. He said he was holding on in the hopes of a "turnaround."

A Facebook spokesman declined to comment.

SHORTING COST SOARS

Initially, short sellers' demand for Facebook shares was so high it forced another barometer of bearish investor activity to skyrocket. The annual interest rate charged on the value of borrowed Facebook shares soared to more than 40 percent initially, said David Lewis, senior vice president at Astec Analytics, which tracks stock borrowing costs.

"Anything over 1 percent you consider to be quite special, and this was 40 percent," Lewis said. The interest rate has fallen quickly since and is now at around 0.6 percent, indicating a lot more stock is available for borrowing.

Reuters gauged the degree of shorting activity for stock listings similar to Facebook by calculating the percentage of their publicly listed shares that had been sold short following their IPO. Reuters' data comes from the stock exchanges, which publish short interest reports every two weeks, or for older listings, every month. Reports closest to IPO date were used for the analysis.

It is unclear what the short interest says about the stock's long-term prospects. "Outside of IPOs, almost all of the research indicates that short selling is a negative signal," said Ben Blau, a finance professor at Utah State University.

But IPOs are harder to call. Not every company that attracts a high degree of bearish investor sentiment ends up performing poorly.

For example, search engine Google attracted short bets that amounted to about 21 percent of its publicly listed shares shortly after its August 2004 offering - nearly triple that of Facebook. Yet from the beginning, Google defied the shorts: Priced at $85, its shares opened at $100, doubled by January 2005 and closed above $300 six months later - a level they have rarely breached since then. Google's stock was trading on Tuesday at around $582.

During the dotcom boom in the late 1990s, many stocks had higher early short interest levels than Facebook. They include companies that went on to thrive, like eBay Inc, as well as some that collapsed, such as Pets.com.

BORROWING INCREASE

The latest data from Astec opens up the possibility that short investors may have increased their negative bets on Facebook.

Astec estimates there are currently about 52.1 million Facebook shares on loan. That is up from 34.3 million on May 31, about the same as the shares reported short as of that date. If most of the shares now on loan are again shorted, it would indicate that Facebook's short interest could be as high as 12.4 percent.

(Editing by Martin Howell and Lisa Von Ahn)

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John McCain Rips The Billionaire Who Might Pledge An 'Unlimited' Amount Of Money To Mitt Romney

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Sen. John McCain appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday and continued to slam Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino mogul that recently announced his intention to spend a possibly "unlimited" amount of money to aid Mitt Romney against President Barack Obama in the 2012 election

It continued McCain's diatribe this week against Adelson and the Supreme Court's decision in the Citizens United case, which prevented government regulation of individual and corporate contributions to political campaigns and aided the rise of so-called super PACs.

Sunday, McCain measured his criticism more broadly, saying he was worried about "many others," and not just Adelson.

"I think there will be scandals as associated with the worst decision of the Supreme Court in the 21st century. [It was] uninformed, arrogant, naive," McCain said.

On Thursday, McCain appeared on PBS' "NewsHour," where he took specific aim at Adelson. Alone, Adelson has already spent more than $20 million on the 2012 election — first keeping Newt Gingrich's candidacy alive with more than $10 million in contributions to super PACs that supported Gingrich. Now, he's aiding Romney's candidacy in the general election. 

On PBS, McCain said it was troubling that Adelson was bringing "foreign money" into American elections, since a large chunk of Adelson's fortune was grown through foreign casinos. Here's the relevant part of the transcript:

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: Mr. Adelson, who gave large amounts of money to the Gingrich campaign. And much of Mr. Adelson's casino profits that go to him come from this casino in Macau.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Which says what?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: Which says that, obviously, maybe in a roundabout way, foreign money is coming into an American campaign -- political campaigns.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Because of the profits at the casinos in Macau?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: Yes. That is a great deal of money. And, again, we need a level playing field and we need to go back to the realization that Teddy Roosevelt had that we have to have a limit on the flow of money, and that corporations are not people.

That's why we have different laws that govern corporations than govern individual citizens. And so to say that corporations are people, again, flies in the face of all the traditional Supreme Court decisions that we have made -- that have been made in the past.

The comments on corporations are also a break from Romney. Last August in a now-famous clip, Romney clashed with some hecklers at an Iowa campaign speech and said, "Corporations are people, my friend." Romney, though, was not specifically referring to the issue of campaign contributions. 

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