Review: Skyfall

James Bond: Skyfall is garnering excellent reviews including this one.

I was able to catch Skyfall on the big screen. I usually watch movies at home and this was a break from tradition because of a Bond movie that was worth a four-year wait.

I really did enjoy the movie with its action, sex and espionage that epitomizes Bond films. However, a lot of the high praise by critics that it is one of the best Bond films ever remains to be seen. I suppose when I watch Skyfall for a second time I will be able to appreciate some of the finer points of the film.  

I suppose the rave reviews are gathering steam from the record-breaking box office numbers.  The film has made $427 million as of November 8! But is box office draw the best way to measure a movie's success?

I, for one, thought that there were too many scenes like the bike chase and the train-top tussle that was a little too far-fetched. Still, the Bond movie was good enough to make most movie-goers very happy. The opening credits with the song by Adele really set the tone for a one-of-a-kind Bond experience.

Craig's depiction of Bond has been rather different and in this his third James Bond movie Daniel Craig is looking a rare emotional side of 007 not explored in previous flicks.

There was talk that Sean Connery was considered to play the Scottish gamekeeper Kincade. Albert Finney did a fine job in the role, but I couldn't help but wonder the splash that would have been created it Connery were to have made a cameo in this film.

How to trade bonds like a pro

Bond know-how that you couldn't find anywhere else.

Before deciding the liquidity of a bond or its credit spread, investors need a bond trading brokerage account. tradeMONSTER is a fairly sophisticated trading platform that enables traders to trade around 30,000 bonds.

The best way to trade bonds is to do it like bond traders do sans the advanced equipment of course: juggle bond price watching with studying the market for any news that will affect it.

The bond market can be nothing short of bewildering at times and it is important to keep your sanity in the highs and lows of bond trading. It is necessary to keep it simple to be most effective.

There arbitrage opportunities that come about when an astute trade identifies a bond with a higher yield than usual or a similar scenario. I guess the easy thing to do is to look at what Morgan Stanley, UBS, Credit Suisse, BNP Paribas, etc are doing with their bond trades. In addition, look at smaller shops too such as the Goshen, Indiana based Everence Financial and foreign banks like the French Credit Agricole Securities.

As always, when I touch on these 'How to' topics, I never forget to leave a certain something for people aspiring to pursue it as a career to peruse. Being a bond trader, enables you to be well compensated in a hard to enter field which requires a quantitative background and a prestigious degree from a top ranked university.

Also, get on LinkedIn and Mashable and see what sort of skills (software, technical, etc) it requires to have a successful bond trading career.

Why James Bond is so appealing to women

These are some characteristics that all men will profit from adopting.

Bond is extremely confident and a self-confident man has a lot of sex appeal. Why I say that all men will profit from stuff like Bond's calm demeanor is because when you speak slowly and deliberately in an interview setting, employers are more likely to find you an attractive candidate.

The other thing Bond has going for him which women love is that he is well-educated, knowledgeable  and has the potential to make a lot of money. Add this to the fact that he drives around in an Aston Martin and throws away a lot of dough in casinos and we get a high-roller. But these are the type of men that women want short-term relationships with.

Still, you have to agree that Bond is funny and this is another attractive trait. Humor actually shows intelligence and women love that too. Along with Bond being very masculine and able to survive and thrive, regardless of what comes at him.

I know that a lot of that is fictional, but one thing is not. James Bond actors have been over 6 feet tall and this is very appealing. I was watching Casino Royale with a female friend and she couldn't stop talking about his buff physique. Athletic men bring home the bacon and also the women.

James Bond is so cool and has taught me a thing or two about getting the ladies and also achieving my goals.

Treasury bonds down

QE3 negatively affecting yields.

The Federal Reserve's most recent monetary stimulus has negatively impacted Treasury bonds. As part of its QE3, the Fed is looking to buy $40 billion in mortgage-backed securities every month in an attempt to maintain low interests until 2015. But investors selling off treasuries is generating the opposite effect in terms of the Fed's goal of lowering interest rates. Investors are now allocating more money toward stocks, corporate bonds and commodities. 

With these developments in the bond market, it is expected for inflation to rise over the long-term. The 10-year yield of Treasury bonds is expected to hit two percent according to the investment banking bulge bracket Goldman Sachs. 2013 will also see the Treasury bond market take further hits. 

Fed chief Ben Bernanke's job looks to be in serious jeopardy if Mitt Romney becomes President because the Republican candidate has been very open about his dislike of the Fed's policies in the last four years and has stated that changes will come. Moreover, the Romney campaign must be licking their lips by the Fed's latest monetary policy move that has backfired on them. 

But the rally into stocks may be what the Fed wanted after all as they may want investors to move fixed-income securities to growth-oriented ones. The private sector will then be greatly assisted and mortgage rates will reduce making consumers happy to spend more. This is important because there is a threat that the U.S. economy will fall back into another recession with spending programs and tax breaks that could expire at that time. 

Junk bond market is doing very well

This might be due to investors being ready for more risk.

Wall Street will always find avenues to make money regardless of problems with the stock market or other investing strategies. This time the way that some people in Wall Street are capitalizing is through junk bonds. The high-yield bonds are giving investors as much as 10.2 percent in returns.

But as always, by the time you read this the junk bond market will have fallen. The state pensions, mutual funds and individual investors are taking on a lot of risk to get the returns that they are craving for their bond portfolios.

But nowadays, the junk bond market is very different from back in the 1980s. Finance professionals might remember Michael R. Milken who first started issuing these junk bonds to ensure that his investment bank Drexel Burnham Lambert could pay for hostile takeovers.

Today, the situation is not the same as a lot of the yields on the junk bonds are not that high. The average is about 6.6 percent, which is fairly low given the risk of default. But even this risk of default may be nonexistent as companies are now using the debt to do things like refinance their balance sheets as opposed to leveraged buy-outs.

Standard & Poor’s had a report in 2011 that stated that only 2.8 percent of junk bond issuers defaulted and this is good news for investors who want a secure return. It seems like junk bonds are not as risky as they used to be and investors who are looking to make a quick buck may not be too happy with this development.

Global economic problems cause bond prices to rise

A look at the bond market again after two consecutive posts on James Bond

The Chinese trade data that was forecasted turned out to be weaker than expected and has brought about fears for the global economic outlook. Additionally, the Treasury had its quarterly refunding where $72 billion in coupon-bearing securities were auctioned off.

More investors are buying U.S. government debt possibly as a response to the economic problems in Europe. The debt crisis in Europe is still an ongoing issue and now there is talk of Italy and Spain needing large financial bailouts. Even Germany is predicted to go into a recession in 2012.

The July jobs report was favorable for the U.S. economy, but it is not enough. Many economists expect the Federal Reserve to step in to help in encouraging growth. Treasury yields have kept creeping up, but analysts have reaffirmed there will be a cap at the two percent mark.

With the Standard and Poor’s downgrade, it was expected that U.S. Treasury yields would no longer be at those low levels that we are accustomed to. But this has definitely not been the case and the stock market still seems to be the best place for U.S. investors.

The bond prices went up after some losses earlier on in the week. Still, they have been moving around the 1.50 – 1.90 percent range. I guess the U.S. bond market will continue to serve as a safe investment for your money when the rest of the globe is in economic crisis especially with the slow growth that was recorded in the Chinese economy.

London 2012: The Queen makes movie debut!

The opening ceremony saw the Queen make her acting debut in a spoof James Bond sequence

The London Olympics gives me yet another reason to talk about James Bond this week and I could not be more delighted. The Queen and James Bond star Daniel Craig were part of the classic British opening ceremony for the 2012 Olympic Games that cost an estimated $54 million.

James Bond escorts The Queen to the London 2012 Olympic Games - BBC

I don’t think the video by the BBC above works in the United States, but I included it here anyway. This link should give you a chance to take a look at the very entertaining video of the Queen’s movie debut.

They were part of a ceremony that included Jetpacks and the Harry Potter villain Lord Voldemort too. The Queen actually has a great sense of humor and is known to crack a joke to ease the nerves of some guests. The Queen has also been to premieres of two James Bond movies – Casino Royale that starred Daniel Craig and Die Another Day that starred the previous Bond, Pierce Brosnan. Additionally, in 2007, she visited Pinewood Studios that is a set for the James Bond movies.

But the part where the Queen and James Bond skydive into the Olympic stadium – stunt doubles of course – was my favorite part of the whole Danny Boyle production. The other scene I liked of the two was when the Queen addressed Daniel Craig in Buckingham Palace with that eminent greeting “Good evening, Mr. Bond.”

I have been finding it rather difficult to get a link online to the entire opening ceremony, but I thought I will leave you today with some pictures of the ceremony. I hope you enjoy them!

Take a lesson from James Bond

Casual attitude toward serious business.

I thought that the usual talk of bonds - financial bonds, that is, was getting a bit boring around here - so I decided to change it up a bit and talk about our favorite agent 007. But I will still keep it within the bounds of business.

I always felt that the James Bond movies really helped me in the way I approached life and investing and business as a whole. I guess a lot of people agree with this and it should come as no surprise. But a New York Times article appropriately titled “Why C.E.O.’s Need a Dose of James Bond” that confirmed this notion really hit home.

The way James Bond goes about his business - which is often very serious and involves ‘saving the world’ – in a casual manner is actually a good business lesson for all the people who get stressed out or overwhelmed with pending projects and tasks that have not been finished.

I especially liked Sean Connery as James Bond and even Daniel Craig fits the bill really well. My favorite movies were Diamonds are Forever and Goldfinger. On the subject of Goldfinger, even the villains in the James Bond movies are great role models for people looking to succeed at a high level in life even as sinister as they and their plans may be.

The point is that Bond always had a good time even during crises. He made sure to relax every night by having a drink and also go out on dates with those voluptuous females that make Bond movies such must-sees. This is an important lesson. Everyone has to enjoy themselves because tomorrow is really not guaranteed and when you're chasing big things, there will be times of misery and you will then have to put things in perspective.

Bond talk

Recent developments in the bond market and what you as an investor can do about it.

In 2011, it was bonds that were among the strong performers for investors. Municipal bonds were the way to go and if you had been watching the Suze Orman show then you would have had them in your portfolio. Experts have warned that there could be a collapse in the bond market this year. Let’s explore this further.

Shrewd investors have been warned that bonds may no longer be suitable for them. But, if you are really looking at a diversified portfolio, then bonds have to be part of it to mitigate risk. The real threat to the value of bonds is that of interest rates going up. But when you really think about it, bond yields have been falling for the past three decades.

Moreover, there was a low that was reached in January 2012 with a 1.8 percent low in 10-year treasury yields. Investors will have to concentrate on supervising their bond portfolios as the asset class should not be abandoned entirely. I know that investors have many options in front of them and they could shift their portfolio to having more dividend paying stocks.

But this will lead them to having more equity market risk. This is not a good thing and it depends on your appetite for risk too. For instance, retirees depend on a constant income stream and taking on more risk is not ideal for them. Bond ladders are something that investors should look into as well as they generate and income and provide flexibility.

The bond market is always going to serve an important purpose for investors as bonds generate income and offer diversification from equities.

Barclays sells $2 billion of covered bonds in the U.S.

Barclays is capitalizing on the growing U.S. Market

Five-year covered bonds at 2.352 percent were sold by Barclays for $2 billion. The bond was priced at 153 basis points over the Treasury rate. Covered bonds are actually great for investors because they are a form of secured debt. Because of this added security, the covered bonds have triple-A ratings.

Annual issuance of these covered bonds has gone up tremendously from $6 billion in 2003 to $49 billion just last year. The trend has continued in 2012 as well with $32 billion issued from January to April. Europe has been fraught with its debt problems and people around the globe are looking at the United States as the spot for covered debt. The covered debt market has actually been growing a lot in America, but it has its origins in Europe over the last two hundred years.

According to Dealogic, Barclays actually sold a covered bond in the United States less than two years ago. This sale consisted of $1 billion of five-year notes that had a 2.5 percent coupon. The bonds were priced at 109.5 basis points over the Treasury rate.

Barclays underwrote this covered bond deal along with other bulge bracket banks UBS, HSBC and Citigroup. Additionally, the Barclays bonds are insured by residential owner-occupied mortgage loans in the United Kingdom.

Further, strategists at J.P. Morgan have found that the dollar market for covered bonds is around $142 billion. This is actually only 6 percent of the $2.5 trillion covered bond market in the world. The U.S. should expect more desire for funding since the European investors are faced with so much volatility.