How to Trade ETFs for Free

by Nicholas Vardy
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As The Oxford Club's ETF Strategist, I have a challenging job.

Each day, I comb through hundreds of exchange-traded funds (ETFs) trading on U.S. stock markets by applying a dozen proprietary algorithms displayed on several trading screens.

I call this collection of screens my "ETF cockpit."

Like a pilot tracking the ever-changing flying conditions from his cockpit, I monitor the movements of almost every asset class in the world through ETFs.

That's how I know that both the British pound and Egyptian stocks are in a bull market...

And that coffee is in one of its biggest bear markets ever.

The task of monitoring these ETFs is complicated and ever-changing.

That's because more than 80 ETFs - or their functional equivalents, exchange-traded notes (ETNs) - have been launched already in 2018.

That works out to one new ETF for each trading day.

Welcome to the World of Commission-Free ETF Investing

I've written before about how the flexibility of ETFs allows you to construct any kind of portfolio you want.

I've compared ETFs to Lego blocks, which allow you to build, brick by brick, a portfolio to fit your specific investment objectives.

Whatever the asset class, whatever the investment theme, whatever the current direction of the market... there's probably an ETF you can invest in.

Early on, the knock against ETFs was that they just didn't make financial sense if you regularly invested only a small amount of money.

Take this example...

Let's say that at the end of every month, you had $50 to invest.

This amount was more than enough to buy a share in a well-diversified ETF.

But here was the challenge...

Even if you had paid just a $4.95 commission, almost 10% of your $50 would have gone toward commissions rather than your investment.

Investing in a no-load mutual fund with no minimum investment requirement was a much better deal.

To their credit, the major online brokerage firms soon recognized this problem.

That's why today, most of the major ones - Charles Schwab, E-Trade, Fidelity and TD Ameritrade - offer ETFs that you can trade for free.

Schwab ETF OneSource now offers 254 commission-free ETFs from 16 providers.

E-Trade is not far behind, with 225 commission-free ETFs.

Fidelity is the laggard, with only 93 commission-free ETFs.

But the king of the ETF hill is Firstrade Securities.

This lesser-known brokerage firm recently announced that its clients can now trade more than 700 ETFs for free.

And the list includes low-expense ETFs from Vanguard, iShares, SPDR State Street and First Trust, among others.

Here's one thing to keep in mind...

These commission-free platforms are meant to encourage regular, long-term savers.

They are not intended for speculators betting on the direction of the market today or next week.

That's why commission-free platforms often exclude "speculative" leveraged ETFs.

It's also why you have to hold on to each ETF for at least 30 days...

Because if you don't follow the rules, you'll be charged a hefty commission.

The Single Biggest Downside of ETF Investing

The advantages ETFs have over mutual funds are overwhelming.

ETFs are more liquid, cheaper to own and more flexible.

And today, you can trade many of them for free.

ETFs, however, do have one big downside...

With so many ETFs out there, how do you separate the wheat from the chaff?

As The Oxford Club's ETF Strategist, my job is to guide you through this complicated maze.

I've already highlighted some of my favorite ETF investment themes in recent weeks, including robotics and artificial intelligence, timber, lithium - and even the world's cheapest stocks.

Stay on the lookout for even more exciting opportunities in the weeks ahead...

Good investing,

Nicholas

Shaking Up Soda

Just as ETFs have shaken up the mutual fund market, so too has SodaStream (Nasdaq: SODA) shaken up the carbonated beverage market.

Since adding it to his Prime System Trader portfolio in February, Emerging Trends Strategist Matthew Carr has seen incredible gains. Here's the latest...

In February, SodaStream (Nasdaq: SODA) released fourth quarter earnings.

Revenue jumped 20% to $157.7 million as earnings per share (EPS) increased 58% to $1.13.

Sales increased 18.9% in Western Europe, 20.7% in the Americas and 30.6% in Asia. And sales of its Sparkling Water Maker Starter Kit grew more than 26%.

This segment accounted for 45% of total revenue in the quarter. So the company is continuing to catch that tail wind with the push away from soft drinks and sodas.

The results topped analysts' estimates, and our shares popped 4.8% on the beat. That makes the fourth straight year SodaStream shares have risen at least 4.6% on that fourth quarter report. And they set a new 52-week high yesterday of $86.75.

Looking ahead, the home carbonated beverage system manufacturer expects 2018 revenue to be $543.4 million.

We're already up more than 20% on our SodaStream shares. And our July $85 calls are in the money, up more than 100%.

- Donna DiVenuto-Ball with Matthew Carr

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