Can you explain to an "average Joe" why statements from Alan Greenspan carry so much weight in the financial community? And if he knows his speeches can turn markets, why doesn't he say things that will only do good? — Joseph (Santa Barbara, CA)
The reason Greenspan's words carry so much weight is because even just a few of them can make the stock market rise or fall. But it's easy to forget that Greenspan's role is not to protect the stock market, it's to guard the economy's well-being, and the economy and the stock market are not one and the same. The trademark of Greenspan's stewardship of the Fed has been his vigilance against what he considers to be the economy's bogeyman: inflation. Controlling inflation means raising interest rates; raising interest rates usually makes the stock market go down. Critics maintain this has meant keeping too tight a lid on the economy; his defenders say it is responsible fiscal policy.
Either way, Greenspan has a tendency to speak in language so obtuse that even professional investors and policy wonks don't know quite what he is trying to say. This could be his way of making market reactions less dramatic; it does that, and it also provides for plenty of fodder for the talk show circuit.
What advice would you give to one interested in becoming a financial adviser? I am a 54-year-old retiree who lives well and is looking for something to do. You have a great show! — R. Tamayo
You're not alone. Many more people are pursuing part- or full-time work well into retirement, often choosing to pursue different fields entirely. And you've clearly got a passion for the markets (not to mention great taste in business news shows). While it may seem like this field is dominated by big financial services firms, it's actually still dominated by independent practitioners. It will take some work though: while most states don't set any standard for certification or training, you should seriously consider becoming a Certified Financial Planner (CFP). Start your research at the Web site of the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, which provides a directory of education programs throughout the U.S.(www.cfp.net). It will take some time and hard work, but if you're up for the challenge, it can be a rewarding business, both financially and personally.
Will the hurricanes and flooding have a negative impact on the housing market? I would think that it would actually cause a surge being that people who are displaced need to rebuild or relocate. What are your thoughts? — Julia, Reading, PA
You're right. The effects of Katrina and Rita are not likely to have a tangible effect on the overall housing market, but the exodus of residents from the affected areas will, and is already having a localized positive impact on pockets of the Southeast. The surge is already driving up sales and rental prices 10 to 50 percent in both residential and commercial markets in areas like Baton Rouge, La., Mobile, Ala., and Pensacola, Fla. But be careful before trying to go flip a condo in these regions: many of these markets, like the rest of the country, were hot already, and any boom could well be short-lived as residents and companies are likely to start returning to New Orleans and the other affected areas in a year or so.
What's your opinion regarding the transportation sector, especially during our current fuel shortage? — Jaime
Fuel prices have obviously hit this sector hard, but look at it this way — fuel prices are always a big risk with transportation stocks. High prices are now a certainty instead of a risk, and are factored into the price of the stocks. And yes, while the weaker players will likely suffer more, for contrarian investors this is a good time to buy the leaders here, like Paccar, Norfolk Southern and Burlington Northern Santa Fe.
Are the insurers (ex. Allstate) or re-insurers (ex. Montpelier Holdings) good plays during natural disasters? — Jeff (Cardiff-by-the-Sea, CA)
Sure, it seems like insurers are going to have rough seas ahead given the claims that are already pouring in from hurricanes Rita and Katrina. When insurance companies are faced with disasters they pay out more claims, which draws down their levels of capital. But as a result, they don't write as many policies, which means consumers will pay more for them. Another plus — there are a finite number of companies in this businesss, and in reinsurance too. Finally, don't forget that one big result of natural disasters is that everyone usually loads up on more insurance afterwards. As in transportation, there's opportunity here too. Allstate, for one, is down 12 percent from its 52-week high.
Tune in this weekend for more with Leigh Gallagher and the entire FNC business team on "The Cost of Freedom," Saturday starting at 10am ET.
Leigh Gallagher is a senior writer for SmartMoney magazine and a regular on "Cavuto on Business".