Twitter and Facebook are revolutionizing stock trading, said Ariana Eunjung Cha in The Washington Post. Wall Street analysts are increasingly incorporating data from social media and Internet search trends into their investment strategies. Five years ago, 2 percent of investment firms used “unstructured” data in trading decisions, such as scanning comments on Amazon to predict sales or tallying job listings on Monster.com to discern hiring trends. Today, “that number is closer to 50 percent.” Digital data is so valuable, according to the World Economic Forum, that it qualifies as a new class of economic asset, like oil. London hedge-fund manager Paul Hawtin monitors millions of Twitter postings each day. When tweets trend happy, he buys; when they trend anxious, he sells. His fund was up more than 7 percent in the first quarter. “Big data is fundamentally changing how we trade,” said financial services consultant Adam Honoré.
Tax breaks for your bucket list
Whether it’s sailing around the world, hiking the Appalachian Trail, or learning Japanese, chances are your bucket-list items are tax deductible, said Kelly Phillips Erb in Forbes. Expenses for a boat used as a second home can be claimed on your taxes, as long as your vessel has “sleeping, cooking, and toilet facilities.” So can travel expenses incurred “in the service of a legitimate tax-exempt charity,” such as with a trail-clearing volunteer group in North Carolina. Costs of learning a foreign language can be offset with a Lifetime Learning tax credit worth up to $2,000, and those who have dreamed of writing “the next great American novel” can deduct expenses—if there’s any associated income.
Europe’s biggest bargain
“Poland’s stock market has gotten temptingly cheap,” said Jack Hough in SmartMoney.com. Shares there have dropped 45 percent over the past year because the economy is closely tied to the euro. But the country “is in better shape than its stock prices suggest.” The economy is expected to grow 2.5 percent this year, the fastest rate in the European Union, and the government projects a lower budget deficit for 2013. The Polish currency, the zloty, has been hammered by European volatility, but it has also helped Poland become a hub for low-cost manufacturing. Risks remain, but overall, the Polish market’s “valuations are much lower and the long-term outlook is brighter” than in other countries on the Continent.