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What the experts say

IPO imports; Tracking your dollars; Holiday shopping: Wait

IPO importsInitial public offerings are “back in a big way,” with the hottest ones coming in emerging markets, said Barbara Kollmeyer in Marketwatch.com. The recent debut of the Brazilian arm of Spain’s Banco Santander SA, on both the São Paulo and New York stock exchanges, raised about $8 billion—making it the “biggest IPO in the world to date.” Meanwhile, Chinese offerings alone represented about 63 percent of global IPO dollars in the third quarter. “For U.S. investors, it’s worth paying attention to what these markets are offering, though outright buying of new companies is a tricky proposition.” That’s especially true when foreign companies decide to list their IPOs on their own country’s exchanges, as many are now doing. Even when a company does opt to list on a U.S. exchange, “retail investors rarely get the best price.”

Tracking your dollarsOver the past couple of years, millions of Americans have started “playing accountant” with their own finances, using free websites that do everything from categorize expenses to monitor cash flow, said Anne Kadet in SmartMoney. These sites all look very similar—and the “goofy” names don’t help set them apart—but there are key differences. Wesabe.com, for one, is a winner if you’re looking for financial “advice and support.” QuickenOnline.com is great for managing cash flow; it analyzes previous transactions to make balance forecasts, and warns you if you’re spending too much, too soon. If your biggest concern is knowing exactly where your money goes, however, you’ll get the most detailed and “fascinating” look at your finances using Mint.com. Quicken’s parent company, Intuit, recently bought the site, and for now it focuses on offering “insight over advice.”

Holiday shopping: WaitThe holiday shopping season got off to an early start this year, said AnnaMaria Andriotis in SmartMoney. Hoping to win back wary consumers, some retailers started decking the halls and rolling out holiday discounts as early as July. “Bah, humbug!” It’s still best to wait until after Thanksgiving to buy. In anticipation of slower business, retailers have ordered much less inventory than they did last year—so they won’t unveil the real deals until they begin to get a handle on what’s actually selling. If you’re worried that a particular item on your list will sell out, plan to buy no later than mid-November. But if you’re looking for a serious deal, you’ll see the biggest bargains a few days before Christmas, when merchandise is typically 75 percent off.

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