Previous gold FAQs section - 'Trading gold futures'

Click here if you have accessed this page directly from a search engine and would like to review the entire site.


Go straight to your editor's recommendation at the foot of this report.


Jewellery has two advantages and many big disadvantages. 

The advantages are :-

The disadvantages are :-

Jewellery is a profitable business for those who buy at wholesale and sell at retail.  It also works for people who have a good feel for fashion, and the time to trawl through catalogues finding stuff which maybe they can re-sell.  But it's a poor way of investing in gold.

If - nevertheless - you choose to invest in gold through jewellery the best advice must be to avoid the retail mark-ups as far as possible by buying at auction, where buying premiums (the fee paid to the auction room) is typically 10 - 15%.  Alternatively seek out parts of the world like Dubai where it is possible to buy gold not too far from its bullion value.  There machine made chains are sometimes sold as little as 20% above bullion content. Take care though, you might find it difficult to transport in any serious quantity without tax and security implications.

Bullion coins and small bars

Gold coins come in two general classifications (i) numismatic coins and (ii) bullion coins.  A numismatic coin has a price which doesn't relate to its bullion value so much as rarity and desirability for collectors.  A bullion coin, on the other hand fairly accurately shadows the bullion price.

Small bars behave similarly to bullion coins.

Advantages of bullion coins and small bars

Disadvantages of bullion coins and small bars

Coins and small bars can be an appropriate gold investment method for sums from $100 to $10,000 especially for people whose view is long term and for whom physical possession is all.  In this range it would be typical to suppose dealing costs, delivery and ownership costs in the 10-15% range overall. 


Big bars

The world's professional gold market trades 400 toz bars, equivalent to about 12 kilograms a piece.

Advantages of buying big bars :-

Disadvantages of big bars :-

Big bar trading is reserved for big companies and institutions.  It is competitively priced but inaccessible to the private investor.

A list of LBMA members who participate in this market is available at

The Gold Fix

The OTC market

Gold is traded OTC - which means 'Over The Counter'.  Buyers and sellers choose each other without the benefit of an exchange floor.

Buying gold at this level is more like shopping in an exclusive shopping mall than trading in a modern financial marketplace.  You try one shop, then the next, and choose whichever supplier suits you best, without knowing what amazing prices the other traders are offering at the instant you trade.

It is a system very different from a modern exchange.  The structure derives in part from a simpler world of 150 years ago. 

Then, if dealer A sold and delivered gold to dealer B and B's cheque failed to clear the bank, it was a problem only for A.  No-one would hear of A calling for rescue from other market participants (never mind them offering it).  As a result A and B may both be lost to the world, and everyone else would be fine.  The survivors would say that A should have been more careful about his counterparty's creditworthiness, and for a while the solidity of their own financial management would become a priority for all firms.

These self-regulating forces provided periodic encouragement to market to keep its house in order, and leads to an important advantage with an OTC market structure - participant isolation.

In a modern exchange based system there is far more interdependency.  An exchange centres on a clearer which usually has regulatory and credit responsibility for the exchange's members.  The clearer itself is a key point of systemic weakness in an exchange based system, and it would in most cases destroy the market and the livelihoods of many of its participants were a clearer to fail. 

Most modern investors consider it highly improbable that the clearing element of a modern exchange could be at risk, but it most certainly is.  Modern exchange clearers sit at the centre of an elaborate credit structure holding very large book positions of their members' assets as 'margin' cover against much larger overall gross liabilities.

So although OTC is different - and dated - it is not necessarily just plain daft.  These things revolve in cycles, and maybe an OTC market will still be around after a substantial credit unwinding of the type which usually comes along and wipes out the financially adventurous every few decades.

Nevertheless, because it lacks an exchange floor a problem of the physical gold market is that it doesn't easily tell the world a current price.  Modern investors expect real time price discovery, but the best the traditional bullion market in London can manage is the gold 'fix'.

The fix itself ...

The gold fix is an alternate mechanism of price discovery which is designed to allow gold traders to trade at a fair market price.  It's basic mechanism is to concentrate all the liquidity in the market into two fifteen minute windows - at 10am and 3pm each day (London time).

About five professional gold market participants in London conduct what amounts to an elegant private auction, which establishes the price at which the number of professional gold buyers matches the number of professional gold sellers. The professionals will be acting both on their own behalf and for those customers of theirs who have issued orders for them to trade at the 'fix'.

The process itself requires the chair to quote a price.  Then there is a bit of a scramble while all those present work out if they and their customers are net buyers or sellers at the chair price.  If on balance the fixers declare as buyers then the chair has another go with a higher price.  If they declare as sellers the process is re-run at a lower price.  Eventually they come into equilibrium.

The resulting price is the gold fix, which is declared twice a day and published widely in newspapers, on the internet and on teletext services, and it is a good guide to the value of gold at that instant. On the internet you can see it at

If you've enough money to be involved (usually $500,000) then on the face of it the fix is an incredibly efficient market.  Buying through one of the central fix market makers will probably cost 25 cents up on the fix price.  Sellers - surprisingly - might receive 5 cents above the fix too!    So that's a 20 cent spread on a $400 price, which is less than 0.05% - almost unbelievably tight pricing for a major financial market.

But there's some funny stuff going on.  The problem here is the conflict of interest that exists between principals and agents.  As a gold buyer you will open your book to one of the players in the gold fix who will act in both roles - allegedly trying to get a bargain price for you, while at the same time benefiting by setting the price high.  A great many other individuals and institutions are all opening their book at the same time.  It doesn't need an enormous brain to work out that if most customers are buyers - and the swing producer with the gold fix seat knows if this is the case - his own profits are enhanced by not declaring as a seller until the chair price has gone up a bit.

So profits are earned for the fixers not from the 20 cent spread but by being in the know about how many customers want to buy, and by adjusting the price accordingly during the auction.  It produces hidden dealing profits for the participants, and bad pricing for those who run with the crowd in their trading patterns.  With the 'fix' the majority will always lose to the central market making principals.

Advantages of the gold fix:-

Disadvantages of the gold fix:-

The Spot Market

For gold the world's quoted 'spot' market is unusual.

When you buy aluminium, or corn, or foreign currency on their respective spot markets the deal is that seller will make delivery within a few days, and you will go to an agreed location and collect what you have bought in return for your payment.

You will not have that privilege with your spot gold purchase on the world's gold markets.  When you turn up with your bank draft you will receive nothing.  This is because spot market gold is now by convention 'unallocated'.

There's quite a lot about unallocated gold - not all of it very flattering - further down this report and elsewhere on this site, so we won't go into it any deeper here.  Instead we'll just talk about spot gold.

The most important thing about spot gold is that because it is not ordinarily delivered or even in physical form it is cheaper than real physical gold and can be bought in multiples which are not ordinarily deliverable.  This will suit those who trust banks' long term credit control capabilities and just want some price exposure to gold.

Advantages of the spot market:-

Disadvantages of the spot market:-

Gold mining shares

Shares in gold mines are a popular way of investing in gold.

Advantages of gold mining shares:-

Disadvantages of gold mining shares:-

Gold shares are potentially risky but simultaneously an exciting investment.  They tend to be reasonably correlated to gold prices but typically much more volatile, and subject to many variations which are independent of bullion market forces.

There are far too many of them to keep track of, and anyway individual analysis is well beyond the scope of this site.  Fortunately stockbrokers will usually perform this function willingly, and many of them post their analysis - or at any rate a teaser - on The Gold Report's Analyst Section.

Mining shares might be considered an appropriate gold vehicle investment for sums from $5,000 range upwards, but investors should remember the gearing and invest appropriately less than they would in bullion.  Buying and selling costs vary from market to market. Not uncommon is a spread of 2% (lower for the bigger mining companies) and transaction costs of 1-1.5% each way.  Combined, the trading costs would amount to up to 4-5% of the capital cost for each investment undertaken.


The internet spawned e-gold (it spawned e-everything). In fact, e-gold is pretty close to straight gold, and a good thing too!

The basis of e-gold is that international debts, and even some domestic debts, can be paid more efficiently in gold than in foreign currencies, which have to be converted back into host currency through the bank.  So wherever a supplier and a customer both have an e-gold account they can transfer ownership of gold between themselves across the internet, and this constitutes payment. 

To get started you use your own currency to buy grams of gold.  Real gold is delivered into a depository, and is credited to your own e-gold account.  You then get a secure internet identity, and thereafter you can instruct your e-gold provider to debit your e-gold account in favour of your supplier - another account holder in the system.  Whatever you have bought from them is delivered to you independently.

It is primarily a payments system, but it doubles as a route for owning and storing gold.

Advantages of e-gold :-

Disadvantages of e-gold

This is a useful internet way of owning real gold. Although the up-front costs are significant they may pay themselves back - particularly if you are going to hold gold for a considerable period.  Through the custody charging policy alone it makes for a cost-effective long term reserve against calamity. 

Some of the providers allow you to freeze an account.  This is a useful extra facility which allows you to be a bit more relaxed about the internet access issue.



Advantages of gold futures:-

Disadvantages of gold futures:-

Seeing where the costs are in futures trading is not easy to do.  A $10,000 margin down-payment could probably finance a notional $500,000 gold future purchase, and transaction costs would be very small.  But the position would be very thin on margin, and even a touch of weakness in the gold price would see the $10,000 lost. 

A more conservative approach would allow some tolerance of a market moving the wrong way.  If a $10,000 down-payment financed a $100,000 position successfully for a year the costs assimilated over the period would include the commissions (four sales and four purchases) 4 trading spreads on a notional $100,000 position, and the loss of interest on the margin.  On the most generous interpretation this will cost about $1,000 - i.e. about 1% of the notional principal but a high 10% of the down-payment.  After adding the marked effects of predictable volatility as the contracts are rolled forward, and the depleting differential between the spot and futures prices, the trading costs could be significantly higher.  Do not be fooled into thinking you are saving the cost of financing the trade.  It's in that depleting price.

For investors who are prepared to underwrite for a short period the systemic risks of derivatives gold futures remain a sensible and cost effective way of executing a short term gold punt.

Finding gold futures dealers is easily done on any search engine using phrases like 'commodities broker', 'futures broker', 'commodities exchange', 'gold futures' etc.  Commodities trading businesses are some of the most prolific advertisers on the web.

Futures in depth ...

The following section of the report looks in greater detail at:

Systemic failure
Automatic instability
The stop loss
The hidden financing cost
Private investor psychology
Trading costs - % of what ?
Well hidden rollover & closure costs

The risk of systemic failure

Gold is bought as the ultimate defensive investment. Many gold buyers seek to defend themselves, and even make large profits, from a global economic shock which might be disastrous to many other people. Indeed many gold investors fear financial meltdown occurring as a result of the over-extended global credit base - a significant part of which is derivatives.

The paradox in investing in gold futures is that a future is itself a 'derivative' instrument constructed on about 98% pure credit. There are many speculators involved in the commodities market and any rapid and significant movement in the gold price is likely to be reflecting financial carnage somewhere else. Both the clearer and the exchange could find themselves unable to collect vital margin on open positions of all kinds of commodities, so a gold investor might make enormous book profits which could not be paid as busted participants defaulted in such numbers that individual clearers and even the exchange itself were unable to make good the losses.

This sounds like panic-mongering, but it is an important commercial consideration. It is inevitable that the commodity exchange which comes to dominate through good times and healthy markets will be the one which offers the most competitive margin [credit] terms to brokers. To be attractive the brokers must pass on this generosity to their customers - i.e. by extending generous trading multiples over deposited margin. So the level of credit extended in a futures market will tend to the maximum which has been safe in the recent past, and any exchange which set itself up more cautiously will have already withered and died.

The futures exchanges we see around us today are those whose appetite for risk has most accurately trodden the fine line between aggressive risk taking and occasional appropriate caution.  There is no guarantee that the next management step will not be just a bit too brave.

Automatic instability

In normal markets a falling price encourages buyers who pressure the price up, and a rising price encourages sellers who pressure the price down. This is relatively stable. But successful futures exchanges offer low margin percentages (of about 2% for gold) and to compensate for this apparent risk the exchange's member firms must reserve the right to close out any loss-making customers.

In other words a rapidly falling market can force selling, which further depresses the price, while a rapidly rising price forces buying which further raises the price, and either scenario has the potential to produce a runaway spiral. This is manageable for extremely long periods of time, but it is an inherent danger of the futures set-up.

The stop-loss

Many futures broking firms offer investors a stop loss facility. It might come in a guaranteed form or on a 'best endeavours' basis without the guarantee. The idea is to attempt to limit the damage of a trading position which is going bad.

The theory of a stop loss seems reasonable, but in practice it can be painful. The problem is that just as trading in this way can prevent a big loss it can also make the investor susceptible to large numbers of smaller and unnecessary losses which can be even more damaging in the long term.

On a quiet day market professionals will start to move their prices just to create a little action. It works. The trader marks his price rapidly lower, for no good reason. If there are any stop losses out there this forces a broker to react to the moving price by closing off his investor's position under a stop loss agreement. In other words the trader's markdown can encourage a seller. The opportunist trader therefore picks up stop loss stock for a cheap price and immediately marks the price up to try and 'touch off' another stop loss on the buy side as well. If it works well he can simulate volatility on an otherwise dull day, and panic the stop losses out of the market on both sides, netting a tidy profit for himself.

It should be noted that the broker gets commission too, and what's more the broker benefits by being able to control his risk better if he can shut down customers' problem positions unilaterally. Brokers in general would prefer to stop loss than to be open on risk for a margin call for 24 hours.

Only the investor loses, and by the time he knows about his 'stopped loss' the market - as often as not - is back to the safe middle ground and his money is gone.

Without wishing to slur anyone in particular the stop-loss is even more dangerous in an integrated futures firm - where a broker can benefit himself and his in-house dealer by providing information about levels where stop-losses could be triggered. This is not to say anyone is doing it, but it would probably be the first time in history that such a conflict of interest did not attract a couple of unscrupulous individuals somewhere within the industry.

Investors can prevent being stopped out by resisting the temptation to have too big a position just because the futures market lets them. If the investment amount is lower and plenty of surplus margin cover is down, a stop loss is unnecessary and the broker's pressure to enter a stop loss order can be resisted. A conservative investment strategy with smaller positions achieves the goal of avoiding catastrophic losses by not keeping all eggs in one basket. It also avoids being steadily stripped by stop loss executions. On the flip side you cannot get rich quickly with a conservative investment strategy (but then the chances of that were pretty small anyway).

Futures contain a built in price differential to account for the financing cost

Before a salesman tells you that with a future you won't have to pay interest it is important to understand the implicit financing cost in a futures price.

A gold futures contract will almost always be priced at a different level to spot gold.  The differential closely tracks the cost of financing the equivalent purchase in the spot market.

Because both gold and cash can be lent (and borrowed) the relationship between the futures and the spot price is a simple arithmetical one which can be understood as follows:

"My future purchase of gold for dollars delays me having to pay a known quantity of dollars for a known quantity of gold. I can therefore deposit my dollars until settlement time, but I cannot deposit the gold - which I haven't received yet. Since dollars in the period will earn me 1%, and gold will only earn the seller who's holding on to it for me 0.25%, I should expect to pay over the spot price by the difference 0.75%. If I didn't pay this extra the seller would just sell his gold for dollars now, and deposit the dollars himself, keeping an extra 0.75% overall.  Clearly this 0.75% will fall out of the futures price day by day, and this represents the cost of financing my future purchase."

Many people - your editor included - have experienced the frustration of buying futures, seeing a small price rise in the underlying commodity, and still having a loss on their books when they are forced to sell the future as it approaches its expiry.  This is the effect of the financing cost of a $100,000 purchase dripping away - day by day - and finally being subtracted from their original $5,000 down-payment - against which it appears substantial.

Costs - as a percentage of principal

When a future is traded the broker will frequently compute dealing costs as a percentage of the principal.  This is deceptive. 

The principal has not actually been settled, so the costs of settlement - where the real expense lies - have not been borne.  The expense in a future is the cost of taking out a notional promise, which one should expect to be pretty low.  It is sneaky to quote a percentage on the basis of an irrelevantly large principal when the costs of settling that amount have yet to be added.  Were it instead computed as the percentage of the margin - a more relevant figure - futures would look like substantially more expensive instruments to trade.

Rollover applies acute psychological pressure

As a contract ends an investor who wants to keep the position open must re-open by 'rolling-over' into the next period. This 'roll-over' has a marked psychological effect on inexperienced investors. 

Having taken the relatively difficult step of placing some of their savings in gold futures investors are required to make repeated decisions to spend money.  There is no 'do nothing' option, like there is with a bullion investment, and rolling over always requires the investor to pay-up while giving him the option to cut and run.

The harsh fact of life is that if investors are being whip-lashed by the regular volatility which appears at the death of a futures contract many of them will cut their losses.  Alternatively they might attempt to trade cleverly into the next period, or decide to take a breather from the action for a few days ('though days frequently turn into weeks and months).  Unfortunately every quarter lots of investors will fail the psychological examination and end their position.  Few return. The futures markets tend to expel people at the time of maximum personal disadvantage - as the section below clearly shows.

Hidden costs at the close and/or rollover

Each quarter a futures investor receives an inevitable call from the broker who offers to roll the customer into the new futures period for a special reduced rate.  To those who do not know the short term money rates and the relevant gold lease rates - or how to convert them into the correct differential for the two contracts - the price is fairly arbitrary and not always very competitive.

It can be checked by referring to gold lease rates and interest rates.  Suppose that gold can be borrowed for 0.003% per day (1.095% per annum) and cash for 0.01% per day (3.65% per annum).  The fair value for the next quarter's future should be 90 days times the interest differential of 0.007%.  So you would expect to see the next future at a premium of 0.63%.

But there are strange extra forces at work.  They come from predictable facts about the distribution of gold futures positions :-

Suppose the old future is fairly priced at 100.  The normal spread is - we'll say - 0.20%.  So a typical roll-over - selling the old and buying the new - would trade from 99.9 (selling the old future at 100 less half the spread) to 100.73 (buying the new future with the 0.63% of financing cost + half the spread). There would also be commission on top, but that is not hidden.

That 0.63 of the differential represents the financing cost of the entire principal.  So you are paying interest on it.

In addition the trader can improve his profitability, because of the different profiles of longs and shorts.  What he does is anticipate the likely direction of a random customer who contacts him, and the nearer the end of the period the more the odds are stacked that whoever is on the phone will be selling a small quantity to close the old future.  Of course these should be balanced by the occasional large purchase, but as we will see that can be got round.

The trader lowers both his trading price, and his liquidity.  The quote becomes 99.825 - 100.025 sized in one lot, not ten.  It seems to the casual eye that there is still a 0.2% spread, but is there?  Look at the following table - constructed on the basis that there are ten small sellers and one large buyer.  Because the trader has reduced his liquidity the buyer has to execute three trades (at different prices) to buy what he wants to close.

+1 old -99.825
+1 old -99.825
+1 old -99.825
+1 old -99.825
+1 old -99.825
+1 old -99.825
+1 old -99.825
+1 old -99.825
+1 old -99.825
+1 old -99.825
-1 old (bigger customer wants to do 10) +100.025
-4 old (adjusted price on larger purchase order) +100.1
-5 old (adjusted price again to complete larger purchase order)  +100.125

Do the arithmetic and you'll see the trader has engineered to buy from sellers 10 lots at an average price of 99.825 and to sell to buyers 10 lots at an average price of 100.205.  It might look like a trading spread of 0.2% when it's quoted but it's actually 0.38%.  The trader's profit has increased by 90% because of his successful anticipation of the distribution of orders. 

Perhaps you could rollover early to avoid the problem. If you try you'll find plenty of liquidity in the old future but hardly any in the new one. You'll fall victim to much the same mechanism on the other side.

Meanwhile the professionals are busy fixing to finance settlement - a luxury not available to the private investor.  A big futures player can probably arrange a short term borrowing facility for 3%, whereas a private investor might pay 12%-15% which prices settlement out of the investors reach.  The known imbalance allows a few large shorts to elect for settlement (i.e. not buying back to close) which cannot easily be duplicated longs.  A shortage of buyers in the old futures contract develops at the death and it presses the price for small bulls lower.

How low?  Clearly there is a floor - because bigger participants will come in to snap up cheap futures.  But the price must fall low enough to enable them to profit from the arbitrage.  It turns out the lowness of the price relates to the hassle cost of small deals.  They have to be executed, matched, margined, reconciled and all of this takes people, systems, time and money.  Because the professionals all have electronic processing facilities connected to each other the error rates on small private investor trades are the largest and many even require customer side paper as well as salesman time on the telephone, to say nothing of a raft of regulatory obligations which don't exist for trades between market professionals. 

As a result the trade processing costs of small trades are actually bigger than professional trades of many times their value, so the profitability on transacting them is reduced. Support doesn't even appear until there is enough margin in the arbitrage to pay for the costs of many small and expensive-to-process trades. 

All this is predictable by professionals - and it is self-justifying.  It encourages still more professionals - those without any particular view on gold prices - to be short at the death, which amplifies the effects of both.

Succeeding in the futures market is not easy.  To be successful you need strong nerves and sound judgement.  Investors should recognise that they are at their best for market professionals and short term speculations.  They are not often a good home for private reserves.

Gold Backed Securities

These are a relatively new innovation.  They aim to combine the benefits of physical gold bullion with the liquidity and infrastructure of traditional securities market. Currently they are available in Australia, London and Canada, in slightly different forms.

To create a gold backed security a company is set up which has the right to issue a paper instrument which can only be issued in direct proportion to gold deposited in a vault.  The securities are then traded on a normal stock exchange, or by a broadly equivalent market mechanism.

The price of those securities actually reflects only supply and demand for the shares themselves in the relevant market for the securities, but this will tend to shadow bullion because there is usually a right of redemption, allowing them to be surrendered in return for the gold which backs them.  There will be a fee for redemption which is fixed, and relatively high to prevent lots of nuisance redemptions, but it allows market professionals to leave a bid on the exchange consistently near the value of the gold. In the absence of other bidders they will pick up securities which can eventually be redeemed profitably.  This tends to hold the security price at or near bullion value.

Advantages of gold backed securities :-

Disadvantages of gold backed shares :-

Gold backed securities have a lot to recommend them.  The security of gold is more solid than the margin based security which underpins futures.  They do not incur the periodic volatility inherent in futures.  The custody charges, although still quite high, are generally lower than other forms of custody available to medium sized investors and the transaction costs are no worse than with other stock market investments.  These are innovations which appear to encourage private gold ownership, and with a good degree of security - but a little too much cost.

Gold Pool Accounts

Gold pool accounts allow the customer to buy a gold liability from the account provider.  Effectively the customer pays cash, and the supplier treats him as a creditor for bullion which may or may not have been actually bought.  Pool accounts are synonymous with unallocated gold.

The advantages of gold accounts are :-

The disadvantages of gold accounts are :-

In spite of the apparent attractions of unallocated gold [pool] accounts it is extremely hard for any serious investor to recommend them - because of the unquantifiable risks.  The customer's investment rests as a liability on the provider's balance sheet and there is no obligation on the provider to buy the gold.  If there were unscrupulous individuals in the gold industry (and nothing here would suggest that there are) their natural service would be offering gold pool accounts.  That way they can take customers' money and put it to work for their own profit, without even paying interest.

A common misconception about unallocated pool accounts is that there is a physical pile of gold in a bank - or some such place - which 'belongs' to the customers even if it does not actually have their name on it.  This is not true.  The legal ownership of the gold in an unallocated account rests with the provider, even where there is such a pile which in quantity perfectly matches the liabilities to gold account owners. If there were to be a problem elsewhere in the provider's business - and it could have nothing to do with gold - a subsequent liquidation would render the pile of gold useless as security.  This is because the law will require any liquidator to show no preference for any particular class of unsecured creditor - and this means any gold pile that exists MUST be sold so that all similarly low ranking creditors, gold and others, will suffer the same eventual return of a few cents on the dollar.  This will seem like a foul piece of trickery to any future gold buyers who might suffer in this way, but of course it is perfectly fair.  After all - why should a busted organisation treat gold owners preferentially over other creditors.  It wouldn't be right.

Gold buyers whose objective is to put money away safely, and for the long term, against an unknown and in their opinion potentially dangerous economic situation should consider these types of risk very carefully and choose a provider with extreme caution.

Personal choice of your editor -

So what did I choose and why?

WelI - for different reasons I was unhappy with the available methods - so I decided it was time to improve things!  It took two years to plan and develop but now there is a new way which offers a unique combination of safety, accessibility, and price.

I hope this report has helped you understand more about the gold market.  If you think so then maybe it's time to visit  Of course on this one I am biased, and you will have to make up your own mind.

Learn more about gold from our gold information pages here
Make a comment on this report here.

Click the chart for the real-time price of gold ...

Disclaimer : This is private opinion expressed in the spirit of freedom of information and communication.  Opinions are often wrong - and rarely more so than when offered by experts.  Do not depend on uncorroborated facts or opinions expressed here.  Execute extensive research and accept responsibility for your own decisions, and even then expect to be frequently wrong.