WALL $TREET RAIDER TUTORIAL
WELCOME TO THE WALL STREET WARS... AND WALL $TREET RAIDER!
NOTE TO MORE ADVANCED USERS: This tutorial is for beginners, who haven't played Wall $treet Raider before. For a very advanced (video) video series on strategies created by "Rakem," a fan of the simulation for Versions 7.60 and 7.8x of W$R, go to this YouTube channel (for v. 7.8x, with links to all episodes of 7.60 and 7.8x, and to his W$R Tutorial): Wall $treet Raider YouTube VIDEO
Rakem has also begun posting a basic tutorial series (not about strategies) on YouTube, showing new users how every feature of Wall Street Raider v. 7.81 works, at this LINK.
At this moment, you should have downloaded and installed the program (easy enough?) and started a new game. If it is your first time with W$R, and if you are not an experienced investor, you may be a bit bewildered or intimidated at the moment, watching all the commodity prices, interest rates, and other indicators flickering and changing from moment to moment, while the stock ticker chugs along and the news ticker spews out all kinds of news items about what is going on at the moment in the simulation. If you are a bit overwhelmed by all the activity, your next thoughts are probably something like....
What's the goal of this game? What am I trying to do here? Short answer: To make money, lots of money, as in the real investment world.
We have started you off with a nice "inheritance" of anywhere from $100 million to $1 billion (U.S.), so you have a lot of money to play with. The goal is to multiply that into even more obscene amounts of money, by making smart investments, keeping in mind the Wall Street credo, "Greed is good." A closely related goal is to make your pile of money grow faster than the other human or computer players you will be competing with. ("My yacht is bigger than yours," in Wall Street parlance.)
The other, unstated, goal of playing this game is for you to learn more about investing in real stocks and bonds, and, as a side benefit, about the high risk, high-adrenalin business of trading (gambling on?) commodity futures. (Or, in the registered (full) version of the game, engaging in esoteric investments or strategies like trading put and call stock options, short-selling, and speculating on interest rate "swap" derivatives.) We can't promise that playing W$R will turn you into the next Warren Buffett or Carl Icahn, but check out a few comments from other players about how playing this sim has taught them a great deal about the real world markets and investing.
O.K, so the idea is to see how much I can make my pile of money grow. But how do I get started? What should I do first? Firstly, don't panic. All your money is in "cash" at the start, which we treat in W$R as interest-earning deposits (CD's) at a bank, rather than the folding paper stuff. Any time you, or one of your companies, is holding a lot of cash in this sim, don't worry, the cash is not really idle "cash," but is a bank deposit that is earning interest. Thus, you're making SOME money even without doing anything, initially, so relax, you're like a rich "trust-fund baby" who has inherited a ton of money from Daddy and who can live off the interest.
In fact, if this is the first time you've tried Wall $treet Raider, we suggest that you just let the ticker(s) run for a month or so of "game time" (you can see the days of the month clicking by every second or two on the main screen), and simply observe what is going on, before you take any actions. Nothing much can happen that will affect you, as you sit on your cash, except for the possible rare event where your bank fails and you lose some of your deposits, if the bank isn't completely bailed out by the government, as it usually is.
On the left side of the screen, you will see a section titled "My Balance Sheet," which summarizes your Cash (CD's, actually), Other Assets (like stocks and bonds), and Total Assets, less any Debt you owe to the bank, and your bottom line Net Worth (which is Total Assets minus Debt). The last item, your Net Worth, is what you want to increase, as much as possible, during the game. Click on the box that shows your Net Worth number (in millions) at any time, and you will see a chart of how your net worth is changing, month by month.
You will soon notice, if you let the ticker run for a minute or two, that your "Cash," "Total Assets," and "Net Worth" will all occasionally increase, as interest is credited to your bank account. (These numbers will fluctuate up and down, of course, if you own stocks, bonds, or commodities, or borrow money.)
Nice to watch your net worth increasing every month, eh? But pretty boring, like watching grass grow. If you want to make more than about 5% a year on your investments, you will have to take some risks, by investing in stocks or trading commodities -- or even investing in bonds, though they tend to be pretty safe, particularly government bonds. However, even bonds can go down in value or corporate bonds can become worthless, as conditions change in the economy or if the issuing company gets in financial trouble.
While you're idly watching the action for a few minutes, you might want to pay close attention to the news items scrolling by on the Financial News Headlines ticker, some of which may give you some ideas about a stock or industry that might be attractive for investment. If you see a stock in the news headlines or on the stock ticker that you think you might want to buy, click on the "Select Corp." button to select that company as the "Active Entity." Once you click on that button, you can select the company by entering its stock symbol when prompted, or by looking up the symbol if you only know the name of the company. This works very much like your online account with a real stockbrokerage firm works, when you want a stock quote. (All stock symbols in W$R consist of 1 to 4 letters, like "AA" or "IBN.") If you know a company's stock symbol, you can also enter it directly in the little Stock Symbol input box in the "Active Entity" section on the upper left part of the main screen.Now we are going to walk you through a few simple assignments, to show you how to buy or sell a stock, after first selecting the company as the "Active Entity."
IMPORTANT NOTE: WHAT IS THE "ACTIVE ENTITY" IN W$R? In W$R, the selected "Active Entity" is either you, personally, or a company that you are doing research on, whose stock you may be planning to buy, by clicking on the "Buy Stock" button. If you happen to control that company (by owning 20% or more of its stock, if you are also the biggest stockholder), then the Active Entity will also be the company that you can direct to take various actions, like borrowing or repaying loans, buying other stocks or assets, changing spending rates on R&D or marketing, and so on. But at the very start of the game, YOU are the Active Entity, until you have selected a corporation as Active Entity. Remember that, at any time, if you, yourself, want to become the Active Entity again, you can just click on the "Select Player" button to do so.
YOUR FIRST ASSIGNMENT: SELECT "ORANGE COMPUTER" COMPANY AS THE "ACTIVE ENTITY." Do that by either looking up the stock by name, or by entering its stock symbol, if you happen to see it in the news or on the stock ticker. (The company names are all made-up names in the Shareware Version, so there's no Apple or IBM -- but there is an "Orange Computer.") If you're not sure how to select an entity as the "Active Entity," go back 2 paragraphs and read that paragraph again. Otherwise, if you've selected Orange Computer, go on to the next assignment. But notice, once you've selected Orange Computer, that its name and stock price have suddenly appeared on the right-hand side of the main screen, in the "Streaming Stock Quotes" list. This will make it easy for you to keep an eye on its stock price, as it changes, unless you decide to delete it from the streaming quotes list.
NEXT ASSIGNMENT: CHANGE THE "ACTIVE ENTITY" BACK TO YOU, THE PLAYER. Do this by clicking on the "SELECT PLAYER" button. Did you complete that simple step O.K.?
If so, you will see that you are once again the "Active Entity," and that the stock symbol for Orange Computer now appears on what was the "Select Last" button a second ago. Clicking on that button would enable you to quickly re-select the last previously selected "Active Entity" company, without having to enter its stock symbol or do a look-up again.
NEXT ASSIGNMENT: LET'S BEGIN A STOCK PURCHASE OF ORANGE COMPUTER (BUT DON'T FINISH THE TRANSACTION FOR NOW). First, click on the "Buy Stock" button. Notice, when you do this, that a dialog box pops up for entering the stock symbol of the stock you want to buy, but that the input area already has the stock symbol of Orange Computer filled in. All you would need to do at this point to go ahead with the next step of the process of buying it would be to click the "OK" button. But don't do that now -- click on the "Cancel" button instead, as you aren't going to buy any stock at the moment.
NEXT ASSIGNMENT: CLICK ON THE "SELECT ORGE" BUTTON. (ORGE is the stock symbol for Orange Computer.) Clicking on this button re-selects the last company that was the "Active Entity." Now click on the "Buy Stock" button again, and notice that, since you don't control the actions of Orange Computer, you are the intended buyer, but once again, the stock symbol input box has automatically filled in "ORGE" for you, as the software is anticipating that that is the stock you want to buy. If it were not the stock you wanted to buy, you could always enter a different stock symbol at this point, of course.(NOTE: If you are using the Registered Version, there is no "Orange Computer," so substitute a symbol such as "JPM" or "C" or "CMB" for "ORGE" in this little exercise below.)
Now, click on "Cancel" again, as we don't want you to try to actually buy Orange Computer. Yet.
While you are the Active Entity, most of the research tools, like the Entity Info button (and the menu it brings up) and buttons on the main screen like the "Financial Profile" or "List Portfolio Holdings" will show your individual financial information. Other research buttons, like "Research Report," "Earnings Report" or "List Shareholders" are only applicable to corporations, and thus will only show company info when the Active Entity is a company, or -- when you, the player, are the current Active Entity -- will show info for the last corporation you had previously selected as Active Entity.
NEXT ASSIGNMENT: CLICK ON THE "SELECT PLAYER" BUTTON, AND THEN CLICK ON THE "RESEARCH REPORT" BUTTON. Notice that, even though you are once again the "Active Entity," you are not a corporation, so the Research Report that pops up is for Orange Computer, which was the last previously selected "Active Entity." The same will be true if you click on "Earnings Report" or "List Shareholders" right now, since those are only relevant for corporations, not individual players. (The Earnings Report may be a mostly empty page, since you have just started a new game, and Orange Computer may not yet have issued its first quarterly earnings report for this game.)
NEXT ASSIGNMENT: CLICK ON THE "FINANCIAL PROFILE" BUTTON. Notice that this time, the detailed financial information and balance sheet that is shown is for you, the Active Entity. Since financial profiles are available for all entities, players or corporations, this item always shows information for the current Active Entity. Now close the "Financial Profile" screen, after you're scrolled through it to see what kind of information it contains about your financial situation.
OK.... You've completed that lesson, so let's move on, and attempt (probably unsuccessfully) to buy a stock of a very big company.
Suppose you notice the stock of MicroShaft Corporation go by on the ticker, showing a nice uptick, or maybe you see some good news about it on the news ticker, so you decide to take a look. If you saw its ticker symbol, MSHT, you can either enter the symbol in the Stock Symbol box in the upper left corner of the screen (and then click on the little "GO" button) or you can click on "Select Corp." and select MicroShaft there. Once you do so, you will see information about MicroShaft Corporation appear in the "Active Entity Selected" box on the main screen, including its stock price, stock symbol, its bank line of credit, and who controls the company, if anyone (another player or another company).
Now that you have selected MicroShaft as the Active Entity, you can begin doing some research on the company, to decide whether you would want to buy its stock. Most of the research tools you will want to use, once you have focused on one target company, appear as menu buttons when you click on the "Entity Info" button. You will also see a good bit of text in the textbox on the left side of the menu dialog that pops up, with various kinds of information about MicroShaft, including its earnings trend, stock price trend, and the general outlook for its industry (software). All of which is useful to you in deciding whether to buy the stock.
This early in the game, there isn't much stock price trend history, but the projected earnings and Analysts' Stock Rating on the stock can be very useful, though not 100% accurate, by any means (as in the real world). You can click on any of the buttons on the right side of the dialog box to find out more about MicroShaft and its industry (software, in this case). By doing so, you can view a research report on the company, its most recent earnings report, its financial profile and balance sheet, information on its credit rating, and other important data on MicroShaft and its industry.
Let's say that it looks like the industry is profitable and expected to continue to prosper in the near term, MSHT's earnings are projected to increase in the next quarterly earnings release, and the Analysts' have put a "BUY" or "STRONG BUY" rating on the stock, so you decide to buy some MicroShaft, as it looks like a good company to own stock in. (Let's assume, for this exercise, that all that is true, even if W$R is actually telling you right now that this stock is not a "BUY" and that earnings are expected to be terrible.)
NEXT ASSIGNMENT: TRY TO BUY STOCK IN MICROSHAFT, BUT DON'T ACTUALLY COMPLETE THE PURCHASE. Buying a stock in W$R is very easy to do -- just click on the "Buy Stock" button and follow the instructions, except for completing the transaction.... Uh-oh, is there a problem?
Sometimes, at this point, you might be able to buy 1% of MicroShaft, sometimes zero percent, it's all somewhat random, but let's assume that the program tells you this time that you are able to buy "0%" of its stock. Which would mean you can't buy any. Even if, this time, you would be able to buy 1% or 2%, don't do it for now, just cancel the transaction. (If you already went ahead and bought 1% or more, just exit this game and restart the program, before continuing on with this tutorial, or else sell the stock before you continue.)
SIDE NOTE: In W$R, you are a "high-roller," so you don't ever have to think in terms of buying a measly 100 shares or even 1,000 shares of a stock. You think in terms of buying 1%, 5%, 20%, 51%, or even 100% of a company, rather than buying 1,390,269,175 shares. (It's a lot easier to comprehend buying 1% of a company's stock than a gazillion shares, isn't it?) So, after you click on the "BUY" button to buy some MicroShaft, you might be surprised to find that, even as a billionaire, you don't have enough money to buy even 1% of the company! (Even if you tried to buy on margin, by borrowing another billion, you still might not be able to buy 1% of the stock, which is the minimum transaction size when trading stocks in W$R.)
Rats! That is humiliating for a wealthy billionaire! What is the problem? The problem is that, if you had first looked at a Financial Profile on MicroShaft, you would have noticed that its "Total Stock Capitalization" (the total market value of all the company's stock) was, say, $400 billion, so you would have needed at least $4 billion to buy the minimum (for this sim) 1% of the company, which is one of the largest companies in the simulation. Ouch! You're rich, but not Bill Gates-rich yet. Thus, it's back to the drawing board.
So how do I find a smaller company, one in which a billion dollars can buy a significant stake, if not the whole company?
NEXT STEP: DO A DATABASE SEARCH, TO FIND A SMALLER, BUT ATTRACTIVE COMPANY THAT YOU MIGHT WANT TO INVEST IN.
The best place to start, to look for companies of a particular size (market capitalization) or "market cap"), is by clicking on the "General" research button on the main screen. This brings up a lot of information about the currently selected industry. You can select an industry for analysis from a list of 71 industry groups, by clicking on the "Industrial Growth Rates" button on the General Research Menu when that menu pops up. For most of the industries listed, you will see the expected % to be earned on business assets by the average company in each industry. (Bigger or better-run companies will tend to earn more than the industry average.) Generally, as an "newbie" investor you will want to play it safe and look for stocks in an industry where companies are generally earning high rates, like 20% or above (pre-tax), on their business operating assets, since most companies in such an industry are likely to be doing well.
This menu also has a "Database Search" button. Aha! That means you can use the computer to help you sniff out stocks (or corporate bonds) to buy...! (That includes finding companies that are in a particular size range where you can afford to buy a significant stake, unlike MicroShaft, which we've already ruled out as being too big for you at the moment.)
Stocks and bonds? What's the difference?
Before we go ahead and select a stock to buy, using the "Database Search" button on the "General" Research Menu, let's digress a moment and be sure you understand the difference between stocks and bonds, both of which are securities that you can buy, in the real world or in W$R.
In case you are not a seasoned investor and don't know the difference between a stock and a corporate bond, here is an explanation, in a nutshell. A stock represents a share of ownership in a company, which will entitle you to cash dividends (if the company pays any dividends), and if the company ever liquidates and goes out of business, voluntarily or otherwise, you may receive a share of its assets -- whatever is left after the company pays off all its debts, including taxes owed, bank loans, and corporate bonds it has issued, usually in that order, in W$R and the real world. But most of the time, stocks are valued based on what the company is able to earn in profits, or is expected to earn in the foreseeable future, plus, to some extent, the value of its net assets.
A corporate bond, on the other hand, is simply a debt instrument of the corporation, paying a specified "coupon" interest rate, like 7%, and with the principal amount of the debt, usually $1,000 per bond in the real world, to be paid back to the holder at a certain future date. A company may raise cash by issuing millions or billions of dollars of bonds, which trade in $1,000 units (or $1 million units in W$R).
If you buy a corporate bond, you are entitled to receive the interest payments until the bond pays off, often 15 or 20 years in the future, though you can buy bonds any time before they pay off. On the date the bond "matures" you will receive the face amount of the bond, $1,000, for example. (Unless the company goes bankrupt before then, of course, in which case some or all of your corporate bonds you own would be canceled. Government bonds don't usually become worthless, in W$R -- or in the real world, except in places like Argentina or Zimbabwe.)
The price you pay to buy a bond depends on market interest rates and how good or bad the credit rating of the borrower is, so you may pay more than 100% of the face amount of the bond (say $1,030 per $1,000 bond that is trading at 103 if interest rates are low and the credit rating of the issuer is good), or you may sometimes only pay, say, 92% of face value, or $920 per $1,000 face value, for a bond trading at 92. In either case, you would receive annual interest payments of $70 per $1,000 on a 7% bond, until the year it matures, when you would also receive the $1,000 principal -- the face amount, regardless of whether you paid more or less than $1,000 for it. As in the real world, in W$R you can buy corporate bonds and you can also buy much safer government bonds, but they pay lower interest rates than corporates. Bor-ing.... Stocks are where the action is.
ANOTHER SIDE NOTE: While you have the General Research Menu open, it can be very informative to read through the "Daily Market Commentary" in the sidebar on the left side of the dialog box. This is constantly updated and analyzes all types of trends in industries, commodities, the stock market, the economy, and more, especially after you are several months into a game, once there is more back data and longer trends to analyze. (There won't be much commentary in the early months of a game, so you may instead come back to it later on.) This can be a great place to get ideas about when to invest in a particular sector (or bail out of it ASAP), though it doesn't mention specific stocks. For example, if interest rates on mortgages are dropping, it may be a good time to invest in stocks in the housing or building materials industries. (Of course, you can also find out the trend in interest rates by clicking on one of the interest rate items in the lower left corner of the main screen, to view a chart of interest rate levels for the bank Prime Rate or on the short- or long-term government bonds.)
DIGRESSSION ENDS.... STILL WITH US?
Now, where were we? O.K., we had just clicked on the "Database Search" button on the General Research Menu. One of the features on the Database Search input screen is for setting a minimum and maximum "market cap" for the companies you want to choose among. Turning on the default values of $200 million (minimum) and $1000 million (one billion maximum) will be about the right size at the start of a new game, even if you have only $100 million or so to invest. By using this filter to search the database, you will exclude giant companies that you can't afford to buy into, like MicroShaft or ORGE. If you are looking for a stock to buy, be sure to check the box for the item, "Don't Show if Company's Stock is not Publicly Traded," since you want to buy a stock that is publicly traded. It is possible to try to pry a stock of a private company out of the hands of another company that owns all of its stock, but you may have to pay a big premium to get the seller to sell any, so stick to trading "publicly-traded" companies, most of the time. Not all companies are always "publicly traded" (partly owned by "the public") in the W$R simulation.
Once you have refined your search criteria, click on "Display Results" to see a list of companies (if any) that meet all the criteria you have specified. Just double-click on the name of any company on the list and that will close the screen and automatically select that company as the new "Active Entity." Now you can proceed with doing further research on that company and perhaps buying its stock. The next question is, how much stock do you buy?
Do I want to be a passive investor? Or do I want to buy control of the company and manage it? W$R allows you, if you choose, to just "play the market" by being a passive investor, simply buying stocks and selling them when you think the time is right. As long as you own less than 20% of a stock, you are just a passive investor, and the company is managed by the softare, without your input, for better or worse. The registered version of W$R also lets you trade put and call options on stocks, which gives you much more leverage -- more bang for the buck -- in order to score much bigger gains (or incur much bigger losses) on a given stock. But that's for more advanced players....
SUGGESTION FOR NEW PLAYERS: While you are first learning to play W$R, you may want to stick to passive investing / trading in stocks, as taking over and running companies is a bit more challenging, though the rewards can be huge. Also, when you buy a large position in a company, enough to control it (20% of it, at a minimum), it can be expensive to buy and sell that much stock, so if you are trading in and out of stocks, it's usually more profitable to buy 5% or less of a company, which can be sold without driving the price way down. Note also that if you buy 5% or less of a company's stock, you can get it on the open market at just slightly above the quoted price (your buying will drive up the price a bit, just as selling drives it down).
On the other hand, if you will own over 5% of a company after a purchase, you are required, as under real S.E.C. rules in the U.S., to make a "tender offer" to the public. (That usually means offering a good bit higher price than the current market price.) In W$R, the program automatically computes a premium you will have to pay over market price to successfully buy the amount of stock you want, and the more you buy, the higher the premium you must pay, with some limits.
For example, if you decide to buy 20% of a company in a tender offer in W$R, you would be paying about 11% more than the current market price for the shares, so if you are just trading stocks, it is easier to do if you keep your purchases down to 5% or less of any company, which enables you to buy (and sell) at close to the market price. (Selling large amounts of stock drives the stock price down more than selling small amounts.)
You may want to keep it simple for the first few times you play W$R, buying and selling small positions in a few stocks while you try to figure out what makes them go up or down.
W$R creates a simulated economic and market environment that seems very similar to the real world, and is just as devilishly unpredictable at times. But after playing around with W$R quite a bit, you will begin to notice patterns, like weakness in transportation industries (airlines, autos, trucking) when oil prices are elevated, or how stocks in general tend to respond positively to low interest rates or a rapidly growing economy, and vice versa. But, as in real life, there are no hard and fast, absolute rules in stock investing in W$R, just patterns and tendencies, so you have to play the percentages, so to speak.
NEXT ASSIGNMENT: BUY A STOCK. All right, you're ready now to buy your first stock. If you have selected a stock with a "market cap" of between $500 million and $2,000 million from the Database Search screen, let's buy some of it. Otherwise, just pick out any stock and select it as the "Active Entity." You can either make the purchase by clicking on the "Buy Stock" button, or by clicking on the "Buy/Sell" Menu button and using the "Buy Stock" button on that menu. Just follow the instructions, and try to buy between 1% and 5% of the target company's stock.
Once you have completed the purchase, you may notice, if the purchase price was more than your cash balance, that the program let you borrow on your bank line of credit to complete the transaction, so that you now owe some amount to the bank (the "Less Debt" item on "My Balance Sheet"). If you had to borrow to buy the stock ("on margin"), your cash balance is probably near zero now, and when you have to pay interest on the loan, you will have to borrow more (automatically), or else sell some stock, if you no longer have a "line of credit" from the bank. (Like when the stock you bought goes down a lot.)
Next, click on the "List Portfolio" button (if you are now the Active Entity), to make sure you actually bought the stock and that it is now part of your stock portfolio. If so, click on the stock name in the portfolio, and that will automatically select it as the new Active Entity, if it is not already.
Then, just let the stock ticker run for awhile, until the company you just bought issues a quarterly Earnings Report, which will pop up on the screen when your company is the Active Entity. Read the earnings report and weep -- or rejoice, if its earnings are up, as your stock will probably go in the same direction as the earnings trend versus the prior year -- up or down.
Let the ticker run for another whole quarter before you do anything else, watching your Net Worth fluctuate as your one stock holding goes up and down, until the next earnings report for your company pops up. (If you previously had selected another company as Active Entity, like Orange Computer, its earnings report might also pop up before or after your company's.)
NEXT ASSIGNMENT: SELL A STOCK. Since you should already own a stock by now, just click on the "Sell Stock" button, which will display your stock portfolio, from which you will click on your one stock to select it for sale. If the stock is worth more than your cost, you will probably have a capital gain, although you will be selling it for a little less than the market value. Whether you have a gain or a loss on the stock, you will pay another commission on the sale.
After you double-clicked on your one stock to select it for sale, the program will show what % of it you own, and ask you to enter the % to sell. If you want to sell all of it, just click on "OK," since the amount you own is automatically entered for you in the input box. That's all there is to selling a stock. A "Stock Trade Confirmation" will pop up, showing what your net sales price was, after commissions and after slightly depressing the market price, and will tell you how much of a capital gain or loss you had on the investment. (In W$R, capital gains of players are taxed at a much lower tax rate than other income, such as interest income and dividends, while capital losses aren't deductible for tax purposes, except to offset capital gains, if you have any. As under U.S. tax laws, capital gains of corporations are taxed at regular corporate tax rates in W$R, which differ from individual player tax rates, and dividends received by corporations are mostly non-taxable.)
You should now have successfully completed a purchase and a sale of a stock, although you may have lost money on the trade. Now you should be ready to start trading stocks on your own (in W$R), trying to make profitable stock trades. We would suggest you concentrate on stock trading for a few games, buying small holdings, like 5% or less, of companies, before you "graduate" to trading other types of investments (bonds, commodities, or commodity futures), or start buying control of companies and managing them, all of which is discussed in the rest of this tutorial.
TRADING OTHER ASSET CLASSES, BESIDES STOCKS:
You can also invest in bonds in W$R, when you think (because interest rates seem temporarily high) that they may be good investments, though bonds are not real exciting, and you won't grow your wealth very rapidly by buying bonds. But they are a fairly safe way to earn more interest than on CD's, and maybe even a modest capital gain some times. To buy or sell corporate or government bonds, open the "Buy/Sell" menu and select the appropriate button.
As a passive investor, you can also buy and store physical commodities like gold, hoping for eventual price appreciation. Use the Buy/Sell button and choose the "Trade Commodities" button on the Buy/Sell Menu that will pop up, to buy and hold physical commodities. Again, pretty boring, and commodities may go down in price, and are expensive to store, as there are monthly storage and insurance fees, but their value will never go to zero, unlike stocks or bonds.
Or for MUCH more excitement, you can buy or sell short commodity or stock index "futures" contracts, by using the "Trade Futures" button on the Buy/Sell Menu, although this is very dangerous and you can be wiped out (or double your net worth, if lucky) in a heartbeat. (Trading futures is a bit like playing with dynamite -- thrilling, but deadly.)
When you buy commodity futures, you only have to put up 5% of the purchase price (the "notional value"), to be paid at a future date, and you are betting the commodity will be worth a lot more at that future date, or some time before. For example, you may agree to buy one million barrels of oil 3 years from now for, say, $100 a barrel. Oil may be trading currently at $90 a barrel, the spot price, but you usually must pay more for future delivery. That's what "futures" trading is all about -- betting on the future.
So, in this example, the contract price of the oil futures is $100 million for a million barrels. To enter into the contract (buying the futures, or going "long" on oil), you would only have to have a good credit rating and also deposit 5% of the notional value, or $5 million, into a commodity margin account as security, to place this bet.
Similarly, if you expected the oil price to go down, you would sell (go "short") $100 million of oil, again putting up a 5% deposit with the commodity brokerage, profiting if the price falls or stays below $100 a barrel. (In W$R, each oil futures contract is for 10,000 barrels, so to buy futures on 1 million barrels you would need to buy 100 "contracts.")
If oil's price goes up to $150 a barrel and you are "long" at $100, you may be able to sell the contract for about $150 million, or a profit of about $50 million. Not bad for a $5 million investment.... On the other hand, if the price temporarily drops even $5 or so, your margin deposit will quickly be wiped out and you will have to put up more margin, and keep putting up more and more margin, the lower the price of the futures go. If you run out of money and can't meet the margin calls, that is what is known as "going broke." Tough luck, sucker....
What often happens if you "bet the ranch" on commodity futures, by not having a lot of cash or assets to cover margin calls, is that a slight dip in the price of the futures may be enough to wipe you out, even if the general price trend of the commodity is headed in the direction you were hoping. Your "commodity broker" (the sim) will usually close out your commodity account once your credit rating goes bad from continued losses, so you may survive the bad luck in such cases, but you won't have much money left after you are forced out of a commodity trade, and you will be left with a lot of debt and a lousy credit rating. But if the commodity makes a sudden, very large move against you, you can be instantly and totally bankrupted, so trading futures is a dangerous game, more like gambling than investing.
But that's enough about commodities, which we would not recommend anyone in their right mind should ever try to trade, in the real world, and enough about bonds, which are sort of a sideshow in this simulation. Wall $treet Raider is mainly about trading/investing in stocks....
Accordingly, we suggest you simply play around with buying one or more stocks, or even buying some of the Exchange-Traded Funds (ETF's), of which there are 15 in W$R. Each ETF is an investment fund that trades like a stock, and each ETF holds a number of stocks of companies in a certain sector, like health care or energy, or Asian stocks. ETF's are one of the 71 industry groups in W$R, so you can look up the Exchange-Traded Funds industry like any other industry, on the General Research Menu, and select it to view a list of ETF's in the industry. As in the real world, ETF's don't have "earnings" to report, but may pay dividends. Mainly, you invest in an ETF because you expect the stocks it buys to go up in value, which will increase the stock rpice of the ETF.
Try your hand at researching industries, trying to pick out undervalued stocks in industries that you think may currently be depressed but which you think have a good chance of bouncing back in the two years of play the Shareware Version of W$R allows. (The registered version lets you play for any game length you choose, anywhere from 1 to 35 "years.")
Or go with the "momentum stocks" that are rising rapidly in a booming industry, if you think the good times will last for a while.... And attempt to sell out near the top. Try investing conservatively, without borrowing money to buy stocks, or take bigger risks by borrowing heavily to magnify your gains (or losses). See how you fare, using any of those investing styles. It's not real money, so learn by experimenting, even if you do go broke from time to time. (You don't have to tell anyone you've failed.)What sort of things should I look for, that might mean a particular stock is a good buy?
CHEATING IS A WAY OF LIFE ON WALL STREET: So, of course, to make W$R as realistic as possible, we have built in insider trading, a form of cheating. If you are basically a criminal type of person, you can try your hand at cheating, by trading on inside information. To get these illegal insider stock tips on companies that are about to announce surprising good news, click on the "Cheat" button on the main screen. You will usually make out like a bandit if you trade on these illicit stock tips, but be forewarned: Your accomplice may be caught by the authorities and may "rat you out," in which case you may be fined huge amounts that can break you, financially. Winning by cheating is always fun, of course, but you will learn more about how to invest in stocks if you play it straight. But that is strictly up to you....
The "Cheat Menu" will also let you add any amount of cash to your bank account, but if you do that, the current game will be disqualified, and won't be counted as your personal best. Also, any amount you add to your account will also be added to the accounts of each other player, to be fair to them.
That's a pretty open-ended question, like "What is the meaning of life?" But we'll offer a few suggestions. The program itself will offer you a lot of hints and suggestions as you go along, in the textbox side panels on each of the various pop-up menus, such as the "Entity Info" and "General" research menus, or the various transaction menus ("Buy/Sell," "Management," etc.), or the "Misc. Menu."
However, for the most part, you will usually have a good chance of picking winners if you use some or all of the following suggestions:
- Find an industry that is either doing well, or at least one where the text analysis (again, in the sidebars of the "Entity Info" and "General" research menus) indicates that the selected industry's prospects are improving.
- Once you have focused on an industry that looks promising, use the "Industry Projection" or "Industry Summary" buttons on the research menus to see how the individual companies are projected to do 6 months in the future, or are doing at present. Since these two industry listings refer, respectively, to "Return on Capital Assets" (business operating assets) and to "Return on Equity" for each company in the industgry, you probably should refer to the Glossary for an explanation of what those terms mean. (Press the F1 key or click on HELP at the top of the main screen, to access the Glossary.) Suffice it to say that if a company's Return on Equity is about 15% or higher, and the (pre-tax) Return on Capital Assets is about 20% or higher, the company is probably doing very well, and if its industry's prospects are improving, it is likely to be a solid investment.
- However, sometimes you will see a company in a profitable industry that is not showing the kind of rates of return as most of the other companies, but is spending a much higher percentage than the others on R&D (research and development) or marketing. While that high rate of spending on R&D or marketing is depressing current earnings, it may soon lead to much better earnings, particularly if the company reduces such spending. (That is where it is nice to be in control of the company, and can reduce such spending on R&D or marketing, giving a short-term boost to earnings, which can drive the stock higher.)
- Another key suggestion is to remain aware of how the overall economy is doing, as well as the trend of interest rates. If the economy is heading into a recession, it is often a signal that your "hot stock" may soon cool off, so it may be a good time to sell. Or if the economy (GDP growth) is recovering, coming out of a recession, many stocks are often cheap. However, high interest rates also tend to depress the price of all stocks, while low interest rates make stocks more attractive, so you also need to pay attention to what interest rates are doing. Often, a large sudden rise in interest rates will also soon lead to a weakening of the economy in most cases, hurting stock prices in more ways than one.
- Finally, be aware of the central bank monetary policy. (Federal Reserve monetary policy, noted in the sidebar of the General Research Menu, if you have chosen to configure the game in U.S. dollars, instead of pounds, Euros, yen, etc.) If the policy is "Quantitative Easing," that usually means interest rates will tend to go lower, or be kept low. If the policy is "Tightening or Tapering," it is likely that rates will rise, with the effects noted in the previous paragraph. If "Neutral," rates may stay about where they are for awhile. Of course, at various times during a game, cental bank monetary will change, often in reaction to what the economy is doing. (In the registered version of W$R, you can "bet" on the direction of interest rates, by entering into highly-leveraged interest rate "swap" agreements with banks or brokerages, but that feature is not enabled in the Shareware Version.)
In the registered version of W$R, there are various ways you can actually profit from declining stocks, by selling them "short" or by selling call options or buying put options on stocks you expect to decline, but we won't get into that here, since we assume you haven't yet bought a copy of the registered version.)
In the Shareware (free) Version of W$R, there is not much you can do to make money when a recession or depression in the economy sets in. At best, you can sell most or all of your stocks, though sometimes Precious Metals miners or oil-related stocks may buck the trend in a bad economy, and some industries like pharmaceuticals, health care, defense, brewing & distilling, household products, medical equipment & supplies, pollution control, drugstores, discount retailers, and security services are relatively resilient in most downturns, and may continue to do well. Also, if you have a high risk tolerance, you can always sell Stock Index futures short, thereby betting that stock prices will decline.You've probably got enough ideas now how to go about trading stocks in this simulation, so perhaps you'll want to stop reading further at this point, and get started trading, or trying long-term investing, if that is more your style. You can always come back to this tutorial for a few tips on managing companies, once you feel you are ready to becoma a "Wall Street raider" and begin taking over or starting up companies, and managing them.... The rest of this tutorial is all about controlling and operating companies.
HELPFUL HINT WHEN TRADING FUTURES: When trading Stock Index futures or commodity futures, the program will always tell you the maximum number of such contracts you can buy or sell short, based on your net worth and bank line of credit, or other limitations. As a rule, don't ever trade the full amount, as even a slight blip in the price of the Index or the commodity can result in huge margin calls and knock you out of your position. So, if the program tells you that you can buy or short 534 contracts of Index futures, be prudent and don't trade more than about 20% to 40% of that amount, unless you like "living on the edge" of disaster.
STOP HERE, IF YOU ARE NOT YET READY TO TRY MANAGING COMPANIES!
Trading stocks is fun, but I understand that most of what makes W$R interesting happens when you control one or more companies. How does that work, and how can I make money by controlling a company?
Getting control of a company in W$R is the easy part. All you need to do is buy up at least 20% of the stock of a company to control it. However, if another player or a single company also owns (directly or indirectly, through other companies they control) 20% or more of the stock, you must own more than that other player or company. As an alternative, you can go to the "Financing Menu" and invest in a startup company, of which you will be the 100% owner. You can start up a company in any industry, so you will typically want to start up a company in an industry that is very profitable at the moment. (In the Registered Version, you can eventually have the startup company do an IPO -- initial public offering of stock -- after it has operated for several years, but that is generally not possible in a 2-year game, in the Shareware Version.)
What happens when I take control of a company?
Nothing much, initially, in most cases. However, once you take control, any major decisions the company makes (except certain decisions that may be forced on it when it is in financial trouble) are made by you. You see, when a company is not controlled by a (human) player in W$R, the software attempts to manage the company in a sensible way, to keep it as profitable as possible, under the circumstances, so the software is frequently changing a company's policies on the following:
All the above decisions are made for a company by the software before you take control of it. Once you take control, YOU need to make all such decisions. For example, if a company is growing at 50% a year, plowing a lot of money into business assets while the business is highly profitable, the software will notice when the business begins to turn less profitable, or starts losing money, and will start reducing that growth rate (usually). However, if you control the company, it will try to keep growing at 50% (unless you change its growth rate in the "Management" menu), even if this growth is insane and is increasing its losses, and it will keep growing at 50% as long as it has enough money or bank line of credit to keep buying more assets (plant and equipment, for example), until it finally goes over a cliff....
- Setting its growth rate (the rate at which the company adds to its investment in business assets).
- Setting the amount the company spends, as a percentage of sales, on "productivity expenditures," which, in W$R are either R&D (research and development) or marketing/advertising.
- Setting the amount of dividends the company will pay. In general, a slowly growing company that doesn't reinvest most of its profits in business assets will tend to pay out more as dividends, while a rapidly growing company, that needs all of its cash flow to expand, plowing more money into the business, will often pay very small dividends, if any.
- Deciding when to get financing by issuing new stock or issuing bonds.
- Deciding when (if at all) to buy stock in another company or to try to take over another company (usually a competitor in the same industry) by merger.
- Deciding when to sell off the stock of a subsidiary company or deciding whether to vote for or against a merger, when some other company is trying to take over a subsidiary company.
- Hedging. In some industries, whether or not to hedge by either buying or selling short commodities (or stock index futures, for brokerage firms). For example, oil and oil service firms often try to hedge against falling oil prices by selling oil futures short, when prices are high, and oil users like airlines or truckers often will buy oil futures when oil seems cheap, to hedge against any rise in oil prices that would hurt them.
- Speculating by buying physical commodities. Sometimes, when the spot price of a commodity seems really low and a company has plenty of cash to spare, it will buy physical gold or silver or some other physical commodity and stash it away, as a speculation that the price will eventually go back up.
- Deciding when to manipulate ("smooth") earnings somewhat by adding to contingency reserves (decreasing earnings) or drawing from such a reserve account (to increase reported earnings).
- Filing an antitrust suit against a competitor that is trying to monopolize an industry, or defending such a lawsuit by either settling the claim or litigating it in a trial court.
- Plus numerous other rare or occasional actions, such as "spinning off" a subsidiary or buying back some of the company's own stock in an LBO or "greenmail" buyback.
Thus, once you are in control, you have to pay close attention to your company's financial situation and its industry outlook, or it can get in trouble in a hurry. About the only decisions that will automatically be made for you, are when the company runs out of cash and line of credit and overdraws its bank account, the software will force it to sell off business assets, stocks, or other assets it holds, like commodities or bonds, and will sometimes force a cut in the dividend the company pays. Also, banks will engage in various cash management activities, buying or selling bonds or loans, when they have too little or too much cash on hand.
Do I HAVE TO make all those decisions for a company I control?
Fortunately, no. In Version 7.50 of W$R, we introduced an "autopilot" setting. If you turn that setting on (just click on the "Autopilot On/Off" setting on the "Settings" menu on the main screen), then the software will continue to manage your companies, except for certain major decisions like trying to initiate a merger or buying or selling stock of another company. For those kinds of major decisions, those companies will request your permission before merging, buying, or selling. Even though you have delegated most decisions to the software when you turn "autopilot" on, you are still in control, and can change any policies you wish, at any time.
For example, you may decide to set the annual dividend a company pays at $2.00 a share. It will normally remain at that rate, unless "autopilot" is turned on, but if "autopilot" is on, you may find after a while that the dividend has been changed to a higher or lower rate, without your permission.
However, note that if you elect yourself as President and CEO of a company you control, you are still responsible for managing it, even if the "autopilot" setting is turned on.
(Note that, in Version 7.81 of W$R, a company you control will no longer automatically engage in commodity hedging, even if it is on "autopilot.")
Most players of W$R feel that they can manage their companies a lot better than the software can, unless they control too many companies to micromanage all of them in the constantly changing economic environment, so they keep "autopilot" turned off, at least until they control more than 5 or 10 companies, which gets to be too many to micro-manage.
What is the first thing I should do when I get control of a company?
Usually, in the Shareware Version of W$R, the best thing to do is to immediately click on the "Management Menu" and use "Elect Me as CEO" button to elect yourself as CEO and President of the company. (You can only be CEO of one company at a time.)
Becoming the CEO does several things, mostly good, for you. The company begins to pay you a quarterly salary, and if you manage to grow the company's earnings, you may also receive annual bonuses and executive stock options, which can be valuable. In fact, if you own (or control, through other controlled companies) 51% or more of the stock, you will get an annual bonus as CEO and quarterly grants of stock options, even if you are doing a lousy job of managing the company. (But if you own 100% of the stock, the company is no longer public, so you won't get any stock options until it "goes public" by doing an IPO, using the "Public Stock Offering" item on the "Financing" menu.)
Why would I want to be in control of a company, and manage it, in W$R?
Bottom line: This is how fortunes are made. (Just ask Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates.) The most challenging part of playing this simulation, and the most rewarding, is controlling a company and finding ways to grow the company and make its stock go up.
As a rule, the bigger the company, the larger your compensation package will be, so your incentives are to grow the company, both in size and profitability. However, while the compensation package is nice, most of your money will be made from owning a large chunk (20% or more) of the stock of the company. (Think like Warren Buffett, who takes little or no salary from Berkshire Hathaway, but became one of the world's richest by owning a lot of the stock and making good decisions for the company.)
Also, since your compensation as CEO is an additional expense for the corporation, it will reduce its reported earnings, which will be somewhat of a drag on its stock price. The salary and bonus are usual pretty minimal for the company, but when a stock option is exercised at a huge profit for the CEO, that profit is a big expense for the company, which can seriously put a dent in its earnings, so many times players of W$R choose not to become CEO of one of their companies.
However, in the Shareware Version, in a 2-year game, the executive stock options are never held long enough to be exercised, so that is never a problem, thus you will probably benefit in most cases by becoming the CEO of the largest company you control. But like the $200 salary you collect when you pass "GO" when playing Monopoly ®, the salary is nice to receive, but you won't get rich unless you own the right properties. In W$R, the right properties are the companies whose stocks grow the most. Your CEO compensation in W$R is helpful, but won't make you super-rich. It's all about increasing your company's stock price....
Increasing my company's stock price sounds like a good idea, but how do I do that?
Answer: It's not easy. But here are a few tips that will give you some ideas about steps you can take when you get control of a company, to get its stock moving up:
We can't give away all of our secrets for success and riches here. For that, you'll need to order the "Full Package" that includes the Registered Version plus our 300+ page ebook, "Wall Street Raider -- The Book," which is a highly detailed strategy manual. (Our original publisher, after reading and editing the entire manual, said he thought he should be awarded an MBA after doing so, as he learned so much from it about real-world corporate finance and the stock market.)
- In a short (2-year) game, which is generally the limit in the Shareware Version, you can't really afford to think very long-term. So the best advice is to find a profitable company to invest and take control of, whose management is rated "very capable" or "reasonably competent" in the Research Report on the company, and is in an industry where profits are improving. The odds are pretty good that its earnings will continue to increase for at least a while, which should help increase the stock price.
- A second suggestion is to find a company that is currently spending a high percentage of its sales, like 15 to 20%, on R&D or marketing (productivity spending that increases profitability, in the long run, but depresses earnings in the short run). As soon as you get control of the company, begin cutting its productivity spending by about 5% each quarter. Cutting such spending increases the net profit margin of the company, at least in the short run. (However, these spending changes don't go into effect until the following quarter, so don't expect instant results in the current quarter.) Better yet, try to combine this tactic with the suggestion in the previous paragraph. In a longer game, more than the 2 years you can play in the Shareware Version, cutting such spending may be a bad idea in the long-term, since the companies' management rating will tend to eventually decline if it cuts productivity expenditures just to boost near-term earnings, but it makes sense to do so in a short game, where there is no "long term" to be concerned about, just the next few quarters' earnings.
- Sometimes you can buy a company that is badly managed, compared to other companies in its industry, very cheaply. If it is in an industry where it should be very profitable, but isn't, consider buying control and doing a "restructuring," using the "Restructure" button on the "Management" Menu. This will usually give a lift to the next quarter's earnings, though the company will have fewer assets generating revenue after the restructuring. In effect, you are scrapping the "bad" assets and cashing out the "deadwood" employees with cash payments. What is left should be a more profitable company.
HINT: If you do a restructuring, the bigger the percentage write-off of assets you do, the bigger the improvement in profitability that is likely (but not guaranteed) to result. If you don't write off at least 10 or 12% of assets, you won't get much of an improvement. Also, if you do too small a restructuring, the expense from doing so will be considered, for accounting purposes, to be an "operating expense" that will hugely depress the current quarter's operating earnings. The stock market generally prices a company's stock based on its operating earnings, and ignores unusual events like an "extraordinary" gain or loss.
If you write off about 12% or more of assets, the restructuring costs will be an "extraordinary loss" that won't affect the company's reported "operating earnings," so don't try to do a "cheapo" restructuring. But also don't write off too large a percentage of assets, like 40% or more, as that could cripple the company financially.
- In W$R, a company's sales are assumed to have a 1-to-1 relationship to its business assets (such as plant or equipment for manufacturers, airplanes for an airline, etc.). That is, $1 dollar of business assets is assumed to generate $1 of sales in W$R. That's not totally realistic, but in the real world, the bigger the company's asset base, the more sales it has, as a general rule.
In W$R, a company's profits on its sales depend upon its profit margin, which in this sim is the same as its "rate of return on capital assets" (business assets). If its profit margin is negative, the company loses more, the more sales it has, or if the profit margin is positive, the more sales, the more profits. Got that? (Pretty similar to the real world, where more sales does not necessarily translate into more, or any, profits.)
The profit margin of an individual company depends on a number of factors, like the overall industry supply vs. demand situation, the company's management competence, its market share (more is better), and how much expense it is incurring on R&D or marketing expenses. Other expenses like the CEO salary or interest expense on loans or bonds will reduce those profits from the business, of course, and dividends or interest income of other income the company receives will increase operating profits.
One way to quickly improve profits in W$R, if a company is already profitable, but is not growing rapidly (by increasing its business assets and sales), is to simply increase its growth rate, sometimes to as much as 50% or 60% a year, if the company has a lot of cash or a good credit rating. This should immediately increase the bottom-line profits, by increasing sales, if the profit margin does not decrease. In addition, the stock market tends to put a higher price on stocks of companies that are growing rapidly, doing even more to help raise your company's stock price. Of course, increasing business assets rapidly won't be possible unless the company has the cash or credit to be able to make such capital spending, so this doesn't work if the company has weak finances, like a BB or lower credit rating. (Credit ratings, from best to worst, are AAA, AA, A, BBB, BB, B, CCC, CC, C and D in W$R, similar to Standard & Poor's rating system.)
However, boosting growth and capital spending works best for a company that has a very small market share, of less than 5% or so, in its industry. If you try this with a company with large market share, like 30% or more, its increased capacity from such rapid expansion may soon create oversupply of capacity for the industry, decreasing profitability for the industry as a whole. (But note that as a company increases its market share, that gives it a slight boost in profitability, all other things being equal, and reduces the profitability of all the other companies from whom it is taking market share.)
- Sometimes, if you control a large company that has a very large market share, like 45 or 50%, and is growing at a rapid or even a moderate rate, it can be profitable to reduce its growth rate, perhaps to a negative rate, like -10%. Doing that, for a company that is the "800-pound gorilla" in its industry will reduce competition, and increase profit margins for every company in the industry, including your 800-pound gorilla. Higher profits will usually mean a higher stock price, all other things being equal.
- Another tactic that you will probably not have many chances to use, is to have your company file an antitrust suit against the "800-pound gorilla" in its industry, if one large company (or group of companies under control of one player or company) in the industry has much more than a 50% market share. The sim operates uncontrolled companies in a "smart" manner, so most will avoid getting much more than a 50% market share, by cutting their growth rates before they become targets for an antitrust suit. The greater their market share, above 50%, the more likely the monopolist company is to lose when sued.
Use the "Antitrust Suit" button on the "Management" Menu to file such a lawsuit. Note that your legal fees will cost your company anywhere from 3.5% to 8.5% of the amount you are suing for, so it will be expensive if you lose the lawsuit. Also, it can take about a year sometimes for a case to be ready for trial, so if you file in the second year of a game, nothing may happen before the game ends. You will be given a chance to settle the lawsuit for less than you are suing for, which is usually a good idea, since it is hard to win a judgment if the case goes to trial. Just try to get more in a settlement than your legal fees cost. (You can select a law firm -- Good, average, or cheap -- from the Settings Menu.)
To find a potential "800 pound gorilla" that is trying to monopolize its industry, open the "General" Research Menu and click on "Market Share" to see a list of companies in the sim that currently have the largest market shares in their respective industries. (Only a company in the same industry is "harmed" by the monopolistic big company, so your company must be in the same industry as the company it is suing.)
So now we suggest you go back to the game and look for a good takeover target, and try your hand at managing it, perhaps using some of the techniques mentioned above, to try to get your company's stock to go up. You may find it very challenging at first, but you will get better, the more you tinker with the game and experiment with various strategies. You may even learn a few things that will help you manage your own stock market investments. The worst that can happen is that you will bankrupt your company a few times and have to start over. Hey, it's just a game!
One final word of advice, when playing Wall $treet Raider....
USE THE HELP FILES! As the saying goes, "When all else fails -- read the instructions!" W$R comes with very extensive "Help" files. (Use the F1 key or click on the "Help" menu item at the top of the main screen.). Every feature of the program, including every menu and every menu item, and what each does, is described in the help files. There are also a lot of general discussions about how things work, how taxes are calculated (and can be reduced or avoided), and so on, as you will see when you take a look at the Help Index.
(Monopoly ® is a registered trademark of Hasbro.)