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UK Analyst Book Review - Wall Street & Witchcraft

Cover of  by Max Gunther

Investing is a funny profession. Unlike in most other industries, you can know absolutely nothing about finance but still do better than those whose make their day to day livings out of it. A proverbial monkey with a pin and a copy of the Financial Times could potentially make more money on the markets than a investment bank with hundreds of number crunchers sat at their desks in plush City offices. Imagine if medicine was like this. There would be none of us left if doctors simply stuck their scalpels in us and hoped for the best.

It is with this in mind that Max Gunther wrote this book, originally in the 1970s but which has recently been reissued. In Wall Street and Witchcraft he meets a range of weird and wonderful people who have become rich on the stock markets through some rather unconventional investment techniques. Witchcraft, extra sensory perception, tarot cards, numerology and other out of this world strategies are all covered.

Some other techniques are more subtle. Take for example the story of Jesse Livermore, a young man of the 1890s who seemed to have an extraordinary knack for guessing the movements of Wall Street stocks. Starting off his working life as a stock price "board boy" in Boston he began chalking up or down arrows next to companies he thought were going to move during the trading day based upon how he felt the market was going. After correctly predicting the movement of 15 stocks during one day he was ordered by his company to stop chalking his predictions for them not wanting to get a reputation for dabbling in the occult! Following his rap on the knuckles Livermore borrowed $10 from a fellow employee and by 1906 had made half a million dollars, owned a yacht, a private railroad car and had women dripping off his arms. And all that not from detailed fundamental analysis or other research techniques but by nothing more than intuition.

In my opinion this book is not meant to be taken seriously. By the laws of probability if everyone in the world rolled a fair die 10 times then many millions would roll a 6 every time. But does that make them experts in die rolling? Absolutely not. If you search for long enough there are bound to be a number of people in the world who make money on the markets and claim that their success is down to the supernatural. Nevertheless, like in many of his other tomes in Wall Street and Witchcraft Max Gunther demonstrates his natural writing ability and his flair for telling a story. So while you will certainly be entertained by this book, it really isn't likely to make you a better investor.

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