Practical analysis for investment professionals

Book Reviews


Book Review: A Decade of Debt

Economics professors Carmen M. Reinhart and Kenneth S. Rogoff document that the public and private debts of industrialized nations have grown to unprecedented levels relative to their GDPs. They find that a large public debt burden slows macroeconomic growth, even without explicit sovereign debt default.

Book Review: Ben Graham Was a Quant

The roots of value investing can be traced back to the 1934 publication of Benjamin Graham and David Dodd’s classic, Security Analysis. Graham later disseminated his views to the general public in the highly regarded book The Intelligent Investor. The influence of Graham’s methodology is indisputable. His disciples represent a virtual who’s who of value investors, including Warren Buffett, Bill Ruane, and Walter Schloss. As a measure of his enduring impact on the field, a search of “Benjamin Graham” on Amazon.com yields more than 900 results concerning Graham’s writings and works about his investment philosophy. Given the success of the master and his students, it is no wonder that Graham remains an investor of immense interest to practitioners.

Book Review: Super Sectors

This book provides a highly accessible and pragmatic approach to the subject of investment vehicles. For the relative newcomer to active investing, it offers several nuggets of useful information. For veteran system developers interested in further honing their trading acumen, it serves as a refresher of key concepts.

Book Review: Portfolio Design

Richard Marston certainly has the credentials to author a book on portfolio design. Currently the academic director of the Private Wealth Management Program at the Wharton School of University of Pennsylvania, he has taught in five countries, is the recipient of both a Rhodes Scholarship and a Fulbright Fellowship, and—perhaps most relevantly—has taught asset allocation to more than 5,000 financial advisers as a faculty member in the Certified Investment Management Analyst program. Marston has accomplished what many investment academics find difficult—namely, produce a book that is truly practical and “hands-on” for both financial advisers and investors. Portfolio Design: A Modern Approach to Asset Allocation deftly combines rigorous academic research with everyday investment experience to provide a guidebook to the complexities underlying portfolio design and asset allocation.

Book Review: Corporate Governance Failures

In August 2007, the head of AIG’s financial products division stated, “It is hard for us, without being flippant, to even see a scenario within any kind of realm of reason that would see us losing one dollar” in any credit default swap (CDS) transactions. Five months later, AIG disclosed that it had lost not $1.00 but $5 billion on its CDS exposure. This turn of events is just one example of sophisticated financial institutions’ hugely misjudging the risk of “financial weapons of mass destruction.” The reasons for their systematic failure deserve thoughtful and rigorous study.

Book Review: Don’t Count on It!

In a lecture presented in 2004, John Bogle, founder of the Vanguard Group, documented a direct and substantial relationship between management costs and mutual fund returns. Stratifying all funds by expense ratio, from lowest to highest, he reported the following 10-year average annual returns by quartile: 10.7 percent, 9.8 percent, 9.5 percent, and 7.7 percent. A presumption of market rationality would lead one to expect that investors demanded reduced fees in response to this negative correlation. According to Bogle, however, the average equity fund’s expense ratio was on a long-run rise, which represented a gain for mutual fund operators but an aggregate loss for the consumers they served.

Book Reviews: Swindlers

Effective 1 January 2011, the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) became mandatory for Canadian public companies. Proponents of IFRS adoption argued that it would enhance global comparability of financial statements. The authors of Swindlers: Cons & Cheats and How to Protect Your Investments from Them argue, on the contrary, that “differences in laws, regulations, taxes, cultures, education, ethics, training, traditions, enforcement, and optimism make uniformity an opium dream.”

Book Review: No-Hype Options Trading

The trading of options is quite mysterious to many investors. Some view the use of options as nothing more than gambling. One may place small bets with the potential for very large gains. Unfortunately, just like bets at a casino, the options trader who bets on a large move in the price of an asset is rarely the winner because most such bets expire worthless. As Kerry W. Given (a.k.a. Dr. Duke), founder of Parkwood Capital, points out in No-Hype Options Trading: Myths, Realities, and Strategies That Really Work, “The casino establishes a game where the casino holds a statistical edge. . . . Your model for trading options should be the casino owner, not the player at the tables.” His goal is to teach investors how to profit from the use of options while intelligently managing the risks involved.

Book Review: Wealth Building Strategies in Energy Metals and Other Markets

Although not a pioneering work, Wealth Building Strategies in Energy, Metals, and Other Markets details easily accessible and timely methods for navigating upcoming investment markets that are sure to be stormy. Author Chris Waltzek, host of a weekly broadcast on GoldSeek.com, focuses on a few economically sensitive sectors — namely, energy, metals, and real estate. The book consists of three sections: “Successful Investing,” “The Housing Bubble,” and “Banking—Super Profits.”

Book Review: Models.Behaving.Badly

Emanuel Derman spent two decades at Goldman Sachs, making valuable contributions to financial modeling. Before that, as recounted in My Life as a Quant (John Wiley & Sons, 2004), he was a physicist. Today, Derman is the head of risk management at Prisma Capital Partners and directs Columbia University’s financial engineering program. He also devotes energy to combating the belief that security markets can be analyzed with the same mathematical precision as heavenly bodies and subatomic particles.



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