David Abrams sums up Security Analysis the best in his introduction to Part VII of the 6th edition, where he calls it “the value investors’ equivalent to Deuteronomy” . SA is an extremely thorough explanation of how to evaluate stocks and bonds, primarily focusing on a company’s income statement and balance sheet. It is not an ideal starting point for young investors, but it is essential reading for any serious investor.
Graham and Dodd discuss the philosophy of value investing eloquently. They provide detailed analysis of dozens of companies’ finance statements to support their arguments about how investors should analyze securities. It is an excellent reality check for anyone who thinks he knows a thing or two about investing.
The examples given by Graham and Dodd are a bit dated (1930s), but most of the principles are still relevant today. The organization of the book is a bit awkward, but I don’t presume that I could organize such a massive quantity and variety of material any better.
It took me a long time to get through this, and I will probably explore many parts of it again over the next few years. It is a valuable addition to any business library and a resource that you can use for a lifetime of investing.
The Big Short is more technical and more entertaining than I had expected. When it comes to coverage of the 2008 financial crisis, there are few in books or media who do an adequate job of explaining the mortgage-backed securities, collateralized debt obligations, credit default swaps, and other technical finance concepts involved. Michael Lewis manages to make sense of a complex system of debt speculation that the people who were responsible for understanding didn’t seem to understand. It is exactly what one might hope to get out of this book, but it’s not the thing that makes this book truly special.
What is really surprising about this book is its tone. Wall Street investors can be very brash. The investors covered by Lewis are outsiders. They share many characteristics with Wall Street stereotypes, but for various reasons they don’t fit in to those social circles. They are rogue investors, searching for any niche they can find, striving to be contrarian. They speak with a colorful vernacular; Lewis doesn’t bowdlerize. In fact, Lewis adopts a bit of the voice of his characters to better tell their story.
As the story progresses, the tone drastically changes. The events that unfold have huge implications for capitalism, democracy, and the history of the world going into a new century. Seeing how the men who predicted it profited from it and eventually reacted to it is what The Big Short is really about.
Novel Investor has created a couple charts comparing asset class returns and sector returns in the U.S. and throughout the world. These charts demonstrate the importance of diversification among asset classes and diversification within asset classes. Continue reading “Historical Returns”