20 internautes sur 20 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
Stuart W. Mirsky
- Publié sur Amazon.com
Jesse Livermore, the "writer" of this book (though he calls himself Lawrence Livingston and the book sports, as author, one Edwin Lefevre), here tells the story of his life in the markets (both stocks and commodities) from the time he was 14 years old until he became a successful "stock operator" in his late thirties or, perhaps, early forties. Along the way he offers us a view of how he progressed from mere tape reading and betting on price fluctuations on a very short term basis to genuine player, able to "run big lines" in the market, corner various stocks and other goods and successfully manipulate markets for himself and those who sought this of him, to sell positions that were too big to be absorbed without depressing prices to a level that made such sales untenable. The picture of the markets Livermore sketches here is fascinating as is the glimpse he gives us into how he became good at what he did.
He learned, he tells us, that mere tape reading alone, while a useful tool, was not sufficient to make real money in the markets. For that you had to be able to adequately gauge "general conditions" and correctly bet which way the economy and markets would be moving over a long period of time, i.e., to determine if conditions were bullish or bearish. Then, says Livermore, the key is to move into your positions but only incrementally, testing the waters as you go and never overcommitting. You have to be patient, he says, and only move when you are sure and, once in, if things are going your way, you have to hold your ground and not try to grab quick profits and trade in and out heavily. Value has no part in this since prices move with the enthusiasms or fears of the crowd. So a stock, he asserts, is never too high to buy or too low to sell . . . if the stock price is moving your way. But you have to be prepared to act, he adds, against your normal human inclinations, i.e., to take losses quickly when the market for your positions moves contrary to your expectations. It's better to take the loss and conserve capital, he says, than hang on in vain hope.
He played both the long and short sides of the market and was enamoured of the game itself. He tells us it wasn't the money that kept him in it, or at least not the money per se, but rather the sense of accomplishment he derived from being right. The money was the confirmation of that accomplishment. Still Livermore managed to go broke a couple of times in this book (and, as others have pointed out here, he finally died broke after cleaning up as a result of his being bearish in the year leading up to the 1929 crash).
While there are lots of intriguing anecdotes here, including the tale of his efforts to come back after a big-time blunder in cotton (which he ascribes to his being mesmerized by a charismatic cotton speculator who bedazzled him into ignoring his own best judgment), there is very little about the people he knew and shaped him, or who he influenced in his turn. We're told about this or that broker, this or that trader and assorted business tycoons. And he mentions his marriage and wife briefly and in passing. But his interests are clearly in the market and in his own thoughts while playing it. I understand from other sources that he was a very private man who did not connect well with other people and that he suffered from bouts of depression. This probably explains the almost total dearth of humanity in the book, except for his own experiences in the market. (It reads, in fact, like a series of "as told to" interviews, strung together for publication in book form.)
Perhaps Livermore's way is really how one gets good at something like stock speculation, to be a totally focused and blindered individual, completely devoted to honing an almost inhuman skill at outguessing the mass of other human beings through the markets. Still, the few personal anecdotes he offers do reverberate and illuminate.
It's intriguing to see how he had to dissemble in order to operate in the crooked "bucket shops" (where no stocks were ever really bought or sold as customers bet on the next price quotation), or when, coming back from Boston to New York, he stumbled into a small brokerage house and, looking younger than his years, he and a friend were taken for well-off college students instead of the market professionals that Livermore, at least, was fast becoming. In this case, Livermore (or Livingston) takes the poor shop owner (it may have been one of those bucket shops) for a ride until the man regretfully acknowledges they have nearly cleaned him out and asks them to give him a break and just move on. Another time, after the cotton fiasco, Livermore recalls how he was brought back to New York from Chicago (where he'd gone to rebuild his stake) by a big, respectable brokerage house who wrote him a check for $25,000 (real money in those days) and just told him to trade out of their house. Surprised at their largesse, he takes the opportunity they are offering to make a swifter comeback than would otherwise have been possible, but soon finds that they are crimping his trading. Because of his sense of obligation to them, he allows them to do it, forcing him into mistakes that lead to his incurring even greater debt than before. In the end he realizes that he has been brought in for "cover" since his reputation for "running a big line" and short selling provides them camouflage as they liquidate the assets of their major customer on the open market, thereby enabling them to avoid driving down the prices of the shares.
Livermore comes across as an honorable fellow who, even after declaring bankruptcy to 'free his mind' from creditors so he can trade successfully again, goes out of his way to pay back a million dollars in debt. Of course, the point of declaring bankruptcy is to wipe out those debts. But Livermore tells us that he paid everyone back anyway and that he only went the bankruptcy route to remove the sword of Damocles that seemed to be hanging over his head and hindering his market judgement.
In the end I wanted more from the book than it had to give. But as a window into the mind of an enigmatic and remarkably successful "stock market operator" of the early twentieth century, it was unbeatable. The man gives us his own learning experiences, his insights and his invaluable perspective. True, markets aren't quite like this anymore, driven as they are these days by program trading and international money flows. A line of sixty thousand shares is hardly enough to move most major stock prices on the big board these days, at least not for very long. But the fundamental principles of the markets are hardly likely to have changed. Livermore would certainly have had to play a different game today. But he'd have been at home.