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Bull: A History of the Boom and Bust, 1982-2004 Paperback – October 12, 2004

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: HarperBusiness; Reprint edition (October 12, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060564148
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060564148
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #369,927 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Financial journalist Mahar offers a thorough and accessible history of the explosive 1982-1999 bull market that is illuminating as well as sobering from the current bear market perspective. She notes that most people swept up in the euphoria of this latest market surge failed to recall the lessons of 1929-1934 and 1970-1974, when earlier bubbles collapsed and investors lost heavily. Citing studies by esteemed economists John Kenneth Galbraith and Charles Kindleberger, Mahar reminds readers that this self-blinding euphoria is a regular feature of every bull market. In vivid detail, she documents the trends and outsized personalities that fueled this particular bull market, including the surge of leveraged buyouts of 1984-1987, the mania for junk bonds, falling short-term interest rates, the rush of individual investors into 401(k) retirement plans, the power (and appetites) of mutual funds and the media frenzy that lent an unlikely allure to quarterly corporate earnings reports. As the runup in stock prices gained momentum in the late 1990s while evidence of corporate accounting shenanigans mounted, Mahar's account assumes the compelling power of an oncoming train wreck. Survivors of the recent market meltdown can profit from Mahar's assertion: "Ultimately, secular bear markets teach investors to learn to manage risk in a different way, focusing not on the odds, but on the size of risk." Individual investors will also gather that they need to be more skeptical of some sources of "information" and to be much better informed not to be burned again. Charts.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Mahar, a journalist, explores the intrigue and implications of the famous 1982-99 bull market. We are introduced to money managers, stock analysts, and market timers who played critical roles, as well as an unprecedented number of average men and woman (called "main street investors") who poured their retirement savings into mutual funds--money most of them could not afford to lose. Small investors were not advised of the inherent risks in their investments, says Mahar, and the media hype was so great and the news was so good that thousands upon thousands gave Wall Street their confidence. The book concludes with the author's thoughts on topics such as the "buy and hold" strategy; managing risk in a bear market; strategic market timing; and commodities, gold, and the dollar. The 1982-99 run of the bulls on Wall Street was part of a longer cycle that governs the stock market, and Mahar teaches many valuable lessons in this excellent history and analysis. Mary Whaley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

From a history perspective, it is very entertaining.
Chris Jaronsky
Unlike momentum and long-term buy-and-hold investors, successful value investors, like Warren Buffett, use market timing to buy low and sell high.
I read this book because Warren Buffet recommended it.
Sigourney Weaver

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Jeffery Steele on December 9, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Beginning investors are sometimes told a few simple maxims to help them manage their portfolios. Never time the market. Buy and hold. Expect 10% annual return on stocks held for the long run (usually defined as seven to ten years).
Maggie Mahar has done a service to these investors by showing how little evidence there is to support these maxims or, at the least, how easily they can be distorted. She does this by revisiting the last boom and showing it in historical perspective.
Contrary to the conventional wisdom that most index funds will grow 10% annually so long as they are held around ten years, Mahar shows that the U.S. stock market - upon which most index funds closely track - has gone through several periods nearly twenty years long with little to no annual growth.
Contrary to the conventional wisdom that you can't time the market, Mahar says that most savvy investors - including buy-and-hold strategists such as Warren Buffett - do time their investments, and feel no compunction about getting out of a severely over-inflated market.
Mahar's history is also instructive in showing how industry leaders and government officials were complicit in allowing shoddy accounting and other questionable practices to contribute to the breakneck market. Rather than a rational market in which everyone can expect to be a winner given enough time (seven to ten years), "Bull" shows that investors must still exercise caution even when following the few simple investing guidelines that most people do not question.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 22, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I finished Bull! in two days, and I enjoyed every page. The problem that I've had with most books on economic history or investing (and particularly those, such as this one, that include considerable economic detail) is that they are miserable to plow through, and are invariably filled with dry and seemingly superfluous detail. This book is different. Mahar mixes witty anecdotes with incisive analysis, and her claims about investing are offered in intelligent often playful prose, surrounded with a copious amount of recent historical material. Even well known stock-market figures--like Warren Buffet--look new here: we get a sense of why they acted as they did, and often a hint of what they may have been thinking. Recommended for anyone interested in learning more about investing, uncovering what the last bull run was all about, or meeting some of the major Wall Street players that were made into near-celebrities.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By therosen VINE VOICE on December 29, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
On the surface, this is a history of the stock market over the past 20 years. Like most economic history, one would expect to be bored to tears. The book adds a couple doses of financial theory (also "Ho Hum") and somehow manages to be a delightfully insightful and interesting read. The 400+ pages just flew by.

There's lots of interesting historical annecdotes included:

1) The bears who get killed for mistiming their predictions. (The bull isn't done until the last bear is gored)

2) How the Blodgets of the world were created by a system that encouraged cooking the books and an abdication of responsibility. (Mahar covers the laws that created this environment, and those politicians that pushed for them)

3) The ups and down of particular investors as they deal with the bull and inevitable bear.

In addition, several insights come out:

1) Buy and Hold Equities isn't all that it's cracked up to be.

2) Not everyone belongs in the market. Indeed, many investing professionals make their money on Wall Street, but invest it on Main Street. (Harder to lose money on a house)

3) Decreasing spending or increasing earning potential can go a long way.

4) It is easier to pick trends than timing them.

There are a couple attacks on her thinking:

1) She cites the virtues of market timing, but market timing really isn't that easy. If it were, we'd all be doing it.

2) She cites many folks who called the end of the bull right. In a sea of information overload, it isn't that easy to find these people and understand their arguments. (There's always convincing bears)

3) There are many instances of "If you only followed Xs advice from Day Y...
Read more ›
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Bob C on March 3, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I have read many self-help financial books over the years, but I must place this one right at the top. Maggie Mahar is a gifted writer and tells her tale with wit and economy. The result is a lot more readable than your typical financial book, but more than that, it exposes the fallacy of many old bromides that I had read in all those other self-help screeds (like "buy and hold"). In fact, as she traces the history of the long bull market that began in 1982 and culminated with the late 90's mania for tech stocks with triple digit PE's, I recognized myself among the many fools who bought into the madness and squandered much of their retirement nest eggs.
I found the most valuable investment advice in the book to be the musings of a few experienced money managers who had been through the long and punishing bear market of 1968-1982, and who saw the tech wreck coming. The reminiscences of these investment advisers--people like Gail Dudack, Steve Leuthold, Jean Marie Eveillard and Peter Bernstein--are worth the price of the book many times over. For people who are looking for a self-help investment primer that doesn't sugarcoat the risks, this book is the real deal, without the BULL!
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Bull: A History of the Boom and Bust, 1982-2004
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