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Valuing Wall Street : Protecting Wealth in Turbulent Markets Paperback – February 15, 2002

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 356 pages
  • Publisher: McGraw-Hill; 1 edition (February 15, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0071387838
  • ISBN-13: 978-0071387835
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,138,831 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"Most books about the stock market tell you how to make money. This one ... will show you how to avoid losing it," begins this smart, blunt, cautionary tale based on Nobel laureate James Tobin's 1969 "q ratio," which posits, among other things, that no matter how bullish a market gets, it's bound to snap back into place at some point--and those who don't brace for the reversal will feel its sting. The authors, one a prominent asset-allocation adviser and the other a former head of macroeconomic forecasting for the Bank of England, warn that it's only a matter of time before the overexuberant market of the early 21st-century topples like its counterparts in 1929 and 1968. Here they set out to show why and how this will happen--as well as to tell stockholders what they should and should not do if they want to emerge intact.

After making a cogent new argument in defense of the still-controversial q ratio, the authors show how it plays into principles of stock-market risk and return, how it has determined the value of Wall Street in the past and will continue to do so, and how to apply it as a practical investing tool. They do a neat job of parsing the good and bad news about stocks as a sound investment for the future, and of what to do and not do with one's money come the inevitable bear market. From there, they get down to the nitty-gritty of valuing the stock market, providing four key tests for any indicator of value and explaining how to fold in such factors as the dividend yield, the price-earnings ratio, the adjusted price-earnings multiple, yield ratios, and yield differences. They wrap up with a look at what they call "the q debate" among both economists and stockbrokers, and finally, they apply the q ratio specifically to the U.S. economy, rebuking Alan Greenspan's Federal Reserve for its role in what they see as the coming U.S. bubble burst.

With its plain English, helpful illustrated charts, vivid examples from history, and even the occasional employment of the likes of Alice in Wonderland to prove its points, Valuing Wall Street should be accessible to those with a working understanding of the market and economic principles. All told, this book is not so much a how-to as it is a theoretical forecast whose tidings investors might want heed as we near what Smithers and Wright warn are rough years ahead. --Timothy Murphy --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Analysts also believe the debate over stock market valuation will intensify in the weeks ahead thanks to the recent publication of two highly respected books that both forecast a coming bear market. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

The book is must read for any individual investor.
Charles Hill
It also provided good insights on the real behavior of investors, i.e. most investors are not long-term investors and the perils of retiring during a down period.
James Igoe
I found a lot of this book to be hard to read and filled with too many statistics and mathematical formulas.
Michael Beverly

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

110 of 110 people found the following review helpful By David Roth on April 20, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Smithers and Wright have written a very compelling indictment of today's stock prices. They argue that prices are way too high by historical standards, and exhort us to SELL. This is the same conclusion reached by Yale Professor Robert Shiller in his new book "Irrational Exuberance"; however, Smithers and Wright are much more convincing.
Smithers and Wright use as a measure of valuation for stocks a statistic called "q" (or Tobin's q, named after Nobel laureate and Shiller colleague James Tobin). q represents the value of equities divided by the cost of replacing the underlying capital stock. So you might expect the stock market to be worth somewhere near q=1, where companies are worth what it cost to build them; historically, the average value of q is near 1.
Smithers and Wright show that changes in q and equity prices are almost identical, since the cost of replacing the capital stock changes so little. They also show that high values of q are associated with terrible subsequent returns. They show how a simple strategy of selling when q rises to 1.5 and buying again when q falls below 1 * trounces * a buy-and-hold strategy. And they top it all off by showing that today's level of q, around 2.5, is unprecedented. So SELL!
The reason the book is so much better than Shiller's is that Smithers and Wright give a coherent, fact- and theory-based argument for why q should be used to value stocks, not just P/E, stock earnings yield compared to bond earnings yield, or other popular measures. Shiller just used P/E and told us to sell due to today's high P/E; he did not even consider, not to mention try to debunk, other theories of valuation.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 30, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is far from the dry boring stuff that is usually written on finance. The authors produce an extremely convincing and logical argument that the stock market is overvalued. This is based on comparing Tobin's q to its long term average. Tobin's q is based on flow of funds data and hence overcomes the problem of looking at corporate data. They also discuss other valuation techniques and explain their strengths and weaknesses. The book is full of interesting insights. I particularly like an example they use to demonstrate the power of compund interest. A gem of a book and well worth reading what ever your view on the state of world equity market.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By misterbeets on February 22, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Although there's plenty of evidence one cannot time the market short term--just look at managed portfolios compared to major stock indexes--that does not mean it's not possible over much longer cycles. The usual metric, P/E ratio, for measuring these cycles is occasionally wrong, like once or twice a century, e.g. if earnings are unusually small, as in the Depression. Better to use something similar to price-to-book value, "q". Averaging over all companies, and looking back over the last hundred years of market data, q tells you when stocks are overpriced more reliably than P/E. If you buy stocks at below average q and sell them when q is above average, you'll outperform a buy and hold strategy.

Of course, people already ignoring P/E are unlikely to be swayed by a refinement. That's why the second aspect of this book is important. It's one of few books that tells you *not* to own stocks now. It presents historical data--someone unfortunate enough to have entered the market just before the 1929 crash would have had to wait 25 years to catch up with an all bond portfolio--to show how bad an investment stocks can be.

Holding bonds until P/E returns to single digits, where it was at the start of the bull market in 1982, will never appeal to some people, but that's this book's advice in a nutshell.
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44 of 52 people found the following review helpful By hiscapital on August 10, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Smithers and Wright tell us they have undertaken a statistical study of the relationship between the market value of US equities and the net worth of the underlying firms (as expressed by the ratio known as "Tobins q") and that their analysis reveals a strong tendency for this ratio to revert to its long-run mean of .65. As Tobins q is currently measuring in the area of 1.5, the authors conclude that the US stock market is overvalued and likely to decline by more than 50%. Based on about 100 years of data, the authors provide an estimate (using confidence intervals) of how soon this mean reversion is likely to occur.
The best service Smithers and Wright have provided in VWS is in demonstrating that contrary to popular wisdom (and books by other authors), a "buy and hold" approach to investing in the stock market has not necessarily provided a sure path to riches (or even a comfortable retirement). How well an investor has done depends crucially on, 1) what year he/she began investing in stocks, 2) the duration over which he/she invested, and 3) the year in which he/she retired. Over many periods, investors would have earned a much higher risk-adjusted return by holding bonds or cash instead of stocks. Thus, the authors conclude that with stocks set to decline by over 50% in the near future, any investor with less than, say a twenty year time horizon, would be well-advised to sell their stocks now.
Of course, Tobins q only serves as a reliable indicator of future stock market performance if the factors responsible for its accuracy in the past are still valid today. Some of the other reviewers here have done a good job of pointing out the problem with measuring corporate net worth exclusively in terms of real assets.
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More About the Author

Andrew Smithers founded Smithers & Co., Ltd., and is regularly quoted in The New York Times, Barron's, Forbes, and other important publications. Stephen Wright spent several years as head of macroeconomic forecasting for the Bank of England, and now teaches and researches at Birkbeck College, University of London.