- Paperback: 360 pages
- Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (June 20, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0471731749
- ISBN-13: 978-0471731740
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.1 x 8.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 28 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #217,499 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Capital Ideas: The Improbable Origins of Modern Wall Street 1st Edition
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From Library Journal
In a thorough, well-written work on the modern financial marketplace, Bernstein traces the merging of academic research with the curbstone techniques of Wall Street. Previously considered impractical pursuits, the concepts developed in "ivory towers" by various scholars and economists forced the marketplace to rethink its methods in light of events of this century. From early attempts at predicting market behavior and developing the concept of risk and portfolio management theories, these thinkers contributed a theoretical basis to capital markets, bridging the gap in understanding between insiders and outsiders. The text presupposes a knowledge of market and economic theory, but a well-informed reader will find this an interesting summary of the development of modern finance.
- Kenneth J. Cook, Melbourne, Fla.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Kirkus Reviews
A savvy appreciation of how a small band of disinterested academics has revolutionized the way Wall Street and its offshore counterparts manage the world's investment wealth. A securities-industry veteran and founding editor of The Journal of Portfolio Management, Bernstein provides a lively, lucid history of the scholarship that has helped advance institutional investing beyond the more-art-than-science stage. For openers, he focuses on an obscure French polymath whose turn-of-the-century doctoral thesis on the unpredictability of stock prices anticipated Einstein's work on relativity. Over the years, this Gallic ground- breaker was followed by other pioneers, including an English statistician who put paid to any notion that securities analysts can pick undervalued issues with any consistency, and an American astronomer whose main claim to financial fame was his discovery that stock prices move in random patterns. Eventually, a host of Nobel laureates in Economics (Harry Markowitz, Franco Modigliani, Paul Samuelson, James Tobin, etc.) contributed as well. As Bernstein makes clear, however, professional investors at bank trust departments, foundations, insurance companies, mutual funds, and elsewhere long resisted unconventional wisdom--in particular, that originating with ivory-tower theoreticians. Once the bear market of 1973-74 had wreaked its havoc, though, many of the recalcitrants conceded there just might be something in the idea of systematically controlling risk in the competition for above- average investment returns. At any rate, less than two decades later (with a big assist from powerful numbers-crunching computers), asset allocation, diversification, hedging, performance measurement, portfolio insurance, and allied techniques are norms, not novelties, in the management of large pools of money. While his text may prove a bit difficult for market tyros, Bernstein makes a fine job of tracing the town/gown links that are restructuring big-time investment strategy and practice. -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top customer reviews
Bernstein has written a fascinating pre-LTCM (pre 8/98) book on the history of econometrics and finance, beginning with the origins of the Cowles foundation as the consequence of Cowles' personal interest in the question: Are stock prices predictable? This book is all about heroes and heroic ideas, and Bernstein's heroes are Adam Smith, Batchelier, Cowles, Markowitz (and Roy), Sharpe, Arrow and Debreu, Samuelson, Fama, Tobin, Samuelson, Markowitz, Miller and Modigliani, Treynor, Samuelson, Osborne, Wells-Fargo Bank (McQuown, Vertin, Fouse and the origin of index funds), Ross, Black, Scholes, and Merton. The final heroes (see ch. 14, The Ultimate Invention) are the inventors of (synthetic) portfolio insurance (replication/synthetic options).
This book consists largely of a pre-LTCM (pre-10/98) cheerleading for option-pricing mathematics based on lognormality, and corresponding synthetic portfolio insurance. Osborne and Mandelbrot are mentioned. The book is not error-free: e.g., Mandelbrot's ideas on stock prices are stated as being the origin of chaos theory (!), and Mandelbrot (of random fractals fame) is misportrayed as an `articulate proponent' of chaos theory! Another error (page 182): "..persistent forces are constantly driving the market toward (Modigliani-Miller) equilibrium." The evidence for the EMH is supposed to constitute the `proof' for this nonsense. So much for `proofs' in economics. So ingrained is the false, misleading and inapplicable notion of "equilibrium" in the minds of economists that it is hopeless to expect to educate them out of their own morass. Even Black, who was educated as a physicist as an undergrad, did no better:
"When people are seeking profits, equilibrium will prevail." (F. Black, quoted by Bernstein)
Among the interesting and entertaining stories that are told are: the displacement of Graham and Dodd's `value theory' by the EMH, the revolutionary role played by Wells Fargo Bank in using the `new finance math', and in creating index funds. The importance of the Miller-Modigliani `theorem, which `proved' that the (not-uniquely-defined) `value' of a corporation is independent of it's debt. Then, there is the wild-haired idea of `portfolio insurance', how to eat your cake and have it too (a free lunch, derived from the assumption that free lunches don't exist). No portfolio can be insured against extreme deviations, especially those that occurred in 10/87 and wiped out confidence in LOR (Leland-O'Brien-Rubinstein Associates). But this failure of finance theory produces no crisis for Bernstein, whose book is the history of heroes, not villains. His last chapter, which can be ignored by the reader without loss, is states his ideology: free market ueber Alles. Or: equilibrium will prevail, even without restoring forces ( I like to put it this way: there are no "springs" in the market). I did get something important from this book: the origin of America's spend-spend-spend ideology in the Modigliani-Miller `theorem'.
If the optimal portfolio is not risky enough, borrow to finance it's purchase. (Wells Fargo's application of Tobin's idea, quoted by Bernstein)
(This is a shorter version of a longer review that appeared in fall(...).
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