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Triumph of the Optimists: 101 Years of Global Investment Returns Hardcover – January 1, 2002
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"A model of how investor research should be carried out. . . . Like most great books, Triumph of the Optimists has us saying 'Wow!' and 'Unbelievable!' with startling regularity. . . . This is a book that belongs on every investor's bookshelf."---Victor Niederhoffer and Laurel Kenner, "Money" columnists, msn.com
"Connoisseurs of financial history will find plenty to enjoy in Triumph of the Optimists. . . . The evidence produced by Mr. Dimson and his colleagues is striking, [and]. . . these issues are more than just academic. . . . A provocative lesson."---Matthew Lynn, Financial Times
"By far the most important investment book in years. . . .It is the best and most complete source of data yet available. . . . If you spend an hour with it and don't learn anything worth the price then you're truly lousy at learning about markets. . . Right now, buying this book makes more sense than buying stocks."---Ken Fisher, Bloomberg Money
"A brilliant new book."---Jason Zweig, Time
"Our favorite book on global stock market performance. . . . [It] epitomizes outstanding investment research. . . . Unless intelligent life is discovered on another planet and a stock market is found to have been operating there for some centuries, it is unlikely that much new data can be brought to bear on the issue of long-run stock returns. Triumph of the Optimists may well be the last word on the subject for some time to come." ― Active Trader magazine
"Recent years have seen unprecedented public interest in the stock market, but there is a tendency for investors to concentrate on recent U.S. stock market performance. Progress in understanding financial markets requires a much longer timeframe and a global perspective. This book presents and analyzes data from many countries in a simple, standardized way that makes comparisons easy. It makes a number of extremely important points and goes well beyond simple summaries of average returns and historical volatilities to look at such issues as seasonality and industrial structure."―John Campbell, Harvard University
"No investor can afford to risk a penny in the markets without studying this book and absorbing its fascinating lessons. That advice applies whether you are professional or amateur, a youngster or hardened from experience, bold or conservative. This book is history at its most challenging and illuminating. The facts are astonishing, the presentation dazzling, the analysis brilliant, and the lessons profound."―Peter L. Bernstein, author of Capital Ideas and Against the Gods
"This is an important addition to the investment literature and will be widely used by both the academic and business community. To have the scope of data and analysis contained in this book available in one place represents a major contribution and improvement over what is now available."―Martin J. Gruber, New York University
- ASIN : 0691091943
- Publisher : Princeton University Press (January 1, 2002)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 320 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9780691091945
- ISBN-13 : 978-0691091945
- Item Weight : 3.25 pounds
- Dimensions : 8.6 x 1.26 x 11.28 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #258,957 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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This book was lacking in several respects:
1. The numbers behind the graphs are not provided and are not available so you cannot do any further analysis yourself. The graphs themselves are also drawn in such a way that it is hard to extract the numbers using a ruler.
2. The problem of survivorship bias. They claim that while the 16 countries analysed are an incomplete list (only 70% of world GDP in 1900), this is not a big problem, they feel. Their message that stocks do well in the long run supposedly remains intact, however they do not provide any solid evidence of this. The countries left out of course suffered terrible performance, with total confiscation of assets in most cases and major losses in others.
The countries left out include: Russia, China, Eastern Europe, Latin America. As an example, Argentina was the wealthiest country 100 years ago but was left out. They claim that their criterion for inclusion was the availability of data, but Switzerland was included even though the data is incomplete.
In my opinion, some attempt should have been made to adjust for this problem.
3. No assessment is made of the issue of capital controls etc as an impedement to implementing the world indexing strategy. It is simply assumed that equal dollar indexing could be implemented without any costs, and with no taxes.
All in all, this book fails to provide a realistic and convincing assessment of global investment returns in the real world.
Victor Niederhoffer uses this book to justify his bullishness on stocks, Sorry Vic, no cigar.
Buy this book!
Skepticism can degenerate to permanent pessimism, particularly because most news coverage tends toward the negative. How does an investor remain bullish in the face of news flow that is predominantly negative? By looking at the broader tendencies of equity markets to flourish in the face of troubles over the long run. One good book for that is Triumph of the Optimists. [TOTO]
TOTO points out a number of things that should bias investors toward risk-bearing in the equity markets:
Over the period 1900-2000, equities beat bonds, which beat cash in returns. (Note: time weighted returns. If the study had been done with dollar-weighted returns, the order would be the same, but the differences would not be so big.)
This was true regardless of what presently developed nation you looked at. (Note: survivor bias... what of all the developing markets that looked bigger in 1900, like Russia and India, that amounted to little?)
Relative importance of industries shifts, but the aggregate market tended to do well regardless. (Note: some industries are manias when they are new)
Returns were higher globally in the last quarter of the 20th century.
Downdrafts can be severe. Consider the US 1939-1932, UK 1973-74, Germany 1945-48, or Japan 1944-47. Amazing what losing a war on your home soil can do, or, even a severe recession.
Real cash returns tend to be positive but small.
Long bonds returned more than short bonds, but with a lot more risk. High grade corporate bonds returned more on average, but again, with some severe downdrafts.
Purchasing power parity seems to work for currencies in the long run. (Note: estimates of forward interest rates work in the short run, but they are noisy.)
International diversification may give risk reduction. During times of global stress, such as wartime, it may not diversify much. Global markets are more correlated now than before, reducing diversification benefits.
Small caps may or may not outperform large caps on average.
Value tends to beat growth over the long run.
Higher dividends tend to beat lower dividends.
Forward-looking equity risk premia are lower than most estimates stemming from historical results. (Note: I agree, and the low returns of the 2000s so far in the US are a partial demonstration of that. My estimates are a little lower, even...)
Stocks will beat bonds over the long run, but in the short run, having some bonds makes sense.
Returns in the latter part of the 20th century were artificially high.
The statistical chapters on the 16 developed markets are amazing, but now almost seven years dated. Still, you can glean a lot from them.
This is an expensive book, and one that may not be for everyone. A cheaper book that covers many of the same issues is Stocks for the Long Run, by Jeremy Siegel. Now going into its fourth edition (I have a signed first edition), it covers many of the same issues, but with more of a US-centric approach, and going back another 100 years (with spotty data).
As I like to say, stocks do well, absent war on your home soil, out-of-control socialism, and severe recession/depression. These books will help you stay in the market even when times are hard. After all, who can tell when the market will turn up? Or down?