Andrew Allentuck
Monday, June 14, 2004

Lessons from the Greatest Stock Traders of All Time
By John Boik
McGraw-Hill, 2004, 150 pages

John Boik, who is described in a note on the back of this paperback as an active stock trader, has assembled the wisdom of five fairly famous investors. In sequence, they are commodities trader Jesse Livermore, financier and statesman Bernard Baruch, dancer turned speculator Nicholas Darvas, investment banker Gerald Loeb, and stock broker William O'Neill.

What's wrong with this assemblage of sagacity is that the sources of this wisdom are not quite what they seem. Baruch promoted the idea that he was a great speculator; in fact, he tended to keep his money in U.S. Treasury bills. Darvas was busted by the SEC for regulatory infractions. Livermore, a great plunger, committed suicide in the men's room of New York's swanky Sherry Netherland hotel in 1940 when his money and luck had run out, his investment book had flopped and the world no longer cared about him. Loeb, the banker, knew Wall St. well; his speculative use of information his firm had as counsel to client companies would probably get him into jail today.

Distilling the investment wisdom out of the bios of these men, one gets the idea that Mr. Boik admires growth investing, fundamental analysis and a sense of technical timing. Yet revelations such as the advice of Gerald Loeb that a successful trader should be intelligent and objective are equivalent to the insight that on clear nights one can often see the moon.

Call Lessons from the Greatest Stock Traders of All Time a curiosity and you've got it right.