Issue: December 08/February 09


Spare a thought for South Africans who’d emigrated to the US because they couldn’t bear the thought of living under a black president.

Revised definitions:

  • Bull market: A random movement in share prices causing an investor to mistake himself for a genius;
  • Bear market: A six to 18-month period when the kids get no allowance, the wife gets no jewellery and the husband gets no sex;
  • Momentum investing: The art of buying high and selling low;
  • Value investing: The art of buying low and selling lower;
  • P/e ratio: The percentage of investors wetting their pants while watching share prices;
  • Broker: What the stock exchange has made me;
  • Buy, buy: Investment advice from a flight attendant as you step off the plane;
  • Standard & Poor: Your life in a nutshell.
  • Stock split: When your ex-wife and her lawyer divide your assets between themselves;
  • Cash flow: The movement of your money as it goes down the drain;
  • Market correction: What happens on the day after you buy shares.

Not everybody is anguished about the market. As a friend finds: “I’m now in much the same position as people who’ve been saving.”

Remarks another, responding to advice that this is the time to pick up bargains: “I would buy cheap, if only I had the money.”

At least these days, when you see a 25-year old driving a Porsche, it’s easier to know whether he’s a shares trader or a drugs dealer.

Know the difference between a market crash and a divorce?
With a market crash you lose half your assets but still keep your wife.

By now you’ve probably heard the one about the fellow whose cheque was returned by his bank, marked “insufficient funds”. To which the customer responded: “Me or you?”

Some things don’t change. Way back in the 19th century, when none could have dreamed of the pay packages on Wall Street, author and editor Ambrose Bierce described a corporation thus: “An ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility.”

It can be hell, in the current market, to write for a quarterly. Stuff has to be prepared a few weeks in advance of deadline, and have longevity. That’s no problem, except when a consensus of experts overpowers individual instinct. Unless you’re Warren Buffet, you’re considered nuts if you’re right too soon.

A year ago, TT was to publish an article with the brilliantly original introduction: “If you’re to panic, panic first.” But, during the interregnum, prices stabilised and the article was shredded.

How it’s regretted now. Not that anybody would have panicked, of course. It was much easier to bask in the warm glow of what Bear Sterns, Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch were telling us.

Please, Lord, just one more bubble . . .