BULL!: A History of the Boom, 1982–1999: What Drove the Breakneck Market—and What Every Investor Needs to Know About Financial Cycles
Financial journalist Mahar offers a thorough and accessible history of the explosive 1982–1999 bull market that is illuminating as well as sobering from the current bear market persspective. She notes that most people swept up in the euphoria of this latest market surge failed to recall the lessons of 1929–1934 and 1970–1974, when earlier bubbles collapsed and investors lost heavily. Citing studies by esteemed economists John Kenneth Galbraith and Charles Kindleberger, Mahar reminds readers that this self-blinding euphoria is a regular feature of every bull market. In vivid detail, she documents the trends and outsized personalities that fueled this particular bull market, including the surge of leveraged buyouts of 1984–1987, the mania for junk bonds, falling short-term interest rates, the rush of individual investors into 401(k) retirement plans, the power (and appetites) of mutual funds and the media frenzy that lent an unlikely allure to quarterly corporate earnings reports. As the runup in stock prices gained momentum in the late 1990s while evidence of corporate accounting shenanigans mounted, Mahar's account assumes the compelling power of an oncoming train wreck. Survivors of the recent market meltdown can profit from Mahar's assertion: "Ultimately, secular bear markets teach investors to learn to manage risk in a different way, focusing not on the odds, but on the size of risk." Individual investors will also gather that they need to be more skeptical of some sources of "information" and to be much better informed not to be burned again. Charts. (Nov.)
Forecast: National broadcast and media campaigns (including a 25-city national radio and 15-city NPR) will grab the attention of investors, and Mahar's unblinking assessment of the self-delusions rampant during a bull market will help many understand how the golde n egg they thought they held now has begun to smell rotten.