The Economist Book Series Review: Guide To Investment Strategy

Written by Peter Stanyer, Guide to Investment Strategy: How to Understand Markets, Risk, Rewards And Behavior is an advanced, yet insightful book that is extremely relevant in an era where many investors feel disjointed from their failed "long term strategies". All of the books in 'The Economist' series are well worth reading, but this one may only be most useful to the experienced and well-knowledged investor.

The message is well informed by industry contacts and professional experience and illustrated by incisive graphs. The book stresses a bracingly conservative perspective: cash (or the market equivalent, such as t-bills) is the benchmark investor standard, and forays into anything other than cash need to be evaluated with a sober eye to the downside risks, as the past two bull/bear cycles have schooled us all. Investments in bonds or equities or exotics need to fit both the investor psychology (nervous or serene) and portfolio time horizons (which defines the investor's "natural habitat"); this is a process constrained by substantial uncertainties, and by risks that the capital asset pricing model underestimates.

Some readers may find that the insights pass by rather quickly in a discursive, passive voice presentation; one must read some sections twice to understand the message. The tone is also interpretive rather than descriptive, so the discussion can plunge into specific technical issues (such as "good and bad beta") without laying out, for example, what beta is, how it is used, and how it has fared as a metric of investment risk. The value of this book however is to have the full range of investment opportunities, from cash to hedge funds, cdo's, currencies and real estate, laid out as a synoptic and judicious narrative for informed readers and, especially, readers who have bit once bit by market volatility or day trading.

Although it can be read by investors at any stage, the full breadth and message of this complex yet informative book is best received by those with large amounts of experience and knowledge. If you are confident in your abilities and would like to further solidify your understanding of investment strategies, this book comes highly recommended.

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