The UK Stock Market Almanac 2008. By Stephen Eckett. Harriman House; 238 pages; £19.99
Time and seasonality often get overlooked in the investment decision-making process. This is unfortunate, as the calendar can have an important influence on stock market behaviour. Now in its fourth year, Stephen Eckett's excellent little volume provides some interesting - and handy - insights into time factors in a very accessible format
Every trading date in 2008 is labelled according to past patterns, based on the FTSE 100's moves right back to its creation. At a glance, therefore, we know that Wednesday 13 February has typically been an "up" day, while the weakest day of the year is Friday 30 May.
It's certainly worth knowing that the FTSE General Retail sector tends to do badly between July and September, while the miners usually do well. Perhaps for reasons of space, the author uses only seven years of data to support the latter facts, whereas elsewhere he tends to delve much further back.
Aside from some telling snapshots on other periodic themes - such as the effects on the market of US electoral cycle and Bank of England meetings - there is a tidy reference section at the back. Vital facts on every UK listed and AIM firm - including ticker symbols and financial year-ends - is included.
As a lighter touch, every date carries a quirky detail from bygone days. Among the splendid array of useless but fascinating factlets are the 73rd anniversary of beer in cans and the first military use of trained dolphins. The big sporting fixtures of the coming year are also flagged up.
In an apparent throwback to City fashion c.1987, the Almanac comes as a sort of filofax. The cover price of £19.99 certainly isn't cheap, but a sizeable discount is available to IC readers.
The UK Stock Market Almanac 2008 - £12.99
The Naked Trader - new 2nd edition. By Robbie Burns. Harriman House; 366 pages; £12.99
The cult of bricks-and-mortar inspires the zombie-like devotion of an unhealthily large proportion of UK investors. There are plenty of punters out there who have given up their day-jobs in recent years to become full-time landlords and speculators. Such people must vastly outnumber the likes of Robbie Burns, who ditched his media career to play the stock market.
The 1st edition of The Naked Trader - which detailed Robbie's favourite money-making strategies - was a smash-hit. This updated 2nd edition seems to have all the ingredients that contributed to that success. As an introduction to the world of shares, it is both practical and humorous.
The book covers an impressive amount of ground, from the basics of setting up as a trader, to the meat of strategies and psychology, and plenty of honest examples of where things have gone wrong. The section on spread betting is one of the better potted summaries of this activity that I've read, especially the albeit-brief references to when providers don't play fair.
The balance between theory and real-life experiences is pretty much spot on throughout. Thanks to the nicely sliced and diced sections - and generous use of charts, boxes, and graphics - it always feels like an easy read. Fleeting snaps of a bare Robbie are mercifully few and far between, and are somewhat ameliorated by the presence of Mrs Naked Trader, who regrettably does not share her husband's penchant for nudity.
As an introduction to the world of shares, The Naked Trader scores highly. If you've been in the market for a while, this book will probably be of little use to you. But it would make a very worthwhile present for the equities virgin.
The Naked Trader (2nd Edition) - £8.50 plus FREE UK P&P.
A Beginner's Guide to Charting Financial Markets. By Michael Kahn. Harriman House; 142 pages; £12.99
Jim Slater's famously once remarked that chartists were "men in shabby raincoats with large overdrafts". But, with the growing popularity of spread betting and other short-term trading, technical analysis is slowing gaining acceptance and even a modicum of respectability.
Michael Kahn's new book is a nice, clear attempt to explain the art of technical analysis to novices. Plain English and an easy writing style do a good job of getting across the basics. The emphasis on trend, support and resistance, rather than too much on patterns is shrewd advice. Complicated branches of charting - such as Elliott Wave and Gann Theory - don't even get a mention, which is probably the right decision for a book of this length and depth.
Commendably, real-life charts appear to illustrate the concepts throughout, rather than the "idealised" sketches that many charting books rely too heavily upon. Mr Kahn's commentary appears within the charts themselves, which definitely helps the reader grasp his points.
A Beginners' Guide to Charting Financial Markets fulfils its stated purpose very nicely, and will help newcomers decide whether technical analysis is really for them. For novices already determined to persevere, a more weighty volume like Martin Pring's Technical Analysis Explained would be a more logical purchase. A readable little book nonetheless.
A Beginner's Guide to Charting Financial Markets - £6.99
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