Friday, 1 August 2008

Investment, speculation and gambling

It is commonly thought that investment, is good for everybody and at all times. Speculation, on the other hand, may be good or bad, depending on the conditions and the person who speculates.

It should be essential, therefore, for anyone engaging in financial operations to know whether he is investing or speculating and, if the latter, to make sure that his speculation is a justifiable one.

Investment, speculation and gambling (Security Analysis, Ben Graham.):

1. Graham defined investment thus:
An INVESTMENT OPERATION is one which, upon THOROUGH ANALYSIS, promises SAFETY OF PRINCIPAL and a SATISFACTORY RETURN. Operations NOT meeting these requirements are speculative.

The difference between investment and speculation, when the two are thus opposed, is understood in a general way by nearly everyone; but it can be difficult to formulate it precisely. In fact something can be said for the cynic's definition that an investment is a successful speculation and a speculation is an unsuccessful investment.

The failure properly to distinguish between investment and speculation was in large measure responsible for the market excesses and calamities that ensued, as well as, for much continuing confusion in the ideas and policies of would-be investors.

2. Graham's addition criterion of investment: An investment operation is one that can be justified on BOTH QUALITATIVE and QUANTITATIVE grounds.

Investment must always consider the PRICE as well as the QUALITY of the security.

Main points:______________

INVESTMENT OPERATION: rather than an issue or a purchase.

PRICE: is frequently an essential element, so that a stock (and even a bond) may have investment merit at one price level but not at another.

DIVERSIFICATION: An investment might be justified in a group of issues, which would not be sufficiently safe if made in any one of them singly.

ARBITRAGE AND HEDGING: it is also proper to consider as investment operations certain types of arbitrage and hedging commitments which involve the sale of one security against the purchase of another. In these rather specialised operations the element of SAFETY is provided by the combination of purchase and sale.

THOROUGH ANALYSIS: the study of the facts in the light of established standards of safety and value, including all quality of thoroughness.

SAFETY: The SAFETY sought in investment is not absolute or complete; the word means, rather, protection against loss under all normal or reasonably likely conditions or variations. A safe stock is one which holds every prospect of being worth the price paid except under quite unlikely contingencies. Where study and experiences indicate that an appreciable chance of loss must be recognized and allowed for, we have a speculative situation.

SATISFACTORY RETURN: is a wider expression than "adequate income", since it allows for capital appreciation or profit as well as current interest or dividend yield. "Satisfactory" is a subjective term; it covers any rate or amount of return, however low, which the investor is willing to accept, provided he acts with reasonable intelligence.


For investment, the future is essentially something to be guarded against rather than to be profited from. If the future brings improvement, so much the better; but investment as such cannot be founded in any important degree upon the expectation of improvement.

Speculation, on the other hand, may always properly – and often soundly – derive its basis and its justification from prospective developments that differ from past performances.

GAMBLING: represents the creation of risks not previously existing – e.g. race-track betting.

SPECULATION: applies to the taking of risks that are implicit in a situation and so must be taken.

INTELLIGENT SPECULATION: the taking of a risk that appears justified after careful weighing of the pros and cons.

UNINTELLIGENT SPECULATION: risk taking without adequate study of the situation.

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