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'High-Flying Adventures in the Stock Market' by Molly Baker

Books on Business: Stock market adventures, food woes highlight books

Sunday, January 28, 2001

By the Business Librarians at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh


High-Flying Adventures in the Stock Market

By Molly Baker

John Wiley


Lately, my companion on the 67A bus to and from Downtown has been Jerry Frew, a highly successful senior portfolio manager at Delaware Investments. At least it has seemed that way as I read this book, a close-up and personal narration of his professional life from July through December 1998.

Gerald Frew -- whom I now feel I know well enough to call Jerry -- has led the team managing the Delaware Growth Funds (which have grown from three mutual funds to eight) since 1996. He is a down-to-earth guy with a profound and sturdy understanding of the stock market, and is as welcoming to the reader trying to pick up some of that knowledge as he was to this writer when she asked to follow him around and listen to his conversations.

There are many other players in this book -- managers, traders, secretaries, analysts, CEOs, salespeople, Alan Greenspan, and, somehow, computer screens -- who behave in rather ordinary ways. Jerry says things such as, "Pacific Gateway is flopping around like a dead carp with prickly heat," and, "Vinny, why don't you take 6 [thousand shares] of Amazon to go?" Sports analogies abound. But intense drama is provided by the wild gyrations of the market, the incipient dot.com boom and the race of hundreds of funds toward the big prize: best year-end performance on Dec. 31.

This is a window into a world that few get to see, displaying a view of mutual fund operation from the inside. How do the managers choose, buy and sell the stocks in their portfolios? What information do they acquire and how do they evaluate it? What do they get to know that we don't? How do they obtain first crack at bargain basement prices for every IPO?

Along the way, the author clearly explains the numerous investment terms and principles that come up, from market caps to red herrings, dead-cat bounces, and beeps. There also are more mundane details: what portfolio managers wear every day (unremarkable), the menu for their free lunches (mediocre), how they deal with breakdowns of their all-important computers (as we all do -- wait helplessly for the technicians). But what is most captivating and instructive about this book is the daily, hourly, and often minute-by-minute account of knowledgeable people talking, listening, thinking, acting and maneuvering in the stock market, with the aid of billions of other people's dollars, possibly yours.

Contact the business librarians, who also answer questions about business, money, and work, at 412-281-7141 or at http://www.carnegielibrary.org/clp/libctr/business/

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