I've been doing some heavy reading lately, so maybe it was time for a bit of a break. Enter Hilary Kramer (no relation to Cosmo Kramer) and her book Ahead of the Curve: Nine Simple Ways to Create Wealth by Spotting Stock Trends. Oh, yes, this volume fit the bill perfectly.
If The Origin of Wealth was an intellectually demanding tiramisu of a creation, Kramer's book is cotton-candy-flavored bubble gum. With a couple of exceptions, the lessons in it should already be deeply etched in every self-respecting Fool's brain stem. Ahead of the Curve would be a decent primer for trend-spotting investors -- except it costs money and the Fool's School is both free and better.
Kramer is a finance editor for Time Warner's
Now there's nothing wrong with keeping a finger on the market's pulse. But unless you go on a nationwide mall tour, you'll get a very, very small sample this way. This is the single biggest problem I have with Ahead of the Curve. Conclusions you draw from walking into an Apple store on a slow day might lead to flawed investment decisions, and Kramer doesn't spend much time encouraging supplemental research to back up your Lynchian findings.
The book is, at times, useful. A few tasty morsels do turn up, including the reminder that vanity drives many consumer trends. "Emotion is always stronger than reason in driving consumption," Kramer notes, explaining why True Religion
We're also advised to "play the housing market" by buying or shorting stocks related to homebuilders. Kramer suggests that we look beyond the actual builders, such as KB Home
I don't think you should "play" any market like a blackjack table, but the proxy approach is sound, and it can lead you to more volatile stocks for opportunities you truly believe in or to more stable ones for the less-certain promises.
The book is a fast read; not much of the material requires deep thought. In the end, Kramer admits her book is about the mere basics of trend-spotting. Basing a portfolio on this approach would be dangerous, especially if your local community isn't a representative sample of the rest of the nation or the world. Some of the suggestions are blindingly obvious, and others make me cringe a little.
If you decide to read it, remember to keep a few grains of salt handy. Heck, bring a whole shaker, or play the salt market through Rohm & Haas, the company behind Morton Salt. Kramer would be so proud.
Time Warner is a longtime Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation.
Fool contributor Anders Bylund owns stock in True Religion but would never buy the jeans. He holds no other position in any company discussed here. You can check out Anders' holdings if you like, and Foolish disclosure is always a good read.