Jesse Lauriston Livermore

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Jesse Lauriston Livermore
Jesse Livermore.gif
Born (1877-07-26)July 26, 1877
Shrewsbury, Massachusetts
Died November 28, 1940(1940-11-28) (aged 63)
New York, New York
Cause of death
Suicide
Occupation Stock speculator
Net worth US$100 million (1929); US$5 million (1940)

Jesse Lauriston Livermore (July 26, 1877 – November 28, 1940), also known as the Boy Plunger[1] and the Great Bear of Wall Street, was an American stock trader. He was famed for making and losing several multi-million dollar fortunes and short selling during the stock market crashes in 1907 and 1929.

Biography[edit]

Born in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts,[2] Jesse Livermore started his trading career at the age of fourteen. He ran away from home with his mother's blessing to escape a life of farming his father intended for him. He then began his career by posting stock quotes at the Paine Webber brokerage in Boston.

He married his first wife, Netit (Nettie) Jordan of Indianapolis, at the age of 23 in October 1900. Less than a year later, he went broke after some reverses in his stock trading; for a new stake, he asked her to pawn the substantial collection of jewelry he had bought her, but she refused, permanently damaging their relationship. They separated and finally divorced in October 1917.[3] His second wife was Dorthea (Dorothy) Wendt. They had two sons, Jesse Jr.[4] and Paul. His third wife was Harriett Metz Noble.

Wall Street[edit]

While working, he would write down certain calculations he had about future market prices, which he would check for accuracy later. A friend convinced him to put his first actual money on the market by making a bet at a bucket shop, a type of gambling establishment that took bets on stock prices but did not actually buy or sell the stock.[5]

By the age of fifteen, he had earned profits of over $1,000 (which equates to about $23,000 today[6]). In the next several years, he continued betting at the bucket shops. He was eventually banned from most bucket shops for winning too much money from them. He then moved to New York City and devoted his energies towards trading in legitimate markets. This change would lead him to devise a new set of rules to trade the market.

During his lifetime, Livermore gained and lost several multi-million dollar fortunes. Most notably, he was worth $3 million and $100 million after the 1907 and 1929 market crashes, respectively. $100 million in 1929 would be over $125 billion today if put into Dow Jones Index with dividends reinvested.[7] He subsequently lost both fortunes. Apart from his success as a securities speculator, Livermore left traders a working philosophy for trading securities that emphasizes increasing the size of one's position as it goes in the right direction and cutting losses quickly.

Livermore sometimes did not follow his own rules strictly. He claimed that his lack of adherence to his own rules was the main reason for his losses after making his 1907 and 1929 fortunes.

Reminiscences of a Stock Operator[edit]

The popular book Reminiscences of a Stock Operator, by Edwin Lefèvre, reflects on many of those lessons. There is some speculation that this partnership between the two men was not their first collaboration. Since Lefèvre was a writer and journalist, it is thought that he was one of the friendly newspapermen that Livermore employed for both information and planted articles. Livermore himself wrote a less widely read book, "How to trade in stocks; the Livermore formula for combining time element and price". It was published in 1940, the same year he committed suicide.

Wall Street success[edit]

Livermore first became famous after the Panic of 1907 when he sold the market short as it crashed. He noticed conditions where a lack of capital existed to buy stock. Accordingly, he predicted that there would be a sharp drop in prices when many speculators were simultaneously forced to sell by margin calls and a lack of credit. With the lack of capital, there would be no buyers in sight to absorb the sold stock, further driving down prices. After the crash and its aftermath, he was worth $3 million.

He proceeded to lose 90% of that 1907 fortune on a blown cotton trade. He violated many of his key rules; he listened to another person's advice (he preferred working alone) and added to a losing position. He continued losing money in the flat markets from 1908–1912. He was $1 million in debt and declared bankruptcy. He proceeded to regain his fortune and repay his creditors during the World War I bull market and resulting downtrend.

He owned a series of mansions around the world, each fully staffed with servants, a fleet of limousines, and a steel-hulled yacht for trips to Europe. He married his second wife, Dorothy, a beautiful Ziegfeld Follies showgirl, on December 2, 1918, when he was 41 and she was 18.[8]

Livermore continued to make money in the bull markets of the 1920s. In 1929, he noticed market conditions similar to that of the 1907 market. He began shorting various stocks and adding to his positions, and they kept declining in price. When just about everyone in the markets lost money in the Wall Street crash of 1929, Livermore was worth $100 million after his short-selling profits.

Favorite book[edit]

One of Livermore's favorite books was Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, by Charles Mackay, first published in 1841. This was also a favorite book of Bernard Baruch, a stock trader and close friend of Livermore. He also was one of the few people who did well in the crash of 1929.[9]

Jesse cited a lot of jokes, including an old story about "selling down to the sleeping point" from the book Speculation as a Fine Art by Dickson G. Watts.[10]

After the Crash of '29[edit]

Dorothy finally filed for divorce and took up temporary residence in Reno, Nevada, with her new lover, (and later 2nd husband) Walter Longcope. On September 16, 1932, Dorothy divorced Livermore on grounds of desertion. They had been married 14 years. Dorothy retained custody of their boys.[11]

On March 28, 1933, Livermore married 38 year old Harriet Metz Noble in Geneva, Illinois; there was no honeymoon. It was Harriet's fifth marriage; all four of her previous husbands had committed suicide.[12] Livermore would be no different.

For unknown reasons, possibly related to a rule change after the crash making it harder to short stocks, or perhaps Livermore prematurely turning bullish and buying stocks before the great bear market ended in 1932, he yet again lost much of his trading capital accumulated through 1929. Thus, on March 7, 1934, the bankrupt Livermore was automatically suspended as a member of the Chicago Board of Trade. It was never disclosed to anyone what happened to the great fortune he had made in the crash of 1929, but he had lost it all.[13]

His book[edit]

In late 1939, Livermore's son, Jesse Jr., suggested to his father that he write a book about his experiences and techniques in trading in the stock and commodity markets. This brought a flash of life back into Livermore, and the book was completed and published by Duell, Sloan and Pearce in March 1940. It was titled How To Trade In Stocks.[14] The book did not sell well, World War II was underway, and the general interest in the stock market was low. His methods were still new and controversial at the time, and they received mixed reviews from stock market gurus of the period.[14]

Suicide[edit]

On November 28, 1940, Livermore shot and killed himself in the cloakroom of the Sherry Netherland Hotel in Manhattan. The police revealed that there was a suicide note of eight small handwritten pages in Livermore's personal notebook. It was reported in the November 30 issue of the New York Tribune.[15] The press wanted to know what it said, and the police tersely responded: “There was a leather-bound memo book found in Mr. Livermore's pocket. It was addressed to his wife.” A police spokesman read from the notebook: “My dear Nina: Can’t help it. Things have been bad with me. I am tired of fighting. Can’t carry on any longer. This is the only way out. I am unworthy of your love. I am a failure. I am truly sorry, but this is the only way out for me. Love Laurie”.[16]

He left behind two sons Jesse Jr. and Paul.

Untouchable trusts and cash assets at his death totaled over $5 million. A lifelong history of clinical depression had become the dominant factor in his final years.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Edwin Lefèvre (1923). Reminiscences of a Stock Operator. p. 14. 
  2. ^ Smitten, Richard (2005). Trade like Jesse Livermore. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley. p. 2. ISBN 0-471-65585-6. 
  3. ^ Richard Smitten (September 14, 2001). Jesse Livermore: The World's Greatest Stock Trader. pp. 43, 47–48, 125. 
  4. ^ Jesse Jr. married Toni Lanier(Camille Bernice Froomess) in 1937, divorced shortly thereafter. Went onto marry Evelyn Bletzer Sullivan. One son, Jesse III was born in 1939. Divorced Evelyn. Married third wife, Patricia. Jesse Jr. committed suicide with natural gas February 20, 1976. His only son, Jesse III married Marsha Hawkins in 1964. Had two children David 1969 and Tracey 1973. Jesse III divorced Marsha. Married his second wife Karen, divorced. Third wife Carol. Jesse III committed suicide by natural gas on February 26, 2006. Jesse III son, David is currently married with 3 daughters and one son. Jesse III's daughter is also currently married with one daughter. All three Jesses have taken their lives.
  5. ^ Edwin Lefèvre (1923). Reminiscences of a Stock Operator. p. 12. 
  6. ^ Compute the Relative Value of a U.S. Dollar
  7. ^ $479,173.37 in 2007/ $383.36 in 1929 this is dow jones 2007 - so the real number would be 16260/13365
  8. ^ Richard Smitten (September 14, 2001). Jesse Livermore: The World's Greatest Stock Trader. pp. 115–116, 125–126. 
  9. ^ Richard Smitten (October 21, 2004). Trade Like Jesse Livermore. p. 76. 
  10. ^ Edwin Lefèvre (1923). Reminiscences of a Stock Operator. Chapter X, p. 98. 
  11. ^ Richard Smitten (September 14, 2001). Jesse Livermore: The World's Greatest Stock Trader. p. 248. 
  12. ^ Richard Smitten (September 14, 2001). Jesse Livermore: The World's Greatest Stock Trader. p. 250. 
  13. ^ Richard Smitten (September 14, 2001). Jesse Livermore: The World's Greatest Stock Trader. p. 260. 
  14. ^ a b Richard Smitten (September 14, 2001). Jesse Livermore: The World's Greatest Stock Trader. p. 276. 
  15. ^ Richard Smitten (September 14, 2001). Jesse Livermore: The World's Greatest Stock Trader. p. 281. 
  16. ^ Richard Smitten (September 14, 2001). Jesse Livermore: The World's Greatest Stock Trader. pp. 281–182. 

Books[edit]

External links[edit]