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by J.J. Butler

Most people who trade in stocks buy on margin. The ordinary minimum margin is about 20% of the purchase price, because banks usually lend about 80% of the market value of stocks.

This book is written for the purpose of giving our clients some ideas of the fundamental principles that guide us when we select stocks for them to buy, but these principles are valuable to every person who trades in listed stocks or in any other kind of speculative stocks.

First of all, we want you to get a clear conception of the meaning of the word speculation, which is explained in the next chapter. Our purpose is to protect you against losses as well as to enable you to make profits, and it is very important that you understand how to provide for safety in your speculating.

By short selling, we mean selling a stock that you do not possess, with the intention of buying it later. Short selling in general business is very common, and we think nothing of it. Manufacturers frequently sell goods that are not yet made, to be delivered at some future time. Selling stocks short is a similar transaction, except that in a majority of cases delivery of the stock must be made immediately.

To speculate is to theorize about something that is uncertain. We can speculate about anything that is uncertain, but we use the word "speculation" in this book with particular reference to the buying and selling of stocks and bonds for the purpose of making a profit. When people buy stocks and bonds for the income they get from them and the amount of that income is fixed, they are said to invest and not to speculate. In nearly all investments there is also an element of speculation, because the market price of investments is subject to change.

There has been so much publicity given to bucket shops, nearly everybody is familiar with the term. A broker runs a bucket shop when he sells stock to his clients on margin and either never buys the stock for their accounts, or else sells it immediately after buying it. The bucket shop simply gets your money on the supposition that you are more likely to be wrong than to be right. Of course, if you take the bucket shop's advice you surely are likely to be wrong.

There are certain terms used in connection with stock speculation that are very familiar to those who come in contact with stock brokers, and yet are not always familiar to those who do business by mail. Undoubtedly the majority of our readers are familiar with these terms, but we give these definitions for the benefit of the few who are not familiar with them.

It is very important that you choose a good broker. No matter how careful you are, it is possible to make a mistake. However, if you choose a broker who is a member of the New York Stock Exchange, you have eliminated a very large percentage of your chances of getting a wrong broker.

We maintain that there is only one basis upon which successful speculation can be carried on continually; that is, never to buy a security unless it is selling at a price below that which is warranted by assets, earning power, and prospective future earning power.

There are many influences that affect the movements of stock prices, which are referred to in subsequent chapters. All of these should be studied and understood, but they should be used as secondary factors in relation to the value of the stock in which you are trading.

A "put" is a negotiable contract giving the holder the privilege to sell a specified number of shares of a certain stock to the maker at a fixed price, within a specified time. A "call" is the exact reverse. It is a negotiable contract giving the holder the privilege to buy a specified number of shares of a certain stock from the maker at a fixed price, within a specified time. The price fixed in a put or call is set away from the market price a certain number of points, depending upon the stock and the condition of the market.

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