An old Wall Street saying has it that when everybody’s getting into the market and even the shoeshine boy is giving stock tips (or the barber/hairdresser or the taxi driver or the waiter or the bartender), then it’s time to sell.
Supposedly, Joseph P. Kennedy (1888-1969) knew that it was time to get out of the market in 1929 when his shoeshine boy began giving him stock tips. Contemporary citations have not been found, but the event appears in a 1965 biography of Joseph P. Kennedy.
Wikipedia: Joseph P. Kennedy
Joseph Patrick “Joe” Kennedy, Sr. (September 6, 1888 – November 18, 1969) was a prominent American businessman and political figure, and the father of U.S. President John F. Kennedy and United States Senators Robert F. Kennedy and Ted Kennedy. He was a leading member of the Democratic Party and of the Irish Catholic community. He was the inaugural Chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), appointed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and later directed the Maritime Commission. Kennedy served briefly as the United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom at the start of World War II.
Born to a political family in Boston, Massachusetts, Joseph Kennedy was educated at Boston Latin and Harvard University, and embarked on a career in finance, making a large fortune as a stock market and commodity speculator and by investing in real estate and a wide range of industries, as well as bootlegging. During World War I, he was an assistant general-manager of Bethlehem Steel and developed a friendship with Roosevelt, then Assistant Secretary of the Navy. Kennedy made huge profits from reorganizing and refinancing several Hollywood studios, ultimately merging several acquisitions into Radio-Keith-Orpheum (RKO) studios. After Prohibition ended in 1933, Kennedy consolidated an even larger fortune when his company, Somerset Importers, became the exclusive American agent for Gordon’s Gin and Dewar’s Scotch. He owned the largest office building in the country, Chicago’s Merchandise Mart, giving his family an important base in that city and an alliance with the Irish-American political leadership there.
His term as Ambassador and his political ambitions ended abruptly during the Battle of Britain in November 1940, with the publishing of his controversial remarks suggesting that “Democracy is finished in England. It may be here, [in the US].” In later years, Kennedy worked behind the scenes to continue building the financial and political fortunes of the Kennedy family. After a disabling stroke on December 19, 1961, at the age of 73, Kennedy lost all power of speech, and remained confined to a wheelchair, although mentally intact. He died on November 18, 1969, two months after his eighty-first birthday-just 4 days away from the sixth anniversary of the death of his son John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
Kennedy later claimed he knew the rampant stock speculation of the late 1920s would lead to a crash. He received stock tips from a shoe-shine boy.
The Life and Times of Joseph P. Kennedy
By William J. Duncliffe
New York, NY: Macfadden-Bartell
His intuitive sense told him that the mad stock market spree could not possibly last; that, like a roller coaster, it would ultimately have to come back to earth. Kennedy found himself having to elbow his way into brokers’ offices, past the jostling crowds of eager-eyed overnight experts who were shouting orders to buy, buy, and buy again—on margin. One day he found himself stopping at a shoeshine parlor on Wall Street.
“The kid who shined my shoes didn’t know me,” he said. “He wasn’t looking for a tip on the market or anything like that. He was just average and, like everyone else, he was playing the market. All the time he was snapping the polishing cloth over my shoes, he kept telling me what was going to happen that day, what stocks would rise and what the market would do.
“I just listened to him, and when I left the place I thought, ‘When the time comes that a shoeshine boy knows as much as I do about what is going on in the stock market, tells me so, and is entirely correct, there’s something wrong with either me or the market, and it’s time for me to get out.’”
A Nation in Torment:
The Great American Depression, 1929-1939
By Edward Robb Ellis
Published by Coward-McCann
He found a brash young bootblack who fished for big tips by rattling off predictions of the way the market would end that day. Kennedy listened in amusement. But later that afternoon, after the 3 p.m. closing of trading on the New York Stock Exchange, Kennedy was surprised to discover that the shoeshine boy called the turn with amazing accuracy. If a mere boy could predict the movement of the market, Kennedy concluded, then it certainly was no place for a man with plenty of money to lose.
1 February 1987, Washington (DC) Post, “Small Investors Are Feeling Bullish” by Nancy L. Ross, pg. H1:
It’s doubtful that historians will equate 1987 with the frenzy that occurred in the late 1920s when it seemed everyone, from millionaires to sidewalk vendors, was playing the stock market. Joseph P. Kennedy, the Kennedy family patriarch and the first chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, reputedly got stock tips from a shoeshine boy. Stocks could be bought on borrowed money, or margin, for as little as 10 percent down. There were few rules. Insider trading, market manipulation and bucket shops-where brokers accepted orders without executing them immediately so as to profit themselves-were rife.
25 October 1987, San Jose (CA) Mercury News, “The Crash of ‘87: A Harvest of Optimistic Delusion” by Gary Blonston, pg. 1A:
“When my shoeshine boy starts offering stock tips, it’s time to get out of the market.”
International Herald Tribune
15 July 1995, International Herald Tribune, “Check Out The Index of Nightclubs” by Martin Baker:
In “The Great Money Illusion,” Marc Faber, a Hong Kong-based investment analyst celebrated for his vigorous pessimism, argues that attending nightclubs can help predict the stock market: If nightclub hostesses start offering advice on shares, it’s time to sell. His theory is similar to that of Joseph P. Kennedy, who sold shares ahead of the 1929 Great Crash when he got stock tips from his shoeshine boy: If people as remote from the markets as hostesses or shoeshine boys believe they know the hot tips, who else is left to buy?
WHEN THE SHOESHINE BOYS TALK STOCKS IT WAS A GREAT SELL SIGNAL IN 1929. SO WHAT ARE THE SHOESHINE BOYS TALKING ABOUT NOW?
By JOHN ROTHCHILD
April 15, 1996
(FORTUNE Magazine) – JOE KENNEDY, a famous rich guy in his day, exited the stock market in timely fashion after a shoeshine boy gave him some stock tips. He figured that when the shoeshine boys have tips, the market is too popular for its own good, a theory also advanced by Bernard Baruch, another vested interest who described the scene before the big Crash:
“Taxi drivers told you what to buy. The shoeshine boy could give you a summary of the day’s financial news as he worked with rag and polish. An old beggar who regularly patrolled the street in front of my office now gave me tips and, I suppose, spent the money I and others gave him in the market. My cook had a brokerage account and followed the ticker closely. Her paper profits were quickly blown away in the gale of 1929.”
It Was a Very Good Year:
Extraordinary Moments in Stock Market History
By Martin S. Fridson
Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons
After 1929, it became a cliché that when even the shoeshine man is trafficking in stock tips, it’s time to sell out.
21 July 2002, Boston (MA) Globe, “Panic Selling Takes Hold as Investors Dumbstruck by Market Plunge” by Beth Healy:
There’s an old Wall Street adage: Once the shoeshine boy and the taxi driver offer stock tips, it’s time to sell.
11 April 2003, Financial Mail, “A Legal Minefield for Advisers” by Ciaran Ryan:
There’s an old Wall Street chestnut that when your barber tells you to buy equities, it’s time to get out of the ...
Rich Dad’s Who Took My Money?:
Why Slow Investors Lose and Fast Money Wins!
By Robert T. Kiyosaki with Sharon L. Lechter
Published by Warner Business Books
There is an old saying that goes, “When taxi drivers are handing out stock tips, it’s time to sell.” Maybe that statement should be expanded to include financial advisors.
Dirty Rotten CEOs:
How Business Leaders Are Fleecing America
By William G. Flanagan
Published by Citadel Press
In the 1920s, the legendary investor Bernard Baruch said that when your shoeshine boy starts giving you stock tips, it’s time to sell. He might have well said the bartender.
San Francisco (CA) Chronicle
31 March 2006, San Francisco (CA) Chronicle, “Was last weekend’s Real Estate Wealth Expo the beginning of the end?” by Carol Lloyd:
As the saying goes, When your taxi driver starts giving you stock tips, you know it’s time to sell.
7 December 2006, USA Today, “Contrarian funds march to a different drummer” by John Waggoner:
Extremely high levels of optimism have long been viewed as a danger sign. For a long time, the key indicator of investor giddiness was when invidiual investors piled into the market. Joseph Kennedy, investor, regulator and father of President John Kennedy, once joked, “You know it’s time to sell stocks when the shoeshine boy tries to give you stock tips
New York (NY) Post
!0 April 2007, New York (NY) Post, “The Curse of 2nd Avenue: Start Building & Watch Wall St. Plunge” by Nicole Gelinas:
Just as cabbies giving stock tips is a sign that speculation has run wild, so too are grand schemes from politicians a sign of unrealistic political optimism.
New York (NY) Post
3 June 2007, New York (NY) Post, “When the Jonese Aren’t Investing, Consider Getting In” by Terry Keenan:
Well, as Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. once famously remarked, when the shoeshine boy starts giving you stock tips, it’s time to sell.
New York City • Banking/Finance/Insurance • Sunday, October 19, 2008 • Permalink