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Updated: July 3, 2011 20:37 IST

Barometer or thermometer

D. Murali
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Chapter 6 in ‘Injustice,’ a novel by Sajiv Bhatla (Crabwise Press), opens by puzzling how the health of an entire nation’s economy is equated with the euphoria, or a lack of it, in the stock markets. The author wonders if the description of stock markets as the barometer of the economy must have been devised by the financial experts of those countries in which the economy had already reached a certain level of stoicism, and the stock markets, a certain level of maturity.

As alternatives, he suggests in his tale that the stock market behaviour is more akin to that of the bubble of air in a spirit-level; and that the market is a thermometer – ‘a fever-measuring device, and that too not of the economy as a whole, but only of a bunch of crazy people who throng the bourses.’

One such person is J, the protagonist, who wants to make money quickly, rather than make big money. “J set about his task in an earnest and what he thought, a careful manner. He bought a number of scrips to constitute his ‘portfolio,’ to minimise the ‘risk-factor.’ His choice fell upon low-priced, neglected scrips – the logic being that from thereon they could only go up.”

As the story unfolds, you find that J’s scrips were indeed going up, as was the entire market, but they were going up slowly. His scheme, as Bhatla outlines, was that when one of the scrips had gone up sufficiently, he would sell it and buy another low-priced scrip that had recently been brought to his attention by the market journals. “He noticed to his consternation that the scrips that he was eyeing so had also begun to move up, some of them slowly, and some other outpacing the ones that he himself possessed in his portfolio. To add to his annoyance some of his own were not moving at all! This made him impatient. This called for some drastic measures…”

A book that can keep you off the keyboard, what with the teji scene-changes that befall J.

**

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