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Biggs on Finance, Economics, and the Stock Market: Barton's Market Chronicles from the Morgan Stanley Years by Barton Biggs

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Section 4B: Jim the Trigger

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The Summer of 83

June 27, 1983

Correction: In this wonderful Age of Automation, we find our trusty word processors sometimes let us down. Because a line in Barton Biggs's comment in this week's Investment Perspectives was dropped by an insubordinate machine, we have reproduced the article below. We apologize to Mr. Biggs and to our readers for this blooper.

What's it like in the summer of 1983? Well, a little bittersweet. It's having breakfast with a portfolio manager from the West Coast named Jim the Trigger and, amid the white napery, the blue house china, and the sparkling silverware, having the coffee suddenly taste sour because you realize you're not on the investment frontier with the real men hunting Indians but are just an old fogey. I've known Jim for some years. They call him “the Trigger,” like in “hair trigger” because he reacts so quickly to a story.

The Trigger's career has experienced a few undulations. His aggressive growth fund was up 60 percent in 1980 when his portfolio was loaded with “whisper” stocks like the small oil exploration companies and drillers with names such as “Three Guys and Rig Inc.” Then 1981 came, and oil went overnight from being black gold to just another commodity. That year Jim's fund was down 50 percent. He almost lost his job, he told me, and he got no bonus, and his salary was cut. Things weren't much better ...

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