The Mamis Letter, a weekly commentary that guided stock-charting investors for more than 30 years, has reached the end of the line.
With thanks to its loyal remaining subscribers, and a salute to a stock market that “has no more socially redeeming value than pornography,” 85-year-old Justin Mamis signed off yesterday in a final edition of a newsletter that became required reading among market technicians, who see portents of change in trend lines on charts.
“So there you have it,” Mamis (pronounced MAY-mis) wrote. “After five decades, I can’t think of anything else to do in the stock market besides sincerely thanking each of you who have been compiling, formatting, editing, fixing, contributing to, following, paying for, inspiring and even criticizing my work over these many years.”
In an observation borrowed from his 1991 book, “The Nature of Risk,” he added that the stock market “is never boring (even on dull days), often fascinating (even when aggravating), and occasionally challenging enough to redeem it socially.”
A regular on Institutional Investor magazine’s annual list of top analysts, Mamis wrote the Professional Tape Reader, which he sold in 1977, before starting the Mamis Letter, originally called Insights, in the early 1980s.
Mamis’s subscriber base, once in the 300s, had dwindled lately, due in part to so many of his clients retiring. Annual subscriptions, depending on the level of service, ranged from $10,000 to $20,000. Even Mamis strained to see a place for his newsletter in a world of high-frequency trading.
“The reality is there’s no such thing as a good market letter anymore,” he said in a telephone interview today from his home in Watchung, New Jersey. “The news and the behavior and the things that you pick up on the TV just smothers it all. It’s not interesting anymore.”
His final newsletter quoted from some of his best-known articles over the years. They include “The Philosophy of Tops,” published three months before the October 1987 Black Monday stock-market crash that sent the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDU) tumbling 22.6 percent.
“If you look at every top we’ve lived through,” he wrote then, “they each have certain ingredients -- internal market deterioration; rationalizations and lulling; using up buying power even though you used to know better; and waiting and waiting for the bell to go off, which proves in hindsight to be rather more of a little tinkle that you thought you heard but weren’t sure enough of to act upon. The one eternal aspect of every market top is that it occurs before we’re ready for it.”
Mamis also wrote “When to Sell ” (1977) and “How to Buy” (1982).
As a market technician, Mamis focused on price movement and trading volume for clues on when to buy or sell stocks, rather than economic data and company earnings, which drive fundamental analysis.
In “When to Sell,” he and his brother, Robert -- who was senior editor of Inc. magazine from 1980 to 2000 -- wrote that technicians “want to know such objective data as whether there are more sellers than buyers, how strong each competing side is, and who -- professional or odd-lotter -- is on which side. Then we know how to play the game with the least risk.”
As a senior at Yale University in 1949, he wrote short stories, now archived at the campus library.
“Justin always considered himself to be a writer, first and foremost,” his wife, Susan Fry Mamis, said today in an interview. “He wrote a novel and plays, and he was a member of the New Dramatists, which is one of the oldest nonprofit playwright groups in New York.”
After working at the Wall Street brokerage Zuckerman Smith & Co., then with the New York Stock Exchange as an enforcer of trading-floor rules, Mamis tried his hand at newsletter writing for Indicator Digest, published out of Palisades Park, New Jersey. In 1972 he started the Professional Tape Reader, which he sold in 1977 to technical analyst Stan Weinstein, who ran it until 2000.
A trading stint at the Wall Street specialist firm Phelan, Silver, Vesce, Barry & Co., gave Mamis a chance to put his analysis into action. More comfortable as an analyzer, he hesitated to place orders -- unlike his trading partner, Lewis Horowitz, who would brag, according to Mamis, “I make money on Justin’s mumbles.”
Mamis maintained his newsletter-writing as he moved through a series of New York-based employers including Wertheim & Co., Cowen & Co., Gordon Capital and Hancock Institutional Equity Services, where he was a senior vice president and chief market technician.
Since 1996 Mamis published his letter independently. For a time, in addition to the weekly newsletter, he produced a three-times-weekly note to active traders called Justin’s Stream of Consciousness and a one-minute voicemail with stock ideas every Wednesday night.
“Many of you will wonder what he will do next,” Mamis’s wife, who is first vice president at the Mamis/Gnall Group, part of Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, wrote to subscribers and friends yesterday. “How about having a ‘normal’ weekend like most others?”
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