From the February 01, 2008 issue of Futures Magazine • Subscribe!

A Maniac Commodity Trader’s Guide to Making a Fortune: A Not-So-Crazy Roadmap to Riches

By Kevin Kerr

Wiley

$26.95, 233 pages

Considering the title and the cover shot of a guy staring upside-down at his computer screen while standing on his head, you’re forgiven if you conclude you’re going to get some unorthodox trading advice from a wild, colorful character a la TV’s Jim Cramer. No such luck. The Maniac Commodity Trader’s Guide to Making a Fortune is little more than a futures primer. If commodities were chess, author Kevin Kerr’s two objectives would be to teach the rules of the game and then offer some winning strategies. He succeeds at the former: the bishop moves diagonally and the rook moves up and back. He describes different order types and their purposes and a variety of trading approaches grouped under the headings “fundamental” and “technical.”

But just as there is a gulf between understanding the rules of chess and playing it credibly, there is also a huge disconnect between commodity logistics and profitable trading. In my older, wiser career personification, I’ve come to appreciate the potential validity of approaches that differ from mine, however radically. Perhaps Kerr truly is adroit at recognizing just what fundamentals and technicals to access, what signals to ignore and how to integrate it all seamlessly but he is not adept at imparting them.

Some of the text is time-tested and unassailable: Do not trade on scared money; don’t let losses get out of hand. Perhaps this would have been the best expansion of the trading primer theme. Too many other recommendations, however, such as visiting exchanges “to get the feel of what is really going on,” are just silly at best. Are we seriously going to crack the inner-trader code from the visitor’s gallery?

An acknowledgement of mechanical trading would have helped, as far afield as that is from the “listen to what the markets are telling you” stance of this book. The term is nowhere to be found in the glossary. Vagaries predominate as is often the case in trading books. Then again, if a writer were to definitively lay out substance, it would be more difficult to defend when it does not work.

Maybe Maniac Commodity shouldn’t have tried to go out on a limb about anything, but rather, stick to telling us what en passant and checkmate are. But then, how would the publishers have worked in that intriguing cover?

Art Collins is the author of Beating the Financial Futures Market: Combining Small Biases Into Powerful Money Making Strategies. E-mail Art at artcollins@ameritech.net.

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