What I Have Learned
As I told synecdochic in a fit of realization, this is exactly like playing poker where no one can see any of the cards, and you place your bets depending on the average of the last five games. If you had the chance to watch them. Which maybe you didn't, and everyone weighs the games differently. No clue what's up with that.
Seriously, it's addictively awesome.
1.) Quality has nothing to do with this. Watching American International Group jump fifty percent (to a whopping 2.47 per share at one point) was kind of like epiphany. There is no real method to anything I've seen except this: it reminds me of how birds fly. They all change direction suddenly? That is pretty much exactly what happens. And usually in a very small percentile range (I spent the week casually tracking my favorites and was weirded out by this). I mean, when AIP loses, suddenly Apple loses. That makes no intuitive sense whatsoever.
2.) My current favorite is Ceragon Networks LTD. Yeah, I'd never heard of it either, but it's a company in Tel Aviv that was my first live trade and I love it to distraction. I spent about a week working out the hieroglyphs of financial sheets and analyst reports while buying it because of three reasons: 1.) it kept appearing randomly in various articles b.) the price was low, so if I had actually invested in a dying company (at this point EST and P/E were still a mystery; actually, no matter how much I read, they still are, depending on what analyst is forecasting the apocalypse). c.) It's nice. It's comforting. It's my first check every day. They made a deal in India! They do something with networks and started buying up their own stock, which is a Great Thing for investors except when it totally isn't.
You see what I mean about analysts.
3.) ETFs, or from what I can work out from several different definitons, sort of tradeable mutual funds, which takes that to a whole new level of gambling. There's something both instinctively cool and terribly addictive about them--you are not just trading on their value themselves, but the constantly changing value of everything in them. I'd just gotten to the point of being able to calculate up my 457 at the end of the trading day, and was just getting comfortable with guessing when I knew what stocks each one was invested with (not perfectly accurate, but I get within ten dollars before I check real prices, so I consider that a win).
The nice thing about them is that they are basically bundlings of some of my favorite companies, so I am not tempted to actually try to get Google stock or Apple, but instead find one that has all the ones I like and tend to trust will not die on me suddenly.
4.) Analysts must be valium addicts. I have never seen any group so depressed in my life. Even the positive ones are like "MAYBE THE ZOMBIES WON'T EAT ALL OF US TODAY" which is like totally sunshine and roses compared to a few who seem to be under the impression we are a.) on the verge of collapsing into life in caves or b.) going to mass suicide. It's very dramatic and exciting. I keep wondering if I should invest in spelunkers.
5.) I am, no matter how much I watch, not going to get the lowest price that day. However, after lunch seems to be a really sad time for the market. I suspect a great deal of the current problems could be traced to bad nutrition, because some of the weirdness is totally attributable to heartburn. People need to eat better is all I'm saying, and we wouldn't have a ten dollar drop for no particular reason like, ten minutes after the lunch hour ends. Eastern Standard Time, of course.
6.) The automobile industry irritates me.
I'm going to have to explain a bit here. In college, while I was pregnant, I took Macroeconomics, which was bar none except Lit I the class I hated most. Why I took it is debatable, because it's one of a group of classes I like to call Jenn's Vague Idea of Well-Rounded, so there's like, Physical Anthopology and Criminology in there as well for no real reason except I like to win at Trivial Pursuit. Some of my random upper level history classes are like that too, which is why for a long time if Jeopardy mentioned Russia, I was totally kicking ass. Later, unexpected use of Islamic Politics in real life proved to me that no knowledge is ever wasted. I can also generalize on the political system of India with the best of them. You know, not accurately, but man do I sound like it is.
Macro is not one of those things, and for the simple fact that it made sense only in the sense that people wrote words that strung together into sentences they instantly contradicted with random tables and charts. I hated that class. I passed it from sheer desperation when I stopped trying to understand what I was reading and turned to pure memorization, which means I retained absolutely zero of it.
Now, why automobiles irritate me; as a group, they have never, to my understanding, understood how to run a business, and I say this as someone who could not run one if her life depended on it. Even back in class--remember those tables? the contradictory ones?-- those were the automobile industry. Always. It was like, Ford and GM or something that would have freaky profit margin and spending things, and I didn't understand it then and I don't now, but I continue to marvel that they exist when they are just so. Freaking. Volatile (Keyword of the day.)
I'm tempted to buy stock just to watch it fluctuate--that is a pasttime that does not get old because while Microsoft or Cisco might change once a minute, GM, Ford, and Chrysler are like, milliseconding it. Kind of hypnontizing and soothing, really.
7.) It occurred to me, just recently, that doing this now is probably the least dangerous time for me to play around; I had horrible thoughts of what could have happened if I'd taken up this hobby in, say, August, and twitch visibly.
8.) My current loss runs at about 13.25%, which includes value lost since buying and also the cost of three live trades, so excluding those, actual stock value loss at 6.79% total, with variations for the type in between. I know, intellectually, the live trading is a bad idea when I can do the autos, of which the first six are free. OTOH, at least today, the two things I watch most obsessively fell very very fast.
Tuesday, being pre-election, was not a day of falling, which was irritating. The auto investment option guarantee the order will go through that day, but not when, and mid-morning is like when everyone is hitting up the espresso and prices are not so much stable as higher than they'll probably be the rest of the day. Seriously, this comes back to nutrition. I think if someone made sure everyone was eating properly, we would not have these kinds of problems.
(Ask me about AIP. I was so pissed that between 8 and 12, the damn thing rose, they bought my order, then the price dropped like a crack whore for a ten. AIP is my morbid curiosity; the six dollars is totally worth watching in awe as it leaps about like a fish in land. It's fascinating. I have spent more on things far less interesting.)
9.) Reading articles explaining what to invest in and how is deeply hilarious in retrospect when they are dated pre-September. Both the ones that were epically wrong, wrong, wrong (strangely, they tend to be the ones currently worried about the coming Era of American Cavepeople and Zombies. Go figure) and the ones that were hitting hysterical levels that basically can be summed up as "Stop that shit, we are doomed" (and who now are cautiously half-is-maybe-part-full glass theory, which lead to me forming my philosophy that the market is a mall and when something says 50% off and carries an Armani tag, you damn well buy it while it's fifty percent off if it fits, or you're pretty sure you can make it fit).
This is probably why I'd be bad as an analyst. I'd crash the market telling everyone "OMG NASDAQ DISCOUNTED EVERYTHING AND DID YOU SEE THAT GORGEOUS LITTLE GAP NUMBER RUNNING FOR LESS THAN 40%?" In all caps, even. Possibly in meme speech. Possibly in macros of crying stockbrokers or something.
10.) I don't--yet--quite understand investor panic. I get wanting to get out when a company is dying on the floor, but not so much when they aren't. This is possibly due to the fact I don't have any active income involved in this at all and my life does not depend on it, so just buying and hanging out until things look better seems fine to me, whereas people who lost a lot of their value and retirement are much more time-sensitive to sudden, dramatic changes. Part of is historically, we do big crashes every decade or so, and smaller ones every so often as well, and part of it is the mortgage problem isn't new at all.
I think this comes back to my lack of understanding of some of the key principles of economics.
And that entry is long enough. I think. Huh.