On my second trip with my folks to NYC last week, I took one morning off to go visit the New York Stock Exchange down in south Manhattan. It was a Thursday, and the Dow was breaking 10,000 while the Naz was breaking 1800. A big day, one I would've liked to have traded.
Of course, no one who took the tour with me seemed to know that the market was in deep shit that day. They were just there to check out the biggest center of money in the world, and of computing power in the world short of NASA, as they triumphantly pointed out.
You have to show up in the morning before 1PM to get passes to take the tour. Outside where you get the pass, you see lots of floor people outside smoking and nervously typing on their cellphones. They have different color jackets on of course, but otherwise they all look the same. Posh NYC attire, with weathered, crumpled faces, reflecting lots of strain. While the media makes a big hullaballoo about the bear market, it really doesn't affect floor traders psychologically. They're not investors, they just keep the orders flowing on the floor. Everyone likes a bull market, but it doesn't impact floor traders' business too much. (except maybe for liquidity)
I skipped all the promotional crap that these tours always have (nowhere near as bad as that stupid laser light show at the Nazzie) and went straight to the view of the main trading room floor. You're herded into this little corridor so you can view traders sitting around eating lunch and reading the paper, or talking to other guys and specialists every once in a while. It was fascinating to me though. The big boards with all the market technicals and news tickers. The different posts for each NYSE stock, with some posts with a few guys around and some with no one around. The tables to the side where each firm sits to coordinate their trades. Messengers and whatnot moving around passing info.
Being a daytrader for two years or so, I had an idea of what was going on. After my group had to leave, I went back in to view again. It really was fascinating. All that money being passed around right there to buy and sell stuff that had no material value.
I realized after the tour that what I'm doing now is what I like to do and what I want to do for a career. I like the stock market. I know CNBC and economic data and 10-Qs and bidxask's are boring to most people, but they make sense to me, and I like them. I like how the stock market is always there. Always a force behind daily life all around the world, influential to varying degrees based on how well it's doing or what sorts of jobs people have. I like how the market's seen America's reign of prosperity, and that you can still buy and sell stocks that the notorious trader Lefevre did before the crash in '29. It's a channel through time, that you can tap into and get money out of, that contains all the information of the last century, and influences perception and sentiment worldwide. It's not flipping burgers and it's not filling memos.
I'm sort of thinking about resuming schoolwork to get an MBA. What's funny is I talk to tech geek people who all think business people are stupid and ruin good ideas and whatnot, I guess completely ignorant of the last year or so. Most people ARE stupid, regardless of their position or status. Tech geeks think things would proceed normally and even better than before without businessmen. I got in an argument with an ex-friend about that, which was ironic because he called me up once and said how unprepared he was pitching his company idea to a bunch of venture capitalists, because they "asked about business bullshit".
I went to the financial district. I went to the NYSE. I saw a bunch of other people who were doing the same. I'm not so alone, pursuing this microworld of intangible value and binary currency.
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