Interview With A Day Trader
The Daily Reckoning Presents: A DR Classique originally
broadcast on October 15, 1999
INTERVIEW WITH A DAY TRADER
I left Baltimore last night and took a cab down to Dulles
Airport in Virginia. The following is the actual conversation with the cabdriver. It began as the cab crossed the Baltimore beltway, and the driver suddenly remarked:
“There are a lot of Russians out here.”
Yes, I replied.
“I can spot them.”
You mean, you can tell if they are Russian?
“Yeah…I can tell. It’s a gift I have. “I had two of them in the cab yesterday. They were Russians all right. I tagged them right away.”
I guess you can recognize their accents.
“No…I can tell right away. They don’t have to say a
“They were agents. Russian intelligence.”
How did you know that?
“It’s a gift.”
“A lot of them out here. One of them was a double agent. Russian intelligence and CIA. Or maybe NSA. I wasn’t sure.
“There are so many…I get confused sometimes. I see them all the time.”
You mean, you take them to the airport?
“Sometimes. But I see a lot of them in the mall. A lot of double agents too. Whew…a lot of them. Sometimes triple agents. I had one guy in the car the other day who was CIA, Russian Intelligence and British intelligence.
“He said he was English…but I could tell. They’re pretty good. All kinds of disguises. No way to tell, unless you can tell…heh heh.
“I had one woman on Tuesday. Nice green eyes. Reddish hair. And a thick Irish accent. She said she had lived in Ireland all her life. Even had an Irish passport. But I could tell- Russian Intelligence.
“I haven’t had sex in 12 years. Not with woman, child, man or beast…”
[I decided to let that pass…]
“Another guy with a southern accent…great accent. Said he was from Georgia. Russian intelligence.”
Hmmm…there are more than I thought. You can tell just by looking?
“Yeah…sometimes I can tell from a picture. I saw a picture of Al Gore in `The Washington Post’ yesterday. British Intelligence. It really struck me. No doubt about it.”
I would have guessed it. How about Bill Clinton?
“Ah…British Intelligence. But you see a lot more in her. Wiccan. Satanist. Some Muslim. Some Buddhist. She gives off a lot.”
“Yeah…she’s a witch. Lot of them around too. Especially in the suburbs.
“I call them Satanists in suits. Not the same as black witchcraft. They’re all over the place. Especially in Silver Spring [A suburb north of the city].”
[I’m not making this up…honest…]
“I was a Christian. I put leaflets under windshield wipers for Operation Rescue [an anti-abortion project]. But I didn’t want to kill anybody. Went to church every day. That’s when I got the gift.
“Yesterday they wanted me to train a new driver. He sat in the cab with me for five hours while I showed him the ropes, you know. Well, I knew. I could just tell. So I said, `Okay…I know you’re a Satanist. And Russian Intelligence.’ He said, `Yeah…how’d you know?’ It’s a gift.”
What do you think of Jesse Ventura, I asked. [I couldn’t resist.]
“Don’t get me started…The guy is really bad news. I saw him on TV.
“Russian Intelligence. How do you like that? And a governor! Wiccan. French Intelligence. And military intelligence. A little bit of Satanism, too.”
I figured as much. What do you think of the stock market? [What the heck…maybe Alan Greenspan is a double agent. I had to know…]
“Oh…I don’t do that any more. I used to be a day trader. But I kept losing my money. Then I got compulsive about it. I’d stay up every night until 3 a.m. studying the stock market. I guess some guys are good at it. Not me. I still owe money.”
It’s a gift, I said.
August 1, 2001
*** “Wasn’t it just yesterday we were celebrating the arrival of the Pink Slip Party as a new rite of passage?” asks Money.com’s Ilan Polyak. Regardless, Americans’ spending outpaced their personal income in June, according to a Commerce Dept. report.
*** “Hooray!” shouted investors on the news. “Long live the American consumer!” The Dow jumped 121 to 10,522… and Annus Horribilis took a short break from knocking the wind out of the Fed’s reflation attempt.
*** Less ebullient, the S&P 500 and Nasdaq each meandered into positive space… up 7 points to 1,211 for the S&P; the Nasdaq finished nearly 10 points higher at 2,027.
*** I have seen neither hide nor hair from Bill. As you know, he left Sunday for a vacation with his family in Nicaragua. I had expected him to check in by now, but he hasn’t…hmnnn…I hope he didn’t try to go for another early morning swim…
*** Eric too, is putting the final touches on his summer soiree, we’ll hear from him tomorrow. For now, back to the markets…
*** “The consumer is key if there is to be a recovery,” Polyak reminds us, “things could go from bad to worse very quickly if we were to become a nation of tightwads.”
*** “Ordinary Americans are expected to ride to the rescue of the economy,” writes grantsinvestor.com’s Andrew Kashdan. But weighted down with record debt… and burdensome mortgage levels, “it’s getting harder and harder for them to get a leg up on the horse.”
*** The Federal Reserve reported last week that debt service payments, measured as a percentage of disposable income, reached 14.35% in the first three months of this year… just shy of the 1986 record. At this pace, a passive observer might ask, just how exactly is the consumer going to save the economy?
*** Of course, those figures have left the Fed Chair feeling as bereft of despair as a jockey on the finish line of his first Triple Crown win. “Greenspan waved his little hand in the air and another $4 billion of magical dollars appeared in banks last week,” the Mogambo Guru tells me.
*** “For much of the ’80s and ’90s, the Fed created money far in excess of GDP,” says Bill King. “The excess liquidity flowed into financial assets. Now, M3 growth is greater than 14% year over year, but stock returns are negative and the economy is receding.” Still, analysts predict, you can expect another 50-point cut when the Fed meets again next month.
*** “Monetary policy has been so promiscuous the past decade and a half that we are now at a rare point in history,” says Dr. Kurt Richebacher. “The ’30s [were] the last time that monetary policy was futile in stimulating stocks or the economy.”
*** And what of real estate? “Since it has historically been a significant percentage of household savings,” said Indiana Senator Evan Vayh to Chairman Greenspan on July 24th, “is this a worrisome long-term trend, people drawing down their home equity substantially?”
*** Greenspan: “Despite…the significant extraction of home equity gains, the level of unrealized capital gains in homes continues to rise apace. So it’s not a depleting asset, if I may put it that way. It could be, but fortunately it is not.”
*** “Here we go again,” says Doug Noland of the Prudent Bear, “another dangerous Bubble and another pathetic example of either flawed analysis or obfuscation from our Federal Reserve Chairman. With the Fed having for years studied asset Bubbles, and especially after the bursting of the technology Bubble, there is today absolutely no excuse for misreading the expanding real estate Bubble.”
*** The Mogambo Guru: “Consumer debt has risen beyond 100% of income. Layoffs are everywhere. Bankruptcies are rising fast. Consumers are seriously tapping into their home equity. The derivatives markets are already 300% of total global GDP… In short, the excesses of financial stupidity that plagued the world in 1929 are beginning to look like sobriety in comparison.”
*** Annus Horribilis may have taken a short break yesterday, but it’s a safe bet he’ll be back… very soon.
*** Another form of financial stupidity is about to be reckoned with as well… or not. “Wall Street’s New Honor Code,” says a TIME headline. “Analysts got rich promoting bubble stocks and IPOs,” says the article. “Now they say they’ll come clean.” Uh huh.
*** The article also says Congress has kicked off hearings to investigate many analysts’ conflicts of interest… let’s see, politicians accusing stock brokers of fleecing the public… hmmnn… something funny with this picture?
*** The SEC, too, is getting serious. According to Money.com, Laura Unger – the SEC’s acting chief – told Congress, “[some analysts] sold stocks in their personal accounts that they had ‘buy’ ratings on at the investment bank.” Now… how can that be? That would be dishonest, wouldn’t it?
*** Even individual investors are getting snippy about this post-bubble mess. Thadeus Wong, a 32-year-old real estate broker in Chicago, told the Chicago Tribune he opened a million-dollar investment account with Morgan Stanley, because they were a reputable company… within 8 months, the entire account was wiped out “through buying tech stocks, options and shorting securities.” Wong filed an arbitration claim on July 12th against Morgan Stanley and the broker he used there.
*** Boy, what a summer… an epic battle taking shape – American Consumer v. The Global Economy… post-bubble investor recriminations heating up… Congress getting in on the action… the ever-stoic Greenspan pumping away, trying to reflate global passion for stocks… quel drame… whoever called this the “dismal science” just didn’t know how to have fun.
P.S. Okay, we’re all fans of free speech. While the censorship of a few Wall Street analysts probably wouldn’t inflict any damage on the moral fiber of the nation, for the most part, we don’t condone the act.
Still, one of the most eloquent and prolific contributors to the DR website discussion board has inexplicably begun hurling obscenities about like they were candy. To wit, we simply ask, please exercise some discretion when using our forum. Thank you.
P.P.S. Below… a memorable cab ride during the height of the tech bubble…