Sunday, October 19, 2008

up and down and down and down

Red has always my favourite color. Today that's not such a happening colour. It's basically looking like the bottom's falling out of the market. As you can imagine red certainly is the color of the day.... as it was yesterday and the day before.....
Now to all intents and purposes red is the color of passion, love, success (red ferraris), the color of 'HOT' (witness Lady in Red).... so.... who was the schmuck that came up with the bright idea of red being the color of falling prices.... the color of bad news.... the color of "What the heck happened to all my investments?"... "Where's my money???" "not really the iconic "Show me da money!" but more of I saw, I invested, I lost it all.
I'd say right now that Red is perhaps one of the most misunderstood colours going. Like Pigs. Pigs don't sweat, for the simple reason that they have no sweat glands. So the whole phrase "sweating like a pig" is just base slander. Wonder how pigs feel about that. Perhaps they have some rude sayings about us. Not that they'd be off by much of a margin.
Let's consider for a moment.... Humans fought their way right to the top of the food chain... now that was a feat.... a large portion of them then turned vegetarian... developed an unshakable and often violent belief in the supernatural ... then went on to wage some of the bloodiest battles over ideology... then the novelty of killing each other wore off some and they decided ok why not do something else.... so we had these huge technological advances that had this unfortunate side effect of polluting (i.e. making absolutely unusable) the scarce resources on this planet. In retrospect, not such a bright idea, but no one's going to admit that. The latest example of Human Greatness will in all probability drive the entire globe into a decade long deflationary cycle, or a depression. History shows that in most times of economic upheaveal countries have waged war on each other. Hyperinflation was the magic wand that propelled Hitler to the position of power that ultimately culminated in World War II. The Human Race is basically like a herd of sheep. Apparently capable of functioning independent of the whole but actually following what the strongest in the herd do. We started out with tribes, went on to kingdoms, then on to countries, then there was the whole capitalism versus communism and democracy versus dictatorship. Remember when all and sundry was so convinced that the world was flat that anyone disagreeing was considered a witch and dealt with accordingly. Brilliant race aren't we? We created the Nuclear bomb without realising that it can kill the entire planet too.... News Flash... this race doesn't have anywhere else to go. Makes you wonder whether the dinasours ever tried stunts like this. Also makes me wonder whether we're actually at the top of the foodchain or whether the rest of the food chain's just biding its time.... laughing at the new kids on the block that are just convinced that they know better.... In the larger scheme of things cockroaches and alligators have been around much longer than we have. Think its possible that the cockroaches are gonna be having the last laugh? after all in the event of a nuclear holoucast the cockroaches will survive. not so with the humans.... which is kinda funny because after all that effort we'll basically be handing the first position on the food chain to the roaches. Ofcourse we wont' think of it that way. We will have honourable and strong reasons for doing that. Everything including creating and using weapons of mass destruction (whose after effects we are pretty much clueless about) are done withthe best and the strongest of reasons. We're just protecting our turf. Protecting our way of life.... be it American, Islamic, Hindu, Christian, Chinese or Russian.
I wonder when our priorities changed from improving our lot to assuaging our ego's. Let's look at our own news papers. A law on Gay rights, marriage and the act of homosexual intercourse gets far more air time and column space than farmer suicides or the troubles that 70% of our population is faced with. What Sanjay Dutt eats in prison after beind convicted for taking an endangered animal's life is more important that the difficulties faced by everyone who's not a celebrity.
Perhaps our time has come and gone... the Age of Kaliyug, Armageddon.... every religion speaks of it. And yet all we worry about is what the latest celebrities are wearing. Wearing the same pair of shoes is matter enough for a headline in a national paper.... Where exactly are our priorities?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Rude songs are what I like best.... Those with rhythm are good too... But the rude ones can really brighten up a particularly rotten day....
Thought I'd share this one. It's not exactly rude but it does hit the spot...
'When I die don't bury me at all,
Just pickle my bones in alcohol;
Put a bottle o' booze at my head and feet
And then I know that I will keep.'

Imagine you're doing a Pavarotti when attempting this...very full throated....
I like the type of songs that can be belted out....sit back, relax and let fly... This isn't the sort of stuff that needs a screwed up expression and a whiney voice whining on about unrequited love or how life's been so cruel...
Maan wake up and smell the smog. This ain't no fairy tale. Boy bands are for people that don't have to fend for themselves. Work pressures need the R's, Rock and Rugby songs.... don't believe me? Try it. Sit down and blast out something that you can sing along with and let fly. Then tell me how you feel... pick simple manageable tunes.... the point here is relaxation not technique. Infact try listening to something like rockstar or start making a study of Rugby Songs....personally i strongly recommend a stint in a British Pub during football season. Now that's how you have a really good time.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Dilbert Life

In today's high pressure world it's really very easy to lose yourself. To just stop looking at the big picture and lose yourself in the crowd. Quite often this leads to one being stuck in an unwanted and unintended situation with no exit option. Sticking to your guns is no walk in the park. You will have your bosses doing their level best to mould you into what they want, paranoid colleagues doing their level best to convince you that your company is cheating you and peers in other departments tell you that you don't have a chance unless you do xyz or become ruthless, because that's how the rest of the team is. I'm so tired of hearing "There's no 'I' in TEAM." Well that does not mean you make a team with a bunch of clones. Diversity and Variety is a good thing. Encourage it, develop it.

You may start out with your ideals and your plans intact, your aim may be rather different from everyone else, your requirements may be totally different. But somehow, somewhere, that gets lost in the clutter and you find yourself doing and becoming what you were determined you would never be. Think about it. How many of us planned to become ruthless, money grabbing, paranoid dimwits when we first started out. Very, very few. We start out thinking "OK. I can deal with this, I will not make the same mistakes everyone else is, I will not let this job get to me. I am strong, I can take the stress, I will rise up the ranks on merit. I love this company, I don't plan on shifting. I will work my way up.. etc etc." Yeah right. Two years on and you've shifted your job, your unhappy about your salary (which by the way is substantially higher than it was when you joined), you suck up to your boss with the rest of the rats, you put in overtime for no real reason and you take out all of your work frustration on the people in your immediate vicinity. You no longer laugh at Dilbert and his pointy headed boss, you empathise with him. God help you if your boss takes notes from him. You cease all contact with friends outside your job becasue you don't have the time. Your life is divided between the commute and your deadlines. You were late for your wedding but you wouldn't dream of being late for work.

Step back and take stock of your priorities. You can sacrifice your present for a potentially great future, but what if some dimwit in a vehicle mows you over before you enjoy that future? Seriously what's the point of this work ethic. Give up your life, your every waking hour to a job who's ultimate aim is to help you earn a salary to pay your bills. Seriously, when did our jobs become our lives. It's utterly stupid, and the bosses that perpetrate this ought to be shoved of the nearest cliff. Life is so much more than the next paycheck. Start living it. To hell with the commute and the idiot that's giving you a hard time right now. Nothing lasts forever. Including you.

Friday, June 20, 2008

I thought this rather aptly represented the stock brokers and the market...

This one just cracked me up....

Friday, May 16, 2008

Back in Black

Somehow listening to loud, rude, rock always cheers me up.... For the uninitiated, Back in Black is a track by AC/DC. They also came up with Big Balls, Big Gun, Shook Me All Night Long, Hell's Bells and TNT... all awesome tracks, guaranteed to make you forget your troubles and grin at the cheeky lyrics. I would recommend listening to live rock shows rather than the studio reorded stuff, it has a lot more buzz. Listening to a guy with a scratchy voice yelling his head off with electric guitars and drums in the background, is just what's needed to snap you out of that comatose state brought on by work. A lot of people I meet can't understand why i would prefer quietly sitting in a corner immersed in my own rock rather than go to a pub, get drunk, pretend to enjoy cheap jokes and listen to some idiot whining about why his girl left him or worse listening to techno... i mean seriously, where is the fun in techno? Its just noise! Where's the beat? Where's the personality? You never get frenzied fans flinging various items of netherwear at a techno concert. Give me a good rock show any day! I'm sure that if it wasn't for Rock and Rock Shows, sales of Women's Lingerie would drop to a fraction of what they are right now.
Listen to one of AC/DC's shows. Trust me you will imagine yourself strutting your stuff across that stage belting out "Coz I'm T-N-T, I'm Dynamite, T-N-T, and i'll win the fight. T-N-T, I'm a power load, T-N-T, Watch me explode..."
It's a great feeling.
Rock is an acquired taste. I have my mother to thank for initiating me into Deep Purple with Hush and Smoke on the Water. And later my husband for initiating me into the wonders of Iron Maiden with their Phantom of the Opera. GnR, Aerosmith, Dep Leppard, AC/DC, Nickleback, Bon Jovi, Iron Maiden, Deep Purple, Ugly Kid Joe, Whitesnake, Creed, Evanescence, The Rasmus... the list goes on... Rock Stars quite unlike Pop Stars, are always hot. Is it the tattoos? The Biceps? The bald Heads? The black leather? The Chin? The Booty? Despite the age of anorexia and dimwit blonde, Rockers managed to retain their animal magnetism. I mean seriously, take away the guitar and band and some of the God's of Rock could be described as downright ugly. So what do the groupies and the women and the media chase after? Rock my dear... Rock! That forbidden sound that wakes you up like nothing else can. That destroys your inhibitions. Its like a drug. It reaches into you, past all the acquired crap and pulls out something you never knew was there.
I've noticed that the best rock comes out when times are bad. I'm not talking about unrequited love and the usual shoulda woulda coulda's, I'm talking about post war, economic depression, recession, social upheaval...That's when the best of music and art is created. When the going gets tough, the diamonds come out. That's when the Gods of Rock and their Anthems are created. Wake up and get out those Blacks....It's time for the Rock and Roll Burn.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The mind of a Trader

The mind of a trader is a wonderful thing. When it comes to analysing information, sifting out what's important, what is relevant, analysing its effect and putting a price on the whole thing, a trader's mind could rival the most advanced supercomputer. But when it comes to remembering what happened in the past, the mistakes that led to previous crashes, heck forget about previous crashes even the inflation numbers that were declared 2 weeks back, the trader's memory could rival an industrial sized sieve. Its just wonderful how events in the financial markets keep repeating themselves. It's like watching re-makes of some old comedy or horror flick, I'm not quite sure which.
Just look around you. Forget the US markets, those are like a constant circus. If the Fed Chairman so much as grimaces on a burp, the markets will take this as a hawkish stance and will accordingly crash. The Asian Markets are like Russian Roulette, while the globe is reeling under the credit crunch, spiking inflation, a global slowdown, the Shanghai market will be little over 9% up in a single trading session. As obelix would say, "These Traders are crazy". A trader's mind is like the most advanced supercomputer with a 64 MB memory card.
I wonder what would happen if people stopped looking at what happened yesterday and today and started looking at what happened over the year. What would happen if traders started thinking objectively. If they stopped flying off the hook at the smallest of issues.... well, for starters we wouldn't have crossed 20k. That's because as soon as we hit 18500 the objective ones would be booking their profits and the markets would meander along, everyone would still be making money.
Aah Nirvana. Where the oft used maxim "Buy on rumor, sell on News" would have no scope. Where news items would not be discounted three hours before they were announced. Where stocks would not trade at 50 times their expected earnings two years hence. Where elusive land values were not factored in 5 years before the first foundation hole is dug.
But of course where would the fun be in that? That would be so staid. Heck the markets would be as interesting as watching moss grow.
Nah, the trader and his defective memory card and the violent swings of the market are what makes this whole job so interesting. The high you get knowing your portfolio is zipping along to the skies is like none other. And when the trend reverses and you realise you weren't quick enough to get out, the shocked stupor you find yourself in could rival any and every hangover. Surviving this market is like a right of passage. Everyone should go through it. Its the ultimate game of chicken. The only place where you can lose not just your returns but all of your life saving... commonly known as losing your pants - your shirt being the returns and that's long gone. The Stock Markets are the ultimate adrenaline junkie haven. Extreme sports has nothing on a lower circuit. Move over kids - The Traders are here.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Die Bart!!! Die!!!

Ever wonder how the best laid plans can go so horribly wrong? No matter what you do, salvaging yourr failing plans is like trying to stop the Niagra with your bare hands. It ain't happening! You can do your best and then some, and it still won't be enough. Why is it always so complicated? Just for a moment coonsider what life would be like, if what you got out was in proportion to what you put in. More effort would mean more rewards and vice versa. Kissing a boss's ass would get you no where. That would also mean that the boss would not stay the boss unless he actually did some work... which would mean that most of today's bosses would be redundant and either demoted (what a beautiful thought) or retired. They would necessarily have to reform their way of working and actually start doing something worthwhile rather than harassing their employees and encouraging the ass kissers.
But such is not the case (highly unfortunate). Slaves, or contract labour as it is known today, must try by fair means or foul (the latter is more predominant) to get their grubby paws on as big a slice of the bonus pie as possible. Somehow actual work doesn't translate into rewards anymore. Its like doing an MBA. At one point in time it meant something. Today its just another degree that's necassary. Anyone remember the days when being a graduate meant something?
what is the point of all this misery? We struggle and struggle and then struggle some more, sacrificinig health, family, friends, personality, hobbies... (you name it and it will be sacrificed) and for what? the rising inflation makes sure we don't manage to save enough for our old age, the money is never enough, the stress is always too much, when there's money there's no peace (not because of the money but because of the people giving itt to you) So I say again.... What is the point of all this? Honestly! WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE SOONER OR LATER... that's the one truth in all of our lives. so why are we working so that we can be miserable and ill and finally dead! Doesn't make too much sense. And I used to think ants and bees led a humdrum existence constantly carrying heavy loads or making honey, working for the greater good until they finally died (or got squished or eaten). Guess we humans aren't so intelligent afterall! Other than an opposible thumb there's precious little to set us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom.

Friday, March 21, 2008

The balance of life

One fine day while faffing around after college, a bunch of my friends and i decided that we needed to get a little intellectual. the result of that was two theories of life. the first was the Ice cream theory. it basically said that no matter how rotten your day ice cream would always make you feel better. then came my theory on the balance of life. it started out as a joke but after a bit i realised there was quite a bit of truth in it. just pass your day under review. your started bright and early and caught your train only to find that the cabbies were on strike and u ended up reaching the office breathless, grumpy and irritated. so much for a great start to the day. no matter what good happens something bad will counterbalance it. fortunately it works both ways and something bad is generally counterbalanced by something good. just goes to show.... a lot of us take physics for granted in school.... this stuff is rather usefull later on... it may take a little stretching of the old brain but surprisingly applicable none the less.
so the question now is... who's more dangerous, murphy or newton?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Whoever said a picture is worth a thousand words definitely knew what they were talking about.... this one is from Time Magazine....

Friday, February 8, 2008

Bargaining away our growth.

I have a confession to make. I cannot bargain. When I do bargain I get it down by a ridiculously low sum and then don’t know whether to feel elated at managing to get the price a couple of notches down or irritated that I could have gotten it for less. Not a good feeling… quite ruins the whole therapeutic effect of shopping. So to escape the necessity of bargaining I tend to frequent the larger fixed price stores and end up paying more.
The whole bargaining thing just freaks me out. I mean you can go through the entire shopping experience convinced that each and every seller is out to cheat you and bargain every where you go…. To me getting a kilo of grapes down from Rs. 40 a kilo to Rs. 35 a kilo or 30 a kilo is just not worth the effort… I mean it’s 10 bucks…. Less than the price of a coconut. Seriously…. Is it worth the trouble? You may disagree with me but I don’t think its worth the trouble. If I get it down the shop keeper is upset, if I don’t then I am upset. What’s the point? Is 10 bucks going to make that much of a difference to my life’s savings? Not really. The 13 hours a day that I spend commuting and working are stressful enough without me adding to it by bargaining with every shopkeeper I meet. However bargaining when ur with someone who knows how to go about it is quite a lot of fun. U get all the benefits of a much cheaper price and someone else takes all the stress…. Win win situation all around, especially if the person doing the bargaining actually enjoys doing that.
I am a believer in the beneficial aspects of competition and economic cycles. Prices always find their own levels. Bargaining is bringing the price to an artificial level. First you bargain, then the seller knows that you will bargain, so his starting price instead of a 20% margin gets a 50% margin so that even after you bring it down he still makes his money. This in turn makes it necessary for everyone to bargain else prices juse keep rising and inflation goes out of control. Mr. Reddy won't be happy about that and we won't be happy with the increasin interest rates that he will punish us with for having unwittingly pushed up prices. Eliminating bargaining would stop all that (in a somewhat perfect non-cartelized competitive market).
Moreover, my money (that 20% margin that I didn’t bargain down) will go into the shopkeepers pocket, thus adding to his spending capability which he would in turn spend on goods and services that would in turn generate more demand and more supply and thus ultimately help the economy grow as the incomes at the lower levels is boosted.
Pretty neat huh? So next time you bargain remember that you could possibly be slowing down the economy and increasing inflation! In fact you may jsut be the reason why we have such high interest rates! So instead of shooting yourself (and the rest of us) in the foot, why don’t you just let the guy take a reasonable margin and buy into the equity markets… you know his money is going to go back into the system.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Who's winning? The Bulls or the Bears?

Today was another wild wild day in the Stock Market. After plunging little over 800 points in the morning it recovered to close just 208 points in the negative… some recovery…. In fact it has crossed over into 18000 territory to close at 18152. That’s the round up, now for the not so great news. There is a very, and I mean VERY, strong chance that Mr. Y.V. Reddy is not going to come out with anything more notable that a minor repo rate cut. That’s basically not going to do anything other than give out a signal that the RBI will in time reduce rates. If you have the time, check out this article
So we could see the markets, especially the banking, and auto sectors do a belly flop tomorrow when the promised rate cut does not come through.
If you really want to frighten yourself with regards to the American market and its recession check out this particular blog
It has some extremely disturbing data on the fate of American bond insurers.
The markets are beginning to resemble a cowboy rodeo. I wonder what will happen if the Bull is replaced with a Whale or an Elephant, something more stable that doesn’t buck so much. Perhaps that’ll stop these wild swings. After all expecting the Fed to sacrifice the erring banks and clean up the system is expecting a tad too much.
It’s really funny how people never learn. Every few years the same thing happens. The market goes up, people get optimistic, the market goes up some more, people get euphoric, the market goes up even more, small caps become darlings of the market turning into multi-baggers overnight. Then one fine day something gives and everything comes crashing down. The market loses trillions of rupees, investors (traders really) see vast amounts of their money wiped out, margin calls left right and centre, the finance minister comes on the tele waxing eloquent about the strong domestic growth and GDP at 9%. Then barely a month after asserting that nothing could stop the market, the very same people insist that the markets are done for and nothing can help them recover. The bear market has begun!!! Then of course the market starts to recover, people cheer up, the market goes higher, people get a little more optimistic and the cycle continues. What’s the difference between a bear market and a correction? A correction today lasts a few days; a bear market lasts a few months. In today’s fast paced world the time span for everything has reduced. Maybe someone should start looking at valuations for a change and stop discounting two years forward growth today. Two years is a long time, margins contract, competition comes in, top management leave, growth slows, government’s change, policies change… a lot can happen in two years.
It’s a pity there aren’t any full time bears left in the market. The bulls have stampeded long enough.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Mad Mad World of Market Meltdowns

Don't know if I've mentioned this before, but I work in a stock brokerage firm that is a member of both the National and the Bombay Stock Exchange. Thus in addition to the regular monday morning blues, i also suffer the occasional "Black Monday"...Today was a double whammy, a monday and a very volatile "Black" monday... A perfectly rotten and evil day that saw markets collapse like a ballerina on an oil slick... The BSE had its largest intra day fall ever - in absolute points that is..... at one point in time we were a good 1700 odd points down... i really feel for those poor bulls stuck in long leveraged positions... your's is not a happy plight... the reasons for the crash... well they are many and varied. one gem was that the government was going to fall. another was that George Bush had proposed a growth plan that involved in some nebulous way, distributing $145 billion to the american tax payers. according to someone's calculation that worked out to $800 per tax payer.... either he doesn't know what things cost or he's mixed up the calculations of the american standard of living with that of somalia.... what the heck is a measley $800 going to do for someone with thousands in debt???? the difference as stephen roach succintly puts it, is this, during the tech boom and subsequent bust, tech contributed 12% to the US GDP. The housing industry on the contrary contributes a very hefty 72% to US GDP.... China's consumption is at $1 trillion v/s $9.5 trillion for the americans... Indian is almost no where at $650 bn... i agree with Mr. Roach when he says that no emerging market is going to be able to step into a breach caused by a slow down in US spending... but will $800 do it? i doubt it...
now the question on everyone's mind is .... when will this end? the bears (yours truly included) expected a correction... we even expected the market to come down to 18000 levels... well its done that.... so now what? do we rise like the phoenix or sink like the Titanic? i have a nasty feeling there's still a bit of sink left.... remember there need to be a few margin calls for today's trades... and the retail investors are still panicking.... the last time this happened was in 2006 when the commodity markets fell. today instead of the commodity markets its the us market, but the repercussions are very very similar. that time we sank close to 50% from 14000 odd to 8900.... so does that mean that this time round we will be seeing an index of 11000? i sincerely hope not....
my advice... stay in the large cap space... avoid all tips and so called multi-baggers like the plague, and buy on every fall.... that is in the last one hour of trading. chances are that we'll bounce back to 21000 by the time the budget is announced....

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Kinky Boots

I just finished watching this film called "Kinky Boots" on Star Movies.... all the women out there.... watch this film... the boots and the shoes are beyond awesome.... i just wish we could wear stuff like that here....
after watching "The Devil Wears Prada" i was all enthu for a few pairs of stilettos ... bought a whole bunch... they didn't last more than a month... bombay roads are awful... its not that i can't walk in them or anything... heck i look great in them... problem is, you step out of your nicely tiled office into a broken pavement strewed with construction debris, hawkers, litter, beggars and goodness knows what else..... my poor stilettos never had a chance....
perhaps its a good thing considering that fashion changes so quickly.... though i do think the makers might have made them a little more durable..... its strange how sneakers and most mens shoes are so usable and durable and in most cases manage to look good... women's wear on the other hand is, in my opinion, made by men who hate women.... i think we need a brand of women's footwear, made and designed by women for women.... i for one would pay big money for a pair of shoes that looked good, fit well and lasted at least 6 months.. is that asking too much? Is anyone listening....

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Rat Race

I'm part of the "Rat Race" that is regular rush hour Mumbai.... i leave my tiny little flat in the surburbs between 7:25 and 7:30 in the morning so i can get one of two trains that will reach Churchgate Station at 8:30, just in time for me to catch a cab and get to work.... i spend the first hour of my day in a mad rush to get the train and then once i get the dratted thing, i spend another half an hour standing keeping an eye peeled for a few inches of space freed by someone getting off....
Train travel in Mumbai defies all laws of physics.... despite a fixed amount of space normally solid humans follow the laws of liquids and manage to find space for what seems like millions.... if there is even a couple of inches standing space somewhere with a handhold within reach... no matter how treacherous or uncomfortable ... someone will be on it.... the trains of Mumbai serve as an eternal symbol of the indomitable spirit of the working class of Mumbai.... no matter what.... we will brave disease, (extremely) cramped spaces, determined beggars and fish water just to catch our train.... its not that we can't afford more expensive modes of transport.... we can.. we just do't want the bother of getting stuck in a traffic jam...
the trains and the people that frequently use them are a wonderfull combination.... nothing can keep them apart... floods, riots, bomb blasts.... the trains will continue .....
battered, dusty, dirty but yet dependable..... even a 15 minute delay is a big enough event to make the local news...
i once saw a paper stuck to a seat in a train.... someone had put chewing gum on the seat.... disgusting isn't it? so someone else had put a piece of paper over that so that no one's clothes would get messed up by it.... to me that signifies the spirit of Mumbai.... there is poverty, there is crime... there are molesters galore... but there are also those who will come out and help.... those who will queue up outside hospitals to donate blood to the victims of bomb blasts... those who will make tea and carry it out with biscuits to millions who are trudging home through waist deep water in the floods... they didn't have to..... they could have stayed in... they chose not to....
With this city its love or hate... nothing inbetween..... its intense.... definitely not for the faint of heart.