Thursday, February 26, 2009

25/02: Turkish Airlines aircraft of the tragic Amsterdam incident

In light of Wednesday's tragic incident involving a Turkish Airlines passenger aircraft at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport, I went digging through my sizable cache of travel photos. I would like to preface by extending my condolences to the families of those who lost their lives.

Here's the photo of interest that I was seeking:

The above is a tarmac shot, taken at Istanbul's Ataturk airport in August 2008, of the boarding of my flight to Astana, Kazakhstan. (Why I was going to KZ will be left to the subject of another blog post, I'm afraid!) The aircraft is a Boeing 737-800 with winglets (not shown in the above snapshot), identical to the ill-fated ship.

Of particular interest is the registration number of the aircraft pictured above. The posted picture is obviously low-quality, yet in my high-quality version I can just make out the first four characters of the registration number, printed below the aircraft's tail and just forward of the horizontal stabilizer; these are: TC-JG. The last character, hazier, appears to be either a D or an E. I was, of course, curious about how the registration number of the Amsterdam aircraft compares, and I was surprised to learn that is it TC-JGE. It is possible, therefore, that I journeyed on the same aircraft some months ago -- a humbling consideration, indeed.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

25/02: Markets, and my upcoming weekend travel

I've been sitting on cash for the last two market sessions and will likely do so tomorrow also, given a lack of free time during market hours. It's a pity, as the trading opportunities over the last few days in financial services stocks -- and particularly in Bank of America (BAC) shares -- have been extraordinary. BAC has been having epic intra-week price swings and unbelievable liquidity, epitomized by today's volume, which settled in excess of half a billion shares. Most promising of all, BAC's price movements are not altogether difficult to judge; the hypotheses of trendlines and support / resistance levels are being vindicated more often than not. To be sure, I'd not venture into a stock like BAC and then go hit Starbucks for a leisurely coffee break. Still, with a sharp eye to any price movements detrimental to his strategy, an investor can make money with BAC.

Shifting to travel, I have an ambitious schedule planned for this weekend. I've booked my first transcontinental journey on a Skyteam carrier, a move to take advantage of a recent status match to Northwest's Worldperks program, and I'll be visiting the cities of Minneapolis, Seattle, New Orleans and Portland, OR.

In contrast to my flying patterns of years ago, I no longer strive to fly to far-off airports only to return on the next flight out, a strategy that I once employed to rack up maximum miles while minimizing incidental costs. Nowadays, I like to enjoy my destinations, albeit at a frenzied pace.

I plan to arrive in Minneapolis around 10am on Friday and venture downtown on the light rail connection to work for several hours at a coffee shop. I'll then continue onwards to Seattle on a 5pm departure, where I'll hop onto the speedy 194 bus into the International District near downtown where some fabulous independent espresso bars are located. A red-eye to Detroit will await me afterwards, followed by connecting flights on Saturday morning to Memphis and onward to New Orleans. After visiting with a friend and overnighting, I'll continue on the home-stretch of the trip: westward to Portland, OR (via Salt Lake City) on Sunday morning for another day of working at coffee shops before jetting to Washington on a red-eye via Atlanta, arriving on Monday morning.

This will be my first succession of four transcontinental journeys in a row (after years of racking up too much experience on mere back-to-back transcon flights), and I'm excited. Of course, I'm also thrilled to soon sample the products of two airlines that I've hitherto experienced little: Northwest and Delta.

Monday, February 23, 2009

23/02: A return to trading

After a brief hiatus, I have today unwound my first equity trade, a short position in Apple (AAPL) that I held since late last week. Happily, it was a profitable bet, always a great way to kick-off a new trading sojourn.

I hope to offer my view of market conditions, itself molded by personal trading experience and morning digestion of the day's Financial Times, in subsequent posts on this blog. Tonight, however, a brief synopsis of my past experiences with trading:

I became aware of the markets in late middle school, when my dad would beam about the stratospheric (and doomed) ascent of Lucent Technologies (ALU), whose shares he held in a 401k account. I began soon afterwards to call the shots on an account that held my own (meager) savings. I vividly recall one of my earliest trades: a long position in Extreme Networks (EXTR) that I took on the Friday before the tragic September 11th attacks. Perhaps spurred by commentators' calls to "patriotically" hold onto long equity positions, I stubbornly did not sell until the stock rebounded to my original purchase price some three months later.

Despite visions of prodigal skill, I managed to only lose money in my initial years, and there were lengthy stretches in which I gave up my financial alchemy attempts, considering them foolhardy.

A golden age of my toying around with investing would come during my junior year abroad at the London School of Economics (LSE). My account was upgraded to options trading, I was breezing through my LSE Finance course, and I enjoyed many marathon late-evening sessions at the LSE library, real-time streaming quotes from New York blazing across my computer screen, rolling the dice on risky equity options. These weeks and months were a golden age for the experience and confidence I gained, yet sustained financial gain was as stubbornly elusive as ever.

And now -- to cut to the chase -- I'm ready to give the endeavor yet another go. More disciplined and patient, I'm focused on succeeding in areas where I earlier stumbled. I hope that my forthcoming experiences on the wild, chaotic markets can complement my thoughts on airlines and experiences with travel -- forming what might be, in the end, an altogether satisfying and readable account.

23/02: A christening

And with little fanfare and nary any notice, a new blog takes life:

Ad astra: airlines, equity markets & travel

This blog hopes to make a contribution to an ambitious combination of three oft-discussed topics; is the task hopeless? The blog's author hopes his unique perspective offers the elusive value-added. Without further adiu, behind the computer screen is:
  • an undergraduate at Georgetown University (hence the 'Hoyas' term in the URL);
  • an enthusiastic trader of the U.S. equity markets since middle school, known to trade the New York session during late nights at the LSE library in London;
  • a passionate traveler, one who strategically games airline frequent flier programs to permit upward of 100,000 miles of travel per annum;
  • a careful follower of airline industry news, no matter how minute and otherwise irrelevant to human welfare
Thank you for reading, and please share some love with a comment!