Wednesday, March 25, 2009

24/03: Markets; catching-up

Quite too long since my last post; I had ambitions of running a daily account. Perhaps going forward I will be more successful.

Much interesting travel experiences in the last three weeks to eventually recount, including journeys to Dubai, London, Denver and Chicago. But those will wait for another day.

Some thoughts on the financial markets. As is self-evident, the last ten or so market days have witnessed a significant shift in sentiment, with the Dow up ~1000 points, or about fifteen percent, from its intra-day low. Chart patterns have been providing strong support for the rally, and the charts look promising for further market advances.

My own ability to profit from the action has been mixed. On the one hand, I took well-timed long positions in an aerospace firm and an airline just prior to the market bottom, holding them through some tumultuous periods of loss and finally selling (in dramatic fashion, from my Dubai hotel's public computer) for a handsome gain of nearly twenty percent -- though that's with the effects of leverage; I should add that I trade on a margin account. For the last week-and-a-half, though, I adopted too cautious a stance, reluctant to re-enter the markets for fear of a turn-around in the sudden bullish sentiment. I finally jumped back in today with a long position in a major bank, only to be rewarded by a precipitous decline of the share price into the close. We'll see what the coming days will bring.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

01/03: Wknd w/ Skyteam, part 1

This evening’s post is being composed on board Portland’s functional and clean light rail network. I am visiting Oregon’s cultural capital as part of an extended tour of the Skyteam airline alliance – made possible due to the current economic climate’s exceedingly low airfares. Planned for my forty minute journey to the airport (PDX) is a review of part of my weekend’s travels. Part 2 will finish the travel review and, additionally, include anecdotal commentary on the successes and shortcomings of Delta and Northwest Airlines, and some words about Friday’s markets.

This weekend merits the happy descriptor of ‘among my most ambitiously itinerant ever.’ Free from class on Friday, I began the day with an exciting 4am wake-up. The morning saw me complete a load of laundry; pack for a harried eighty-hour marathon spanning over 10,000 miles, four destinations, and climates ranging from blizzard to balmy; commute down the well-worn path of Georgetown University GUTS shuttle bus, Washington Metro, and MARC commuter rail to Baltimore Washington airport (BWI); jet to Minneapolis aboard the state carrier of Minnesota; and be productively engaged for the duration of my approximately 2.5-hour flight, my labors facilitated by the enhanced space of an exit row seat. A note regarding the last point: I generally make an effort to work productively during my travels, to harvest a gain from the otherwise dead time of transit; I mention this explicitly because a weekend’s haul of 10,000 miles represents a treasure of time.

Minneapolis greeted me with a half foot of freshly fallen snow and bitter cold, all under a brilliantly blue heaven. Indeed, it would be difficult to generate more agreeable weather (from my perspective at least!). I rode the light rail to the city centre and proceeded to work and place some trades during the afternoon, the whole time ensconced at a Caribou Coffee within the downtown area’s maze of skyways.

Friday's early evening had me flying to Seattle, again on a Northwest Boeing 757 (though a -300 series this time, my first-ever ride on this variant), again in the relative comfort of an over-wing exit row seat. After a productive flight spent reading about development economics, I dashed aboard the express 194 bus into the neighborhood just south of the Emerald City’s Space Needle, where I thoroughly enjoyed a hearty meal at the unassuming, uncrowded Tandoori Hut. This hole-in-the-wall establishment is an old favourite of my Seattle visits. And, on a highly tangential note, I must report that the Indian version of rice pudding – the dessert that I enjoyed after filling up on spicy tomato soup, a lentil curry, and steaming plain naan – is just as addictively delicious as the Turkish recipe. Without further digression, here is the now famous restaurant:

An overnight flight to Detroit ensued, but unfortunately our Boeing 757 motored into car capital of America in too low a gear, and I missed my connection to Memphis. Thankfully, I rapidly accessed the Skyteam timetable on my computer while taxiing to the gate, and immediately upon disembarking knew to which gate I had to dash in hopes of a re-route. And that gate held a ready-to-push Delta jet bound for Atlanta. I sweet-talked my way on board, took the last open seat, and away we went. But, alas, take-off was delayed due to de-icing and inclement Atlanta weather, so I missed my tight New Orleans -bound connection at ATL. I finally arrived at the hung-over Big Easy (Mardi Gras was only a few days before) some two hours later than initially scheduled, although in the relative comfort of Delta’s F class, my first ride in the airline’s premium cabin, and an upgrade facilitated by a recent status match with Northwest. More on that strategic move in a subsequent blog entry.

Thus, Friday morning through Saturday afternoon is accounted for. More on my time through Sunday evening (i.e. the present moment) soon!