It's 3:30 A.M. Do You Know What Your Portfolio Is Doing?

This column first appeared on the Opinion page of last Sunday's Boston Herald.

If the rest of you don't mind, I would just like to address all the powerful people in the financial world for a moment. I know you're busy. I don't mean to take up too much of your time, but my mother has just one small request. You see, she has heard that many of you want to expand the trading hours of the stock market, and she happens to hate the idea. Could you please do her a favor and keep everything the same?

Really, 9:30 to 4:00 will do just fine.

My father is a stockbroker, and Mom already doesn't see enough of him. The last thing she needs is for him to have a longer trading day. She will never get to talk with him then. In fact, the last thing anyone needs is a longer trading day. Sure, I may be a night person, but that doesn't mean I think it's a good idea for the stock market to be open all the time. I don't care if you really really really want to make a trade at two in the morning. Suck it up and wait a few hours. Okay?

With the growing democratization of the stock market, many are clamoring for longer sessions. The New York Stock Exchange wants to add an early morning and an evening session, while NASDAQ plans to add a four hour session at night. Meanwhile, several other companies are creating private stock exchanges that will allow trading of popular stocks 24 hours a day. As more and more people get wired to the market, the demand for 24 hour trading is getting harder to ignore.

But ignore it, we should. Even with our short trading hours, this country is becoming addicted to the stock market. With everyone from your grandmother to your paper boy involved, Wall Street has become our national lottery, and an expensive 24 hour lottery just a mouse click away is more than a little dangerous. Soon, we will all have the chance to lose our shirt (or pajamas) at three in the morning, and this is progress?

Expanding the hours certainly won't be good for our health either. What happens when the day traders must become night traders as well? Already they sit at their computer all day without eating, and soon they might be doing the same at night. No sleep. No food. Just trading. All day and night. Is this really a good thing? Eventually, we might even have a new problem in this country -- malnutrition of the rich.

"Well, sure, Bob became a multi-millionaire from his investments, but with all his trading, he just forgot to eat. It's a shame really."

And what about market stability? There are always days when the Dow Jones average is in free fall all afternoon only to be saved by the closing bell. Take away that closing bell, and who knows how low the markets will go? Even on great days, investors need time to reflect on all the information that is out there. Or sometimes they just need time for a deep breath.

If we eventually expand to a 24 hour market, not even traditional investors will be able to escape it. This can only lead to a permanently anxious society. Think about it. How will any investor sleep knowing that his portfolio could collapse over night? In a few years, will even those investors not online suddenly be calling up their broker in the middle of the night just to see how their shares of Microsoft are holding up?

I'm not sure, but I do know one thing. My Mom certainly hopes not.

Copyright 1999 by Joe Lavin (who would make a horrible President)
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Submitted By: Joe Lavin
Aug 23, 1999 12:59

This joke is rated: PG