bankruptcy announcement. Certainly this was not a shock to me, but when a name that big goes down -- the parent company of American Airlines -- it's still news. I guess my core curiosity is: Who was betting the other way when a stock chart does nothing but go down in a straight line for a year? It reminds of the dot-com days when smart-ass brokers I worked with would occasionally short a hot stock like JDS Uniphase ( JDSU) or Yahoo ( YHOO). What made these trades legendary shorts? Most of them got royally killed before the actual end of the bubble. Just imagine shorting Yahoo at $100 because of a ridiculous P/E, then see it rise to over $200 in short order. You get wiped out. Nobody likes to tell those stories. It's only the guy who shorted the dot-com crew at the right time who gets the Vanity Fair profile. This is no different. I actually do know why people buy AMR. Airlines are a good trading vehicle that will loosely correlate to the change in oil prices, business spending and takeover rumors. If I looked back at confirmations from my trading days, I would see some AMR trades here and there. In a word, stupid. Why would anyone trade on the long side of an industry where there is too much capacity and strict competition to be the cheapest? Or, more to the point, why do airlines do this to themselves? We as a society help facilitate stupid. Let me give you an example. About a year ago, I started to travel more for business. I made the mistake of asking my intern to start picking the cheapest routes to cities I frequented in the Southwest. Boy, did I learn fast. There was the trip to Denver on a prop plane. As I boarded the flight, it was clear not a single person on board was a business traveler. It was like seeing a group of country bumpkins ride the escalator at the mall for the first time. Was it worth the $50 savings? Hell no.
I usually fly Southwest Airlines ( LUV), but a lot of that has to do with me living in Albuquerque with ample flights everywhere I go. However, when I go a bit farther to the East Coast, Southwest's fares are noticeably higher. I still pay it. Why? I like consistency. I don't want to worry about being on a tiny jet with underpaid pilots who are ill-trained. I don't want to sit around for half an hour while a complex boarding routine plays out. Great, you get in first class, and then you have to sit around for 30 minutes while every little boarding group passes by. I would rather mix with the unwashed masses. Maybe I am a creature of habit, like not liking to look at stock charts that go in a straight line down. Maybe I hate the industry for overall crappy service and competition that doesn't allow me to pay a little more for better service. It is always a race to the bottom, like the stock prices. Clearly, if this is what people want, I should not be a jerk and ask who would buy the stock.