Markets & Stocks
Traders ward off evil spirits
Halloween is just one more day in Wall Street's endless effort not to tempt fate.
October 31, 2003: 2:30 PM EST
By Meghan Collins, CNN/Money Staff Writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - From wearing the same lucky tie or underwear every day to using the same brand of pen, some traders are very superstitious when it comes to trading -- Halloween or no Halloween.

“ I never, ever, ever write with a red pen -- red signifies losses ”
James Park, senior trader at Brean Murray & Co.

"I never, ever, ever write with a red pen -- red signifies losses," said James Park, senior trader at Brean Murray & Co. "I also keep my desk completely organized. I feel the more organized I am, the better my stocks trade."

Park added that when the going gets tough, the tough get food. He said the group at Brean Murray orders a bunch of White Castle burgers with cheese and conducts an eating contest when the market tanks.

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At the Chicago Board of Trade, traders in the high-stakes futures pits have taken superstition to new heights. CNNfn's Ceci Rodgers reports.

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And there may have been more than one day in the past two weeks that Park and fellow traders stocked up on White Castles.

October has traditionally been considered a worrisome month, with the crashes of 1987 and 1929, and a 544-point drop on Oct. 27, 1997, solidifying its reputation for being a "jinx month" for the market.

And this month isn't helping dispel those concerns. Though the markets are higher in the month to date, the Dow has fallen more than 200 points, or 2 percent, since it hit a 16-month peak on Oct. 14. The Nasdaq has tumbled 3.5 percent since its 20-month high on the same day.

One stock trader said he's entertaining buying more pet fish.

"I had fish for a while, and after they died the market didn't do so well," said Brett Gallagher, head of U.S. equities at Julius Baer.

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Trader superstition

Gallagher said one of the portfolio managers in his group believes that a self-contained eco-system, including shrimp that eat plants and whose waste then fertilizes the plants, is key to his success so far.

Bond traders may be even more ritualistic. One trader told CNNfn there's a bathroom stall he never uses.

"It has a really good track record for losing money," said Alan Palmer, an independent bond futures trader at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

Experts said that superstitions generally run high in jobs that involve risk.

"Traders have a very high-pressure job and it's very intense," Dr. Bennett Leventhal, professor at the University of Chicago, told CNNfn. "I think that for many of them the superstitions and the little rituals help them decrease the level of the pressure, the tension and the anxiety."

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But some traders aren't worried about October crashes, Halloween tricks, or the recent selloff.

"We're not rubbing any chicken bones together over here," said Tim Heekin, head of stock trading at Thomas Weisel Partners. "We think this is just a healthy selloff in a cyclical bull market, so we're not doing anything fancy over here. I know some guys probably do, though."  Top of page

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