Mercury Retrograde

Or maybe I should call this “The Case of the Mysterious Missing Money”….

I don’t let astrology guide me the way the Gipper did, but sometimes I have to admit that the coincidence factor is way too high to completely ignore it.  The past few days have been one of those times when I have to say the astrologers’ predictions were coming true.

For those who don’t know, the movement of the planets at different speeds through their rotation around the Sun makes them occasionally “go backward” relative to our night sky  (day sky too, but it’s much harder to tell when you can’t see them or the stars).

Mercury is the planet with the shortest year, so it tends to migrate through the celestial sphere faster than any other planet, and also take occasional “retrograde” motions more frequently than the others.

I started to be reminded of Mercury’s confounding effect when I got a call about a credit card that supposedly hadn’t been paid.  The reality, as turned out, was that the bank had received the money before the due date, but somehow couldn’t find it and apply it to the correct account.

Naturally, the weekend staff on the customer help line had the subcontinental accent that almost guarantees that nothing can get fixed.  Finally, on Monday, a trip to the bank with a printout of the last dozen payments on that account from the bill pay service fixed it, but not without first having a conference call that included the Branch Manager at the bank, someone from the bill pay service, and the bank that issued the card.

Then there was one of my brokerage accounts with similar weirdness the next morning.  I had gone to sleep the night before with one account holding about 20% equity in good old cash.  Overnight, I was assigned some covered calls I had written, which naturally should add more cash.

But NO!  The online trading system showed negative cash, and a house maintenance call.  Since some of the calls that were exercised were covered by lower dollar price calls instead of stock itself (vertical bull spread in option-speak), I thought I could just sell the requisite number of lower strike calls, and the problem would be solved.  Even though that would generate even more cash, the system said I didn’t have sufficient cash to sell the options.  What?  I was selling to close, for criminy sakes!

Then I tried to buy back the short shares.  Again came the message that my account didn’t have enough equity.  WTF?

Three phone calls later, I was finally on with the derivatives desk, who were able to force through an exercise on the lower strike calls (the only thing I did all day that would actually take cash out of my account).  As soon as the calls were exercised, the money magically reappeared, now up around 30% of the whole account.

So at least I knew what to do when I was faced again today with the missing money and margin call notices.  I called the derivatives desk directly, and once again exercised calls.  Not my favorite thing to do, since both exercising options myself and having them exercised against me results in bigger commissions.

So here’s my advice.  Back up your files and your smart phone.  Mercury is in retrograde for another four days, and communication seems to be dicey until it heads in the “right direction” again.

I know.  It’s all superstition.  But you probably don’t back up your files often enough, anyway.

Feel free to share your own Mercury retrograde stories.

Happy Thanksgiving,



4 Responses to Mercury Retrograde

  1. Bill Marcus says:

    The only thing that would have been worse is if you had been out of the country with a 9 hour time difference. Thank goodness none of that has happened to me while on vacation.

  2. jill says:

    Talking about missing money…

    Total Credit Market Assets Held by Domestic Financial Sectors – Agency- and GSE-Backed Mortgage Pools
    now stands at 1,377.35 Billions of Dollars.
    On 10-01-2009 it stood at 5376.71 Billions of dollars.
    Where did it go?

    • hhill51 says:

      Beautiful point… guess the savers should be thanked for recapitalizing the banks, eh?

      By the way, that’s why I’m optimistic. We have this foolishness of the “cliff” and the next hostage crisis over the debt ceiling standing in the way, but when we look back ten years from now, I expect we’ll see sustainable economic growth began here.

  3. old gringo says:

    It’s all so hilarious!.

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