A new species: stock-crazed Jordanians

STOCKS | Missed the Internet bubble? Don’t miss Jordan’s stock revolution, playing on a browser near you, reports Ahmad Humeid.

I never bought company stocks. Even in the stock-crazed late nineties when people were ‘playing the Nasdaq’ I was too busy building my own business to actually trade in the stock of hi tech companies. Still, I was watching a portfolio of stocks on my personalized ‘My Yahoo’ page, mainly to be amazed at how those stocks went through the roof, then crash to the floor within a few years. Needless to say, when I checked back into this portfolio the other day, after years of not updating it, I ‘discovered’ that three quarters of those companies don’t even exist any more!

While I was not trading, I did learn a few things about stock markets. For example, I know what a P/E ratio and an SEC filing are. So there you have it.

A famous cliché form the Internet craze days is the image of the so called ‘day trader’. A person sitting at home with a finger on the ‘refresh’ button of the browsers to update the current stock price of, say, Netscape. In the US, but also elsewhere, a lot of people were earning their living this way. Many lost fortunes this way too.

Once the bubble burst in 2000 and after the attacks of September 11th 2001, I lost interest in following US stock markets. A lot of us in the media/internet business were busy keeping ourselves afloat.

Jordanians at the stock market?
Now I know that over the better part of this year our local stock market has been boiling. I read reports in the newspaper about the dramatic increase of stockowners in Jordanian society, especially among women. How wide spread the phenomena actually is only struck me when, a few months ago, I went to the cashier counter at a local toy store to pay for a present I bought for my son. The guy sitting at the cash machine almost took no notice of me because he and his colleague were totally engrossed with the stock ticker on TV screen behind them. The cashier was enthusiastically giving out stock advice to his friend, leaving me waiting with my toy.

Then a few weeks later, some work took me to the Housing Bank Complex. Once a show case building for Amman (remember when all the patriotic songs on JTV had to show an aerial shot of that building?), the building has fallen into disrepair and feels like a trip back to the 80s. But on the inside, a few flights up the stairs, there is a revolution going on. Flashy new offices are opening, complete with little auditoriums, plasma screens and high-tech looking decoration: stock brokerages all over the place. Hmm.

Then I got my final blow. I was passing the desk of one of my colleagues at work. She’s not exactly a technology enthusiast and she mainly uses her computer, or so I assumed, for email and administrative work. No sir. Here was my ‘innocent, young’ colleague, sitting in front of her computer with her finger on the mouse. On the screen was the website of the Amman Stock Exchange. Her eyes were fixed on the stock ticker. I later found out that many members of her family were quite involved in the stock game. Ahhh.. the wonders of capitalism and technology.

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