Average Joe: Before They Were Mock Stars

Remember that framed article on Adam’s wall? It’s from four years ago, but here ya go…

Meet The New Market Makers
They’re young, they’re rich, and they couldn’t care less about Graham & Dodd. But they’re the ones driving those insane tech stocks, and they’re not going away.
By Nelson D. Schwartz

There are about 20 minutes to go before the stock market closes, and I’m standing next to 24-year-old Adam Mesh in the sprawling offices of Tradescape, a Manhattan day-trading firm. “Hey, check out PLUG,” Mesh yells out. Overhead, on one of Tradescape’s ubiquitous TV monitors, CNBC’s Joe Kernen is talking up Plug Power, a fuel-cell company that Mesh and the other twentysomething traders here have never heard of before today.

On his multicolored computer screen, Mesh is watching PLUG, already up $15 to $53, suddenly begin to surge again. He jumps in, buying 500 shares at $55. About a minute later he gets out at $58. But PLUG is still soaring, so Mesh gets back in, this time at $60. I look around at the other traders squeezed shoulder to shoulder in Tradescape’s offices, and on every screen the ticker PLUG is flashing, its shares furiously moving higher.

“What the heck is this company?” I ask. “It’s PLUG,” Mesh says. Yeah, I know that much. But what does it do? “I don’t know,” Mesh responds, without looking up. “Power, I guess.” I decide to let the issue drop, and with PLUG now about to close at $79, the question of what the company does seems pretty irrelevant. In a rapid bout of buying and selling, Mesh trades nearly 10,000 shares of PLUG in the few minutes I stand behind his desk, making $20,000 in the process. It’s been a good day for Mesh, but for some traders it’s been even better. “I made a honey,” one guy calls out, using trader slang for $100,000. “Can you believe this?”

Clad in a scruffy old T-shirt and in desperate need of a shave, Mesh is an unlikely mascot for the new world of Wall Street. But at a time when day traders, Internet message-board prowlers, and plain old folks with Ameritrade accounts are increasingly driving the action, it’s Mesh–not Peter Lynch or Warren Buffett–who typifies today’s investor. They’re the ones who are moving the stocks that you hear about on CNBC and at cocktail parties, those names that jump 20% a day, sometimes 200%.

And in the spirit of equal time, props to Laura Modernage for digging up Melana’s past.