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Cramer: This Is a Game of Chicken


NEW YORK (Real Money) -- Let's face it, someone's going to be wrong about the banks or the bonds. This curious decoupling we are seeing, where rates continue to go down but banks are breaking out, shouldn't be happening. At least history says it shouldn't. You have to be tempted to short these stocks and bet against the Financial Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLF) breakout if rates aren't going higher, because that means there is even more net interest margin compression ahead and that's been the be-all and end-all for these stocks.

So, what does it mean?

First, you could argue that the bonds are giving one last gasp up before a total breakdown. The interest rate sensitive stocks would go along with that. The real estate investment trust exchange-traded fund, the iShares US Real Estate (IYR) , looked like it was on the verge of a rollover most of the day. But I didn't get that read from many of the packaged goods stocks, the so-called bond yield equivalent plays. Some were up and some were down.

Second, you might want to bet that bank stocks are no longer just hostages of Net Interest Margins and people are now willing to bet on some growth for a change. The bank stocks with loan growth will be able to offset the drag of NIM.

That's possible, but I think unlikely.

Perhaps the worries over regulation are now behind them and the bad loans a thing of the past? I don't think the Bank of America (BAC) deal as coda to the end of the witch hunts holds up either.

To me this is a case where I think the stocks are just so far behind the market that as long as they don't report for ages and ages -- which they don't -- then you are going to see some lift. It's purely a game of chicken. You are buying them betting that you can get out ahead of when they report or you are really hoping for a turn in rates that I think will be unrequited.

I don't like this kind of game and am concerned that someone will make some cuts right now whacking the group. I feel the same way, by the way, about the big food and beverage plays with the strong dollar.

Right now, though, we are in a benign moment that is both highly unusual for these stocks and for the end of August where we have, historically, seen some pretty hideous selling.

So, no, I wouldn't bet the house against the group. It's too low. I just think this is one of those instances where the buying isn't constrained by any reports. We all know that when these stocks report they will disappoint, because the projections were made in an environment where 2.75% on the 10-year looked like a lock.

For now, it doesn't matter.

It might not matter for weeks if the analysts can stay on vacation. And the downgrades and number cuts might not happen until 52-week highs are taken out. But I am willing to bet that it's the stocks that are wrong, not the bonds, and you can dance until the music stops which is the second week of October, many moons from now.

Action Alerts PLUS, which Cramer co-manages as a charitable trust, is long BAC.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published at 6:01 a.m. EDT on Real Money on Aug. 26.

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