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The Significance of Raising the Bar

Raising the bar. These are three little words that have taken on a currency, a virtual life of their own in this market. You have to know and understand the power of these words because, in many ways, they have become the determinant of the next 10 points in a stock.

When a company issues a quarterly report, it then presents expectations for the future. In the New Economy, a company that sits still, or doesn't raise the bar, gets pummeled. But a company that raises the bar, or sets new, higher expectations, is a company on the move.

Everybody in the know knows this lingo. It is incredible how often it comes up. Why did BEA Systems (BEAS) not go up after its blowout quarter? The company didn't raise the bar high enough. Why did Portal (PRSF) go up so big?

The bar was raised high. No matter that BEA Systems may have just been conservative, if that bar doesn't go up, there is all heck to pay.

Why does this matter? Because it is quite different from the old paradigm, which said that if a company beat the "whisper number," its stock went up. That went out of fashion as a primary method when CNBC began reporting the whisper number. Funny thing about whisper numbers. When they are shouted, they are no longer whispers.

The difficult thing for fundamental, nonchartist individual investors is that you can't find if the bar was really raised unless you are on those conference calls, many of which are closed. That these key sessions, where major material information is released, including how high the bar has been raised -- or worse, whether it has been lowered -- are closed is such a fundamental injustice as to be nothing but wrong.

Get used to this phrase. I have tried avoiding its use because jargon doesn't illuminate. But it is being used way too often not to give it to you as a piece of the puzzle.

Random musings: Don't forget to fill out our broker survey . This one has heft to it, and we need your input. We are bent on creating the largest online survey ever. ... MicroStrategy (MSTR) gets hit with a negative Forbes article and then issues a secondary. Probably set up for a run after those whackings. ... Great article about false negatives today in the right-hand column of The Wall Street Journal. ... Tip-of-the-chapeau department: My hat is off to James Padinha, who correctly predicted the Pimco rally (see Heard on the Street today in the C section of the Journal) ahead of its occurrence. Could have saved desks billions. There is no love between us, but you have to praise a home run call like that.
James J. Cramer is manager of a hedge fund and co-founder of At time of publication, his fund was long Portal Software. His fund often buys and sells securities that are the subject of his columns, both before and after the columns are published, and the positions that his fund takes may change at any time. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. Cramer's writings provide insights into the dynamics of money management and are not a solicitation for transactions. While he cannot provide investment advice or recommendations, he invites you to comment on his column at .

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