If you had to try to make money in 1994 there were only two places to do it: technology that could continue to grow consistently and the food, beverage, cosmetic and drug stocks.
The former, right now, seem very crowded, but we are still trying. We are in
-- all of which fit that bill.
But unlike 1994, where the future was not priced into the stocks as much, this time around, people really own these suckers. They are what I would describe as crowded longs. I can't tell you to be in something that I am worried about, even if I like them, and that's how I am feeling about those names.
The drugs and the foods, however, still seem underowned and underloved. We made decent money as a firm in 1994 and we did it with stocks like
We think the same situation will exist this year. We think that this will be a year where you can own these stocks and forget about them. This time around, though, instead of focusing on Bristol-Myers, we like
. We still like Pepsi, which, I must add, has done nothing, even though management has made many, many right moves and is widely admired in the industry. We think that will change. Same with General Mills.
In 1994, we owned a lot of
. We can't this time because P&G isn't doing that well. But we keep checking in and, when the company has a better handle on its prospects, it will work too. Instead, we are buying
, which has less European exposure -- something that is important, because the euro is so weak that it will hurt the earnings of multinationals with a big European focus.
We have also broken a long-standing taboo in our office and gone back to
. We had been very worried that the company would have to file bankruptcy if it lost the big class action case in Florida. But the Florida legislature solved that problem. I think that legislature, which dramatically reduces the case for the company's bankruptcy, could be a template for more bills in other states, as no state's attorney general wants Philip Morris to stop paying on its Medicaid settlements.
Sure, tech is sexier than this stuff. But sexy doesn't make you money. In this market, as in 1994, prudence makes you money. These boring names are prudence personified.
Tomorrow: What didn't work and had to be avoided in 1994.
James J. Cramer is manager of a hedge fund and co-founder of TheStreet.com. At time of publication, his fund was long Philip Morris, General Mills, Pfizer, Cisco, Intel, EMC, Yahoo!, AOL, Colgate, JDS Uniphase and American Home Products. 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