This column was originally published on RealMoney on May 24 at 9:41 a.m. EDT. It's being republished as a bonus for TheStreet.com readers.
Sentiment failed big-time Tuesday. Sentiment is that mysterious factor that says, "We're too negative. Time for a bounce." In fact, sentiment was worse. The stocks that actually did the best were the same speculative ones that led us up: copper, gold, ethanol, steel, coal and iron. (Oil played less of a role.)
We all know that for this market to mount a significant rally we simply
have a change in leadership to something away from that group.
We know that because every time the commodities stocks lead,
, we are going to get headlines that say interest rates are going higher worldwide, which, by the way, is exactly what we are getting this morning out of Europe, where markets have reversed.
Why hasn't the negativity in tech and health care and biotech produced a rally? In tech, we should have been able to move beyond
the contingent of
by now. We have strong earnings out of storage companies and out of cell-phone companies. They don't seem to even count. In biotech, we have gotten a slew of approvals of late and many more to come. They don't even make the headlines.
Why the heck don't these things bounce? One possibility is that there is no short base out there to cover. I have watched some people on this site say the shorts are causing some of these declines. That's nonsense. In fact, I see virtually no shorting anywhere to speak of. And in tech and health care, you no longer see any sharp moves up when something goes wrong. There must be shorts in some of the resource stocks, particularly the coppers and the ethanols, because that's why you see moves upward as sharp as the ones we did Tuesday.
But blaming the shorts here, as my friend Doug Kass would say, is a mug's game. In fact, we
more shorts because we need some natural buyers.
Some of this year's lack of snap could come from the flows of funds, which are totally and completely into the resource-based mutual funds. Some of it may be because ETFs have reached a tipping point where they are the destination for marginal dollars. Some of it may be the astounding success -- until recently -- of an
Investor's Business Daily
-based philosophy of buying the most momentum-oriented stocks, riding them up 100% to 200% and then, who cares? Sell them down 25%-30%, you are still up.
And finally, some of it is the endless supply: Today
, tomorrow MasterCard. We have had so many deals that there's just not enough money to go around, and what money is available is private equity money that's not about to buy Vonage -- which I think is a terrible deal -- or MasterCard, which is potentially OK, not great. These deals are stealing money from existing groups and further obliterates the snap.
The only areas where we get snap are from
buybacks, such as the ones at
Bank of America
. The buybacks at
are directly related to those companies' excellent performances.
All of these issues -- supply, no shorts, money in ETFs -- have contributed to the lack of a snapback rally when we should be having one. (If you think I am on to something, consider the writings of
Helene Meisler, who is saying the same thing.)
There's simply no lift. We got some decent sentiment numbers today from the newsletter writers. That could help. But it just doesn't feel like the other three selloffs we have had in the last three years. It feels worse, much worse, because you don't even get much of a rally to sell into when you expect one. Tuesday's session, I repeat, was just devastating to the bulls, because it was an oversold rally gone bad.
What would help? It always pays to think about what could go right, given the multi-year advances over a 25-year period. What would help would be opening
big to clean out the remaining sellers so we can then rally. Yet, somehow I don't see or smell the fuel to make the market go back up.
If we saw deals canceled, more buybacks announced and a dollop of insider buying -- not selling -- maybe we could turn the corner. Otherwise, it is all "sell rallies big, buy selloffs small."
Unenviable and untenable situation for the bulls.
At the time of publication, Cramer was long Microsoft and Sears Holdings.
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