The number flashes 18 cents. "What are we looking for on
?" I yell out to my partner,
"Twenty-one," he yells back.
It's 6:45 a.m., and already we have our first crisis of the day. A huge miss from Pfizer, a stock I picked the day before because I thought the drugs were ready to roll.
"Can't be," I say. "Has to be a charge."
Jeff frantically leafs through models of Pfizer quarters. I ask
where the stock is bid on
, the after-hours trading system.
No bids, he says. Offered down 1/2. I can't sell out.
"I'm a dead man, " I mutter. "Don't even have the
in hand, and I'm a dead man.
In the background, my friend
is announcing that Pfizer may have missed the number by 3 cents.
Jeff pops his head out of his office. "Something doesn't add up," he says. "The revs were right in line."
I think, How in heck could the company miss by that much on the bottom line when the top line is in line?
No matter, my trader tells me again, the stock has no bids.
I am going to lose money on this trade. I am going to shank this trade. And I knew it, I say to myself. I knew it because there was a large seller of Pfizer at 3:30 p.m. Monday, anxious to hit a bid for several hundred thousand shares.
"*^*^&$^ insider," I shout to no one in particular. "Guy had the number. They are going to investigate that guy," I say.
I slink into Jeff's office saying that I guess I hadn't done enough homework. I confess that, like everyone else, I had no idea Pfizer was going to report today. I was basing the potential point gain more on a group move than anything Pfizer-specific, although I was aware that some product lines were smoking.
Jeff's just shaking his head. He can't believe we got hooked on such a dog of a stock, one that's done nothing all year.
Mentally, I decide that down 1 1/2 I am out no matter what. I am not going to turn a good trade into a bad investment.
Then, out of nowhere,
reports that Pfizer earned 23 cents a share, not 18 cents. Surprise! Oct. 19 fool! The other wires had it wrong. It's an upside surprise, not a downside one. We were home free at the precise moment that we were mentally booking the loss.
And we make 2 on the trade.
James J. Cramer is manager of a hedge fund and co-founder of TheStreet.com. At time of publication, his fund was long Pfizer. 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