Blame It on October - TheStreet

Blame It on October

Sure, Seymour's a bull who believes this market's going to come back. But he says you have to know when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em.
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Expecting a Truly Bad Hair Day, I came in early. Darned October. Darned Greenspan. Darned Tyco (TYC) . S&P futures waaay down before the market opened.

The October Chill: Join the discussion on our

message boards. Heck, darned

Dave Kansas

, too. Wasn't he the one who predicted, on our

TV show on

Fox News

a couple of weeks ago that the

Dow

would head south of 10,000 this month? (Does he have to keep being so darned

right

?)

So I'm unwinding some tech positions, which are still in the money, if sometimes a lot less so than a couple of weeks ago. Sure, I'm a congenital bull. Sure, this stuff is coming back. Sure, I expect one of the great quarters in the market's history for the first quarter of 2000.

But I want to live to play another day. The name of the game right now, at least to some extent, is capital preservation. Shorts, hell, I want more cash, though I went into this longer on cash than I've been in years.

So I'm going to sell a little more. But

only

a little more.

Riding the tech stocks during serious market turbulence -- what else would you call this? -- is going to be a new experience for a lot of investors. Make that

all

of us. In October 1987 -- to which, let me be clear, I am

not

comparing this mess -- there were very few of what we call tech stocks by today's definitions.

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

, yes, a few more -- and yep, they all got clobbered.

But no Net stocks then, with their huge valuations. No stack of recently IPO'd Wonder-bread stocks, still recalling fondly their opening-day triples or better. No tech execs sitting on millions, maybe tens of millions, of gains on options recently unlocked. And looking for shelter, fast.

So what I see ahead is simple enough: The tech stocks will display more, not less, volatility than the nontechs.

And just to make it even more fun, we have Greenspan's second speech in less than 24 hours, this afternoon at 1 p.m. EDT at the Italian-American luncheon.

Expecting a mea culpa? You've got to be kidding.

Just looked at my watch list again. Almost never happens, but

every single issue

is red -- a screen full of red. Not one greenie. Hell, not even one black. All red, bleeding.

Some positions take time to unwind. Gotta be careful on days like this. Is there a meaningful difference between "fire sale" and "prudent selling"? Then you tell me what it is.

I have a friend who always says that moments like this "build character." Good thing he's not around this morning; I don't think he'd survive to the afternoon.

Look, if like me, you believe in tech, believe tech stocks are the way to build asset value, believe things are going to get better, you've gotta ride with your core positions here. Not sit on those peripheral positions that are going down faster than express elevators. Take some profits, and take some losses.

But do you need to sell

everything

? Core positions? No way. By the end of next week we'll have some perspective. We'll still be bloody, probably. But I hope that you, like me, will still be holding most of your important positions.

Cisco

(CSCO) - Get Report

? Sure, at midmorning it's down about 2. But you

know

it's going back up, and soon. How much further before it bottoms? Your guess is as good as mine -- calling a bottom on solid tech stocks is the hardest thing I know in investing. So hold on.

Dell

(DELL) - Get Report

? Hang on, sloopy, hang on. Microsoft? Hold on.

What about the "puffy" stocks, Internet stocks with 4% to 6% drops already today? Stocks like

Yahoo!

(YHOO)

,

Amazon.com

(AMZN) - Get Report

,

America Online

(AOL)

? Tougher to call, but I'd ride it out. For today, at least. Give the weekend -- thank God this is Friday -- a chance to help people come to their senses.

So do I think Monday we'll be back up? No, but I think we'll be in less of a frenzy. We'll feel better about inflation reports. We'll have digested -- I use the term literally -- Mr. Greenspan's observations.

I'm not emptying the shelves today; I'm just cleaning out closets. Selling stuff I should have sold weeks ago, selling stuff that made me money, but won't again anytime soon.

Now: Late morning, and some good signs already. The

Nasdaq

is almost halfway back to even with yesterday. The Dow? The S&P? Don't bother me with those right now; I'm a tech investor.

But watch for that last hour of trading this afternoon: That's when the real market craziness, the truly self-destructive action, takes place.

If you think you've gotta bail, go do it. But I think a lot of us are going to hold here, rather than gamble on our ability to call a low and jump back in fast enough to re-establish positions we sold too quickly.

Know when to hold 'em, when to fold 'em, etc.

Darned Greenspan. Darned

Chuck Knoblauch

. Darned Tyco.

Darned October.

Jim Seymour is president of Seymour Group, an information-strategies consulting firm working with corporate clients in the U.S., Europe and Asia, and a longtime columnist for PC Magazine. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. At time of publication, neither Seymour nor Seymour Group held positions in any securities mentioned in this column, although holdings can change at any time. Seymour does not write about companies that are, or have been recently, consulting clients of Seymour Group. While Seymour cannot provide investment advice or recommendations, he invites your feedback at

jseymour@thestreet.com.