What's the story with this awful new-low list? This morning I spent some time before going on Squawk breaking it down to the best of my 4 a.m. abilities, and what I found explains a ton about why this normally excellent indicator of the pain of the market is sending off a host of false signals.
Every day we hear a barrage of technicians and strategists talk about the new-low list as some sort of powerful arrow in the quiver of the cyclical bear market thesis. To some extent, my research shows that is true. Indeed, there are several simultaneous bear markets going on in the stock market at once. We are used to having rolling recessions -- farmland, oil and gas, real estate -- but we aren't used to having to juggle so many at one time.
That's one of the main reasons why we had 483 new lows recorded yesterday on the
New York Stock Exchange
. For example, we are having a severe recession in the oil patch -- to put it mildly -- and 60 companies on that list are directly related to the finding and producing of oil and gas. This list is getting longer, not shorter, as the commodity price comes down.
Secondly, the commodities markets are all crashing around us, producing 53 new lows. That makes sense, as many of the commodities producers on that new-low list were pumping out extra -- overtime for our Asian friends who frankly aren't in the commodity market except as sellers!!
Health care and nursing home maintenance stocks have taken it on the chin because of a bear market in that group caused by changes in government regulation meant to cut the cost of
. So you are going to get 18 new lows generated by that group. Again, I don't see that changing any time soon.
Mortgage rates have come down so far that people who package them were, of course, surprised by the repayment schedule. As this schedule is complicated, it stands to reason that all of these companies should be taking a bath. Twenty-one of the companies on the list are directly feeling that pain.
Real estate investment trusts have been in the dumps all year, a product, I believe, of a glut in the fast creation of these entities while the mutual funds could care less about them now. That seems to be behind 20 names on the list.
But the biggest category, the one that is bursting at the seams, is the foreign stock group, accounting for 115 slots, or almost a quarter of all of the new lows. This is the real anchor in the new-low list. The investment banks in the last several years, eager to cash in on globalization, issued dozens upon dozens of mutual fund stocks for us. We didn't need any of them. But they stick to the new-low list like glue. Mexico and South America take up a huge amount of real estate on the new-low list. But everything is dwarfed by all of these ridiculous Chinese stocks that will go down everyday until this scare is over, subsides or melts down.
So, about 300 of the 483 stocks on the new-low list are readily explained by commodity depression, overseas turmoil, changes in Medicare and mortgage rates that are too low for an industry's own good. That says loads to me about this list. It says, don't place too much emphasis on it. Many of the stocks on that list did not exist four years ago and are creatures of the greed of the brokerage industry. Still others are actually positive for the rest of the market, which needs to see commodity prices under control to be sure that inflation remains in check.
Silver lining? Cockeyed optimist? No, just someone who is a skeptical optimist who is unwilling to be blinded by negativity based on an indicator that may not be doing its job well. This one, the new-low list, just isn't representative of the average stock, so its expansiveness can't deter me from looking for long-side bargains.
James J. Cramer is manager of a hedge fund and co-chairman of TheStreet.com.
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 by sending a letter to TheStreet.com at