Friday found me totally out of touch with my office. Frankly, I was sightseeing at the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey, as well as paying respects to Princess Diana at the various shrines linked with her greatness. But that doesn't mean that I wasn't thinking about the office. It just meant that I had to find a way, a short cut way to know what to do when I was on the road.
Traveling is a universal curse to stock performance. I try never to be away from my desk during market hours, but when traveling does intrude, I have learned how to master at least some of the anxiety that stems from being out of touch.
First, let's accept one fantastic given. It is not like the old days. I watched Mark Haines on Thursday morning between the
London conference meetings and watched Faber break news about
just as surely as I would have at 100 Wall Street.
I read the papers, not just the
, but all of the papers, by the time you had read them. I did it on my PC and didn't even have to wash my hands.
gave me the markets coverage I needed, courtesy of John Edwards' always humorous and enjoyable commentary, commentary much better than the wires provide to
But then I left my cocoon and found myself only with a
cellphone -- stop me before I buy that stock since I liked the phone so much -- and a wife who said I could, like a prisoner at the stationhouse, only make one phone call.
Fortunately, Jeff, my partner, knows the autocratic nature of Mrs. C. So we had our routine worked out. No more than 10 feet from where Sir Walter Raleigh lost his head, I had my one check in call.
Let me tell you what I asked for.
First, before wanting to know where the market is, I always ask where the bond futures and the cash market are. I ask for both because lately the bond futures have been so manipulated that I don't trust them alone to give me an accurate read.
Secondly, I ask for gold. I would love to ask "where is inflation?" But because there is no such thing as an inflation gauge, instead I ask for gold. Then I ask where the market is, I want
, because, again, the Dow has gotten quite unrepresentative. I also wanted to know where the
index was, a recent addition to the must ask list, because I am a believer in the small cap rally.
I then ask, in this order, for
I always ask for these same stocks, whether I am long them or not, as I can generate a mental pastiche for what the market looks like from these. If Intel and Microsoft are up, then I know tech's cool. If PG and BMY are up, I know the economy is not too strong to do damage. And If CMB is up, I know the near-term bond outlook is benign.
Only then do I ask for important stocks in our portfolio. That's because I wouldn't know what to do with these stocks without those benchmarks. I would just be asking in a blind cul-de-sac of non-information.
By this point, Mrs. C is glaring at me and telling me that I am ruining our whole vacation/day/weekend and I hang up. But from that list, I think I could handle my portfolio from Mars. Or even from Mir!!!
James J. Cramer is manager of a hedge fund and co-chairman of
. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. Mr. 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 welcomes your feedback, emailed to