What a difference a week makes. Just seven days ago, institutions were frantically taking up all of their favorite names. The buying in
was dizzying. You could see the giant wave of buying rolling toward you and you didn't know whether to jump over, duck under or go with the tide.
A week later and everybody's waterlogged. And what has happened to make things this terrible? Let's take a look. During this week we learned that Cisco had a solid quarter and told people of its increasing confidence in the worldwide economic picture. We learned that, after all
Advanced Micro Devices'
posturing, it is ready to challenge Intel and ruin the chip giant's plans, that it can't execute and Intel might have the field back to itself again. We learned that the consumer spent mightily on personal computers in January, typically a very slow month. And we discovered that a brand-new entity,
, will hasten a massive spending cycle on telecommunications equipment for the home.
Some darn good reasons to sell off if there ever were any! Actually, truth be told, we were -- and probably still are -- frothy. The frenzied buying of last week continued in the first day of the month but has since subsided and we are left with a market that feels too high, but certainly has some new worriers. The sheer velocity of Thursday's selloff was scary. I know I don't sit there and say, Hmmm, Intel down 9 -- hey, pretty cool. I say, Wow, do these sellers know something I don't? Even though I blithely traced out what I thought would happen with Cisco after the quarter, I didn't salivate for a chance to buy more Cisco at $103 after paying $104.
The unnerving thing about machine-gun-like selling at the end of the day is that you have to buy when it is most painful and, boy, was it painful right up until 4 p.m. In fact, the program, which may or may not have concluded, took on a ferocity that found me down a point on just about everything I bought in the last 15 minutes -- by the time I got the report!
No matter how many times we have these nasty selloffs, each one always makes you feel like it is part of something much bigger lurking down the road. Of course, as the market increases its momentum to the downside, we begin to hear all of the cockamamie "reasons" why, almost all unchecked by fact or rationality.
The reality is that maybe the bell saved us; maybe it didn't. If the sell program was completed, my buys will be great buys. If it comes right back, my buys were premature. Guess we will know that pretty soon!
James J. Cramer is manager of a hedge fund and co-founder of TheStreet.com. At the time of publication, the fund was long Intel, Microsoft, Cisco, Sun Microsystems, Dell, AT&T and Time Warner, but positions can 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 by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.