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How will we know when things have thawed? Everyone's looking at LIBOR and I can't blame them as that indicator of lending from one bank to another bank is crucial for the way the system is supposed to work. It's a good thermometer for certain, but I don't want it to overstay its welcome, because there are other "true" indicators out there besides just LIBOR.
I am looking at something else: takeovers. On Monday, we saw
( WMI) pull its bid for
, a smart idea as WMI had dropped so precipitously despite reporting better-than-expected earnings that one had to question if it was worth doing it. More important, though, getting the money was proving to be possible, but difficult. This situation also prevailed in
, where Goldman Sachs said, "Don't bother, wait," even though the integration of the two is crucial for Altria's growth.
Now I expect deals to be done if the banks are for real about lending.
Further, the endless margin selling has created tremendous bargains for well-capitalized companies to buy other companies that have brimming order books but are being kept down because of hedge fund redemptions. How can some company not want to buy a
, for example, which has been virtually cut in half even as both presidential candidates are pro-wind? Or how about a
( JOYG) or a
betting that if there is credit there will eventually be a revival?
I don't care about near-term weakness. We all accept that you should buy a
Black & Decker
( BDK) when things are "bad" knowing they can get "good" one day. Surely, some large corporations must see it that way, and yet they just can't borrow to make it happen. If that changes then we know we have another reason to buy stocks than just their "P/E-cheapness," which hasn't worked at all of late.
I could see that many projects will still be canceled and that energy and minerals will be hard-pressed to rally given the global slowdown. The radical scale-back at
, coming just a few months after expansion was all that could be talked about, is a true sign of how bad things have gotten so fast.
The new rescue plan doesn't buy up houses or make the defaults less if there is double-digit unemployment. But if there is lending, the strong should be buying the weak, or the stocks that have been forced down to levels that represent a severe recession, and we will see whether that happens as it makes all sorts of sense in every industry from pharmaceutical and food to mining and oils.
That's what is worth watching for.
At the time of publication, Cramer was long Altria, Foster Wheeler and Freeport-McMoRan.
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