After my fifth disposable camera purchase during a four-day trip to the Magic Kingdom last weekend, a cold sweat came over me. No, it wasn't the $20-a-pop price tag for these fantastic yellow gizmos. Nor was I worried that my ten pictures of Pooh bearhugging my two-year-old might not come out because of the inclement skies. These darn things are foolproof.
No, what caused me to drip perspiration despite the 59-degree weather was my
short position. What in God's name was I doing shorting Kodak? How wrong could I be?
Most of the time I do my trades from my desk. But when I am out in the field--money manager talk for anywhere other than your desk--I discover what should have been obvious to me: that Wall Street is rarely right about anything.
Take Kodak. I shorted it for a quick trade, making a bet that its earnings wouldn't be that strong in the future. I did this because on Wall Street everybody is worried about a decline in consumer spending. Few items are more discretionary than photography, so I figured I could make a quick couple of bucks betting against this giant consumer-driven company.
One problem: last time I was at Disneyworld the characters gave my four-year-old the creeps. But a five-year-old is a different animal. Now she couldn't get enough of Tigger and Pooh and Mickey. The only solution: the disposable camera. Many disposable cameras.
Try rationalizing Wall Street's big picture macro gibberish with a bull market, an unbeatable product, and fading international competition. I had violated a cardinal rule of trading: In a great tape, don't go short a stock for macro reasons . Wall Street could be dead wrong on the macro and you'll be left holding a short on a specific company with good intrinsic fundamentals--as I was with Kodak. The trend is just too powerful.
What else did I learn from my trip about Wall Street's ignorance? Well, there is
itself. I swore I wouldn't buy it up here after this huge run. I said I wouldn't succumb to the place. But there I was, outside the Small World, calling my trader, placing the inevitable order.
Disney and Kodak fly in the face of the Street's belief that the consumer is dead. You just don't get 25-minute waits at Mr. Toad's Wild Road without lots of discretionary income being spent.
And I know whereof I speak. This was trip number nine to Main Street U.S.A., and the lines were the longest I can remember. (Anecdotal evidence tends to be just okay for investing if you have no benchmarks. But it's great in historical context. I came to the Magic Kingdom in 1990, right before the Gulf War, and I had the place virtually to myself. You knew the numbers had to be lousy, and the consumer beleaguered. They were and he was. )
The bottom line: never let authentic Wall Street gibberish interfere with investment decisions based on Main Street observations.
James Cramer is a hedge fund manager and co-chairman of The Street. Of the companies mentioned in this article, he has a significant position in Disney.