It's irrational; it's exuberant; let's get it on.
That's pretty much the lyric of this market. Yesterday's stunning rally had me searching through my mental Rolodex for a name I hadn't thought of in years, my broker from one of the big four Japanese houses in 1989. Let's call him Brent--because that's enough like his name for him to know without you finding out.
Before ballistic days like yesterday, in Japan of course, I used to get a call from Brent. He would tell me that during tonight's session "they" were going to take up the blue chips, the consumers, and he wanted me aboard at the opening buying some solid household Japanese names.
Forgive me, always the skeptic, I asked if there was an "IR"--investor relations--contact I could check in with before I plunked down a couple of million on "red," because, after all, was it any different than roulette? Brent would laugh and tell me that nobody in Japan called companies to check out fundamentals first, but that the powers that be would decide each session which stocks would go up and then give out the winning names to some of their favored clients. It had nothing to do with roulette, he would say, because in that game you never knew which color would come up.
I knew I wasn't a favored client because I hadn't done any business. But I pestered again, and wanted to know why anyone would share the anointed list with me. Brent reassured me that there are only so many groups that could be taken up, and if they didn't take up the consumers tonight they would take them up later in the week. It was irrelevant that I wasn't on the list, because in the end everybody wins.
Excuse me for saying no to free money, but I would balk incessantly at this pitch, in disbelief that it could work. But work it did, until the day of reckoning, when, at 38,000, Nikkei real sellers came in to take advantage of the charade. It's almost ten years later and they're battling to stay above 20,000 over there. They don't talk much about which names they are going to take up anymore.
That's not why I recalled Brent, though. It was the pricing action in our market that made me think of Japan in those heady days. Do you think if you called the IR at Procter & Gamble he could tell you why his stock went up four points yesterday? How about the IR at Lilly to explain its four point romp? How about the IR at Exxon? Did they just discover a big find? With the exception of GE which decided to split its stock--hardly a fundamental driver, but still a crowd pleaser--did anything happen to justify a 120 point rally?
Hmmm, maybe what happened was this: "They" decided to take up the consumers, and once again, guys like me are too skeptical to see what's going on and are still out there, calling IRs, demanding fundamental answers.
Irrational, exuberant, let's get it on.
James Cramer is manager of a hedge fund and co-chairman of The Street. Of the stocks mentioned in this article, he has a significant position in Eli Lilly. While he cannot provide individual investment advice or recommendations, he welcomes feedback at Jjcramerco@aol.com.