Irony often rules the markets.
Take yesterday. Here was
opening down a couple of points after taking a horrendous beating last week.
off to another free-fall after a thorough chipper-shredding Thursday and Friday.
for sale in size at a half-dozen firms before the opening gun. And why not, tech trading had become a brutal no-man's land last week, what made us think it would be demilitarized now?
And then it happened, like a sign from above that the fortunes of war had turned. It was on a Cisco conference call hosted by
& Co. We all know that Cisco is the general of the high-fliers, the once loved, now merely-liked networker who has acted like a defeated warrior since the month began.
The Cowen call was meant to bolster Cisco to justify the strong buy the analyst was carrying on the name. Wall Street sometimes gets ham-strung on these buy appellations after consecutive downturns. After the massive slaughter that Cisco has suffered, analysts run out of levels with which to upgrade. Not much room in the Wall Street lexicon above strong buy. One minute into the conference call and you could tell that this analyst was itching to go to super-de-dooper-strong buy, or an atomic buy, and, if that didn't work, maybe a neutron buy.
But his adjectival arsenal was empty and he had to settle for a sober laying out of the facts of why Cisco was down too much. At 9:45 the facts seemed to be having some sort of impact, and the stock was stabilizing down two, at 55.75.
And then came the q&a.
A few long-Cisco guys came in with some softballs and the analyst hit a couple of line drive doubles with them.
And then came the clincher. One of the questioners, whose name I will mercifully leave out, had THE MEMO. Yes, the internal memo by Cisco CEO John Chambers, dated February 19, that spelled out all of the weaknesses facing CISCO.
As if to drive home the point of the smoking gun, he offered to fax THE MEMO to the momentarily flummoxed Cowen analyst after he read a few choice negative paragraphs on the wire. It was clear to this questioner that the memo meant that CISCO had to go lower still. Especially now that he had revealed its existence to the world on this conference call.
You'd expect the stock to go lower, right?
That was the signal to buy. All last week when Cisco was searching for a bottom but couldn't put one in despite massive reassurances by the Street, we knew that there had to be something out there, something ugly lurking that could put a kibosh on the stock so big that it wouldn't lift.
Now we knew what the bears had: THE MEMO. Finally, the bad news could be discounted by the market.
I screamed at my trader to take Cisco, that I now knew why it had been going down and that it wasn't so bad. In fact, the memo contained a fairly typical laundry list of Cisco challenges, challenges that I was confident they would meet.
Others knew it, too. The sellers dried up. Buyers came in. The 56 stock got taken. Then the 56.25 stock. Then the 56.5 stock. Then it was like the dog track when the rabbit falls off the rail: everybody pounced at once and the stock squeezed up to 59.
The raid was over. The bears had played their trump card and it was a 2 of clubs.
Once Cisco was out of the way you could feel the rest of the market lift. Soon people were willing to discount the
call of the morning saying be careful with tech. Buyers came in with size to purchase: Intel, Microsoft, and
(all of which I am long as well as CISCO).
And then the unthinkable happened:
were halted. Takeover!!!!!
You could tell what the bears were thinking. You could read their minds like some kooky Star Trek: "if things are so bad in tech land why would APM be bidding for Read Rite?"
The short coverers came in and tried to buy anything that moved in the last half hour. After the close they were still taking Intel, the mirror image of the frantic sells after Friday's close. Dell was rampaging ahead of today's earnings announcement as scared bears brought their shorts in. And IBM? Up a quick six from where it opened, with legs to follow into the next session.
After the bear carnage, one of my analysts asked me if we were now out of the woods, whether it was okay now to buy tech.
"What, are you kidding?" I shot back. "It was okay to buy tech Friday. Who the @@%$%!!!!!&&&&#$%%@ knows if it's okay tomorrow?"
Yes, it's that kind of market.
Pick: Ken Burenga's ditching of the
nameplate. That ought to solve the problems. Good work.
James Cramer is manager of a hedge fund and co-chairman of
. His fund owns long positions in
Cisco, Microsoft, Intel, Dell
While he cannot provide investment advice or recommendations, he welcomes your feedback, emailed to