Dawn in the Badlands

The trader stakes his claim in the newly settled <I>Instinet</I> frontier.
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We had listened to the call. We had rejiggered our models. We had instant-messaged all night. We had read the notes and listened to the blast voice mails. We had graphed and chartered and gamed and vetted.

So, at 6:36 a.m., after a workout and a shower, I was ready to roll.

Fire up the

Instinet

for morning

Yahoo!

(YHOO)

trading.

Wouldn't you know it! Only a handful of players and no real turf established. In the background, somebody at

Instinet

is talking about how Yahoo is down 2 from last night's trading. I take that literally and bid 181 for 2,500 shares.

Join the discussion on our

message boards.

Opening bid for this morning's Yahoo! trading!

Turns out the

CNBC

talking head is way off her market. The only place you can buy the stock is at 183 1/2. That's 1 point above my average for the stock I bought last night. I don't want to have to go there yet. But I will if I have to. I want another 20,000 shares before the opening. I know I don't have enough. And I have to work within the morning Badlands to get it.

6:42

: I bid 182 for 2,500. I wait a minute. Nobody whacks me. OK, I say, notch things up. Take that 183 1/2 offering.

6:43

: We buy 1,500 at 183 1/2.

"Bid 183 1/2 for another 1,500 and 183 for 2,500 underneath," I bark to

Mark Kantor

, our trader.

Nothing happens.

"Show him I mean it. Bid 182 1/2 for 2,500 below. Maybe he will bang it all the way down, and we can buy it on the cheap."

6:44

: They hit me with 500 shares at 183 1/2.

6:45:35

: They hit me again for 1,000 shares at 183 1/2.

6:47:10

: They whack me at 183 for 500 shares. The seller obviously wants to impact the stock. He wants it lower. Silly guy, I like Yahoo!. Oh yeah, I say to myself, you wanna make it look heavy? You wanna drive it down?

Take this: "Bid 183 1/2 for 2,000 shares."

I get hit immediately.

I don't care. I want the stock. More importantly, I don't want anyone else to get the stock before it starts going up.

"Show this guy not to mess with me," I tell my trader. Bid 183 1/2 again for 2,500 shares. I am hit again. The seller wants to intimidate me. He is not even giving me a second before he whacks me. He wants me to panic.

I am not panicking. In fact, I am getting more aggressive. The closer we get to regular business hours, the less likely I think I will get this stock in because I think the stock is going to 193 or 194 today.

7:01

: "Buy 2,000 shares at 183 3/4," I say.

I'm hit immediately. Done.

7:02

: "Do it again for 1,000."

I'm hit immediately. Done.

Step it up. "Buy 5,000 shares with a 184 top," I instruct.

I take all that I can -- a couple of thousand -- and then there is nothing.

"Finish the order with a 184 1/2 top," I say.

Again, nothing done. No stock for sale.

Ten minutes goes by, and nothing happens.

Fifteen minutes. No stock. Twenty. Thirty. Nothing. I finally have to pay up to 184 3/4 to get all my stock in.

By 8 a.m., the stock is trading well above 185, and I know I have done the right thing.

Until 9:30 a.m., when the real market kicks in, validating the lower price that I paid.

In the old days, this whole market could have been off by 2, 3 or 4 points. Maybe even 10 points! But the world has changed in the latter half of 1999. Now the market is, well, fair -- even accurate. Amazing.

The Badlands have been settled. Next thing I know there will be no Badlands.

Just suburbs.

Random musings:

Looks like

Jim Seymour's

going to be right. Many moons ago, Seymour said we would get to this period and there would be estimate cuts galore revolving around Y2K.

Sure enough, in the last 48 hours, the view this man espoused on our site is happening right before our eyes. As I was leaving the office Thursday, Laura Conigliaro, the server and enterprise hardware analyst at

Goldman Sachs

(and the person who has made me the most money in tech in my life), axed 10 cents from

IBM's

(IBM) - Get Report

quarter.

Might as well throw a hatchet at Lou Gerstner's head.

All day today, I heard Y2k rumors.

Computer Associates

(CA) - Get Report

? Denied.

Cisco

(CSCO) - Get Report

? Give me a break.

Dell

(DELL) - Get Report

? Why not? They rumored everything else.

Sun Micro

(SUNW) - Get Report

? Couldn't take the pain in that one and bolted myself.

Lucent

(LU)

? Well,

Hi/fn

(HIFN)

said after the close that Lucent cut some orders back.

The problem with all of these rumors is that you can't put them to bed. They won't stay tucked in. Not for an instant. Not with Y2K actually happening.

I admit that it makes life tough for the hardware analysts -- and for the shareholders.

James J. Cramer is manager of a hedge fund and co-founder of TheStreet.com. At time of publication, his fund was long Cisco, Goldman Sachs and Yahoo!. His fund often buys and sells securities that are the subject of his columns, both before and after the columns are published, and the positions that his fund takes may 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 at

jjcletters@thestreet.com.