If you aren't frightened by or disgusted with this market, I can only conclude that you are short it up the wazoo. Tuesday's action was the definition of a bad tape. It made those who believe in nothing look like seers; it made those who think the whole kit and caboodle is a sham look like they are sages.
It turned believers into agnostics.
To which I say, Hey, that's business as usual. That's what happens when everybody decides that the easy money has been made and we will never see those prices again. That's what happens when every Tom, Dick and dot-com comes public.
Yet, I saw a silver lining yesterday. The silver lining comes in the suicide notes passed among the portfolio managers through instant messaging. It comes in the canceled circles for underwritings. And, of course, it comes in the wildly angry emails I get for being involved in
. (Please keep sending them -- they energize me the way
energized those great
teams. Come and get me!)
You don't get a bottom when everyone is breaking out the champagne. Bottoms are formed, even short term, by despair and sorrow and second-guessing and sales of once-profitable stock.
Does that mean we can go out and start buying everything in sight? What, are you crazy? Ain't you people ever seen losses before? It does mean, however, that there is rubble to be sorted through and stocks to be bought. Only the
Dow Jones Industrial Average
still mocks us with its 10,000-plus handle. Its sheer height keeps us from believing that some stocks may have already bottomed as recently as, say, yesterday.
Otherwise, I would say, Hey, it can't be all that bad. Let's kick the tires. Let's get some stock in. So I come down in between. As I said to
, my partner, last night: "Let's start doing more than just token buying. We are further from a top than a bottom."
James J. Cramer is manager of a hedge fund and co-founder of TheStreet.com. At time of publication, his fund had no positions in any stocks mentioned. 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