We are all so used to the snapback that we have come to bank on it in a way that may make it jarring if it doesn't happen.
Understand, I am not a technician. Neither is my partner
. All I can do is tell you the truth about what we are thinking as opposed to some bold statement that we will retest and then move right back up. I will not be trapped into being a guru when I, unlike many of the talking gurus you see on TV, am skeptical and not sure whether we can "hold," so to speak, because the psyche among those who are in the market is so damaged.
Step back with me. We were playing this market full bore until it got a little ridiculous and stocks started jumping 10 and 15 points a day. It got so crazy that we took a huge amount of money off of the
table. Huge. Now if you did not read me every day, just occasionally even, you know I did this because I said it a gazillion times.
Now that the money is off the table, Jeff and I are fighting hard not to put it back until we see the signs we need to form a bottom, and they are not just a successful retest of the lows. There is much more to it than that. We want to see supply dammed up. We want to see better earnings than we have seen. We want to see more cash pile up on the sidelines. We want to see some numbers from the consumer that indicate that the
may have wound up its work. (That seems like a possibility given the declines, by the way.)
That doesn't mean we won't commit some funds tactically. We have a big cash reserve. We committed a third of it yesterday into the free fall. Does that make us bullish? Does that make us bearish?
Heck, it doesn't make us anything. We have stocks we like and when they get hammered we buy them. We did some shopping. We did not do it idly and we did not do it with any conviction. In fact, the main reason why we did it at all is that we are fallible enough to know that when they turn --
if they turn
-- it is impossible to buy them because you only have seconds to act and everybody is acting at the same time.
In other words, the turnaround is so swift that if you think you can act on it you are kidding yourself. We are basing that on the turnaround nine days ago. We don't know, of course, if there will even be a turnaround, or if it will be as swift as last week's turn. We do know, though, that markets that decline 20-something percent in a couple of days tend to snap back so we want to have some stock on for that snapback.
For those of you who didn't take anything off the table, I feel for you. You chose to say that it didn't matter. It turns out to matter. For those of you who were margined and stayed that way, I know the truth; you've probably been blown out by now. That's just what happens. And for those of you who have become dependent on the regenerative dip, this time your dependency will be sorely tested.
Make no mistake about it: Many, many people were caught by this market's vicious decline. But many other people navigated to more cash and to positions like the foods, drugs and banks. Regular readers know we did that. Those who aren't regular readers, who perceived me and our firm as one-trick bulls who knew no limitations, simply misjudged us. We are professionals who have traded for years and know the important thing is to stay in the game.
Be sure to read Part 2 of this column
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