Absolute bottom, false bottom, dead-cat bounces. This week it's seemed as if all people can talk about are bottoms -- and last night and this morning, whether yesterday's 200-point-plus bounce for the
was just another now-you-see-'em, now-you-don't trick.
I've never trusted the idea of an absolute bottom, no matter who's calling it. On the other hand, because I doubt the usefulness of absolute bottoms, it doesn't much worry me when someone calls one -- and misses by a mile.
Plainly put: Absolute bottoms are the unicorns of trading -- clever, appealing notions that don't exist in the real world.
Turns out that
Gary B. Smith
and I agree on this one -- an odd couple if ever there were one!
We were talking about the notion of absolute bottoms in the green room before the taping of "TheStreet.com" on the
Fox News Channel
a couple of weeks ago. It was one of those spooky conversations in which we agreed so much, we were finishing each other's sentences.
Gary and I don't worry about finding, let alone calling, absolute bottoms because we don't think they're very useful for investors. They're not worth the risk.
I'll happily give up a few points off the very bottom when a stock is coming back -- especially off the kind of lows we've seen this month -- to avoid getting sandbagged by a false bottom, then watching my once-smart buy turn very, very stupid,
Because, statistically speaking, the additional return I might get from gambling on what someone says is an absolute bottom just doesn't matter -- it's a trivial part of my total return.
So I give up, say, four points on a dot-com I've been watching, when it starts to come back. On a stock like that, I wouldn't jump in unless I expected a much-larger total gain over the next few weeks or months -- a gain where those first four points off the bottom just don't look all that important.
Especially when I "used" those four points, so to speak, to buy some insurance, to avoid falling into the trap of believing the market (and that stock) had hit an absolute bottom, and wouldn't,
creep down any more.
Don't worry about missing a few points at the bottom. You'll make a heck of a lot more money if you let a market re-establish itself, and start back up, before you jump in.
I can't duck the obvious question: Did the Nasdaq finally bottom out Monday? Is that what Tuesday's big close tells us?
I don't think so. One of my favorite tells, the number of stocks making new lows, certainly makes it look as if we're nearing a bottom: 500 issues made new lows on Monday, April 17, while only 115 made new lows this past Monday, April 24. That's good news, especially over just one week. But not good enough: 115 stocks making new lows is still much too large a number, under the circumstances, for me to feel comfortable.
It's also encouraging that in Wednesday's sloppy trading on the Nasdaq, some of the issues on my list of "backbone" stocks --
and others were up in midafternoon trading. On the
it was the same story, despite a huge fall in the big-stocks
and lots more were up nicely.
Even if we have another one of those crazy, last-30-minutes frenzies, the signs are good and getting better.
But is this a real bottom -- even, gasp, an
bottom? Beats me. Not my game, calling the bottom.
Jim Seymour is president of Seymour Group, an information-strategies consulting firm working with corporate clients in the U.S., Europe and Asia, and a longtime columnist for PC Magazine. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. At time of publication, neither Seymour nor Seymour Group held positions in any securities mentioned in this column, although holdings can change at any time. Seymour does not write about companies that are current or recent consulting clients of Seymour Group. While Seymour cannot provide investment advice or recommendations, he invites your feedback at