Who is any good at this game? Yesterday, during the market's early-morning ramp, I mentioned that one of the causal factors for the buoyancy could be Byron Wien's decision to get a little more bullish. The Morgan Stanley Dean Witter strategist has a big following and is "widely respected," as they say on TV, for his stock market prognoses.
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Message Boards. Immediately I got this note for a loyal reader: "I am surprised to hear your comments about how much $$$ Wien has made you. I agree that he is one of the few who has the guts to make contrary statements, but he also has one of the worst stock-picking records in the
contest published each quarter."
I felt strongly enough about this riposte that I decided I had to answer it for everybody.
First, I don't spend much time picking strategists by looking at
The Wall Street Journal's
stock-picking contest. Ahh, if only life were as simple as the
rating system, wouldn't this job be a breeze?
Second, as a professional money manager, I have often relied on Wien's advice. I read him religiously. In fact, I look forward to his weekly missives and will call Morgan Stanley if I get his research late, in the same way that my parents used to call somebody if their favorite magazines came late. His stuff is meaningful.
Third, money management is a lonely profession. We are all competing against one another. All of us wish we had one person we could go to when we are in a jam, when we are confused, when we don't know what to do, who won't betray our weaknesses or make us feel small or stupid.
I have that person. His name is Byron Wien. I can speak candidly to him when I am flustered or when I am getting it wrong, or when my head seems to be stuffed with out-of-sync ideas. He has
helped me clear my head and
steered me down the right path. He has an uncanny ability to make sense of a difficult world. And he does it regularly.
So maybe his picks didn't top the charts of some
national stock-picking sweepstakes. Maybe the
meat-cleaver approach to ratings somehow left Wien in the lower echelons.
He's money in the bank where I am from. In this business, that's my highest compliment.
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