Be glad the market looks down if you are a bull. You can't get a real bottom if we go right back up. That's what causes that dreaded lift and then whoosh down that's the real bull killer.
This kind of decline is much better. It is in your face. Not tricky. Doesn't create false hopes.
Remember, we can't have a real bottom until we flush out all of the weak hands. Previously, in 1997, that meant the Asians. In 1998 that meant leveraged hedge funds. This year, it means leveraged individuals. That's who will take it on the chin again this morning.
The margin calls will start in earnest from the get-go with this decline. Stocks that didn't rally hard yesterday afternoon will be the targets initially. The rally was so swift most of the levered players did not use it to get liquid (they probably never will), so they will be cashed out again this morning.
Look, I am not one of those "healthy correction" jokers you see on TV. When the market goes up or does nothing you have a healthy market. But when it goes down it is sick. Sure, maybe I can buy into the notion that the market is like a tree that has to be trimmed so it can grow back bigger and stronger, but I saw a lot of stumps yesterday.
I guess we will be seeing them again this morning. Get used to this pattern. As the market declines, margin clerks reclaim collateral from overextended individuals. When they are finished the market lifts. You don't know when they are finished, but you know that by the time they are done it is almost always too late to try.
So we buy small and wait. Just the opposite of the up opening where we sell big and wait. And just as lucrative.
Looking for signs of a bottom:
The New York Times
leads with a story about the market, but it is not bearish enough, focusing more on the turn and burying the technology carnage.
focuses on margin, but isn't judgmental enough. Doesn't take any cheap shots at daytraders and levered players. No, not bleak enough. Overall coverage around the country is on the wild ride not the downturn. Only a few articles about mutual-fund bloodletting. In a fear bottom you would get many, many more of these. Stay tuned.
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