Whenever I feel this ramp overtaking the market, I always think back to the summer of 1984. I had just gotten out of law school, having put myself through school trading. The market had been choppy all winter and spring -- blame the
-- and I could just feel that the tape was about to break out.
There was only one problem: I was furiously studying for the New York bar exam and I had to attend daily morning classes that clashed with the opening. To be sure, we had a couple of good phone booths to trade out of, including the air-conditioned one at the New York Telephone building at 42nd and Sixth and one in a now-defunct Bojangles -- darn, I loved their fried chicken.
But right about now in '84, the market got too frenetic to trade just during breaks. I had to start cutting the Bar-Bri classes and trade out of Grand Central, where
used to maintain a booth where you could get five quotes. Actually you could get 10 quotes if you were really obnoxious, but I wasn't. (That was a period when it was tough to get a quote without paying for it. Can you imagine?)
Until this week in '84, I had been buying them before the first class began (strictly market orders for options that had to be executed while I was in class) and then selling them during the lunch break -- actual limit orders.
But during the market's breakout it was
getting too expensive to daytrade
. You had to stay long because they wouldn't let you back in. I would simply get in line at the Merrill booth, type in my five quotes and then go to the back of the line again and do it over again. Over and over.
Man, was I crazy.
That's how I feel right now. I just want to hit them up and watch them. I don't want to trade them. The amazing thing is that some of the buying is in the exact same stocks:
!!! All three, of course, were peaking right then and were about to go into a serious swoon. But the swoon did not begin until after the exam occurred!
Suffice it to say that I managed to pass the exam and stay long that whole July -- but I can't tell you which was tougher, as the market kept going up and going up and going up and the exam was a big blur of difficulty.
In the end, I got out right before these stocks hit the retaining wall. I would have been wiped out for sure. But when I started at
, I had to cash out all my positions. The firm wouldn't let trainees trade without approval of a manager and there was no way any manager was going to check off on all the trading I wanted to do.
The moral: It is good to be good, but it is better to be lucky.
: Anybody else steamed about the big mutual fund puff pieces that come out at the end of every quarter? Check out the free pass this
guy got. He gets featured in both the
as a winner because people want to shoehorn him into the small-cap value thesis of the place to be. And this guy was up less than 2%! Get me that guy's PR man. ... TV overload. Some guy gets quoted as wanting to put
in a news story that ran Friday because I am on TV all the time. Hold it: I have only been on TV a half-dozen times this year. Hardly overexposed.
James J. Cramer is manager of a hedge fund and co-founder of TheStreet.com. At time of publication, his fund was long Motorola, IBM and Texas Instruments. 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