"The sins of the value managers can be bested only by the crimes of the bears." No, that's not me. That's more of my email from managers desperate to own up to someone about how they feel about betraying their clients' wishes.
Let's get one thing straight: I'm not talking about valuations or right or wrong here. I'm talking strictly about how there are times when the market is giving money away, and there are times when the market is a nightmare. It makes sense whether you are a bull or a bear, a value guy or a momentum player, to take advantage of those moments when the money is being given away.
Join the discussion on
Message Boards. Ah ha, you protest, but how do you know when it is being given away? To which I reply: When you detect an environment in which stocks go up 200 to 300 points when someone raises a price target, you have to accept the bountiful nature of the current firmament. You have to accept the notion that the propensity to own successfully is better than the propensity to sell. You have to see what is on your screen.
You then respond: Ah ha, but how will you know when it will all end? To which I say: How do you know it isn't just beginning? Such inquiries just don't cut it in my world. They are intellectual dead-ends.
But far worse than the doubters are those who turn a systematic blind eye to what is going on in the markets. Which is why I want to quote at length from one of the confessions I just received:
"Reading the cathartic purging of the value manager in your recent columns is the catalyst for my own introspection. ... Having begun my career with a fund that marketed its analysis on the short side as its core competency, I took pleasure in the 'intellectual rigor' that 'our circle' of comrades his words took in applying stringent analysis to financial statements and bullish arguments. It is now eight years later and ... I can tell you that the remaining 'circle,' at least those who have not been wiped out, maintain their entrenched, static and dogmatic view my italics. What is interesting about this view is that there appears to be an unspoken fear in reconsidering some of these fundamentally bearish tenets. Imagine how frightening it would be to turn at an inflection point in the market and miss that cataclysmic move down. Trust me when I say that they feel truly trapped. Furthermore, the pain of being wrong is assuaged by the self-praise that comes from maintaining a dogmatic view despite the outcome. It seems that a contrarian view has become a paradigm for intellectual masturbation. ... People become easily entrenched in their views and the idea that something that was held on to as truth can be so quickly discarded smacks of flakiness and an inability to be vigilant. While I walk away from my experience on the short side of the market, I take away the value of learning how to analyze a company and be rigorous in my work. Unfortunately, that methodology must be dynamic given the speed and magnitude at which valuation metrics and parameters are changing. ...intellectual flexibility is the ultimate in humility and critical in the understanding of anything" again, my italics.
This is a heartfelt confession and at its root is pretty much everything that I rail about. Flexibility and humility have made me more money than any other traits. If you don't have those two traits, perhaps you should let someone else handle the money.
That's no sin, even if you are in the business. It's never too late, as this email shows, to come clean and admit a mistake, even if it has cost you or your clients millions of dollars.
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