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Looking for Clues


Looking for strength in all the wrong places? That's what I feel like I am doing. My partner,

Jeff Berkowitz

, comes to me with a crafty thesis to buy the drugs, betting that the buyers of drugs -- the


(MCK) - Get McKesson Corporation (MCK) Report




-- were weakened by the

Federal Trade Commission


We are on the



call and we like everything we hear -- but then again, we are long, so maybe we are hearing what we want. The action in retail is terrific -- but maybe we need retail to be weaker?

It's that hope-springs-eternal thing again. When everything opens hideously and then

does not go down

, we try to figure out whether it is random buying, futures buying or actual buying.


TheStreet Recommends


(KO) - Get Coca-Cola Company Report

telling the truth? Or is


(BMY) - Get Bristol-Myers Squibb Company Report

telling the truth? Is

Fannie Mae


right or is

Freddie Mac



Why do I care about this stuff? Again, because this game is all about clues, taking them, finding them, exploiting them. We don't want to be fooled by strong futures buying into thinking that the bottom has been reached. But we also don't want to miss a bottom that may be caused by the massive gloom that envelops all who trade for a living.

One thing that does not lie is the advance-decline line. And as long as that hangs out in this dubious almost-2-to-1 negative mode, all the positive clues are simple head fakes, designed to pull you in at a crummy level and cut your heart out later on.

For us, Compaq is the ultimate "tell," meaning the stock that will forecast today's action. It is the one that is speaking positively as I write this. It is the one that is most relevant for today's action.

Tomorrow? Whole different set of clues, whole new set of parameters. And maybe a pattern or two that lasts more than a day.

James J. Cramer is manager of a hedge fund and co-chairman of

At the time of publication the fund was long Bristol-Myers Squibb, Compaq and Fannie Mae, though positions can 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 by sending a letter to at