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Order Imbalance Alert

Order imbalances are brutally unfair. They're a license to print money for those insiders who know about them first.
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Nothing turns off the people's faith in the stock market more than these idiotic order imbalances that knock the stuffings out of stocks in the last seconds of trading.




. All day long this stock was cruising comfortably off of a strong

Maria Bartiromo

recommendation from this morning's research call. She picked up some benign

Morgan Stanley

mention of Dial, and, like the professional she is, took it in for 2 points from the get-go with an outrageous tout.

At 3:36 p.m., I was sitting on an outsized gain, as the stock flirted with 29 1/2. We had let some of the stock go, as we always do into a Bartiromo call, but we were confident that the big volume warranted a strong close.

And then the imbalances came out. End-of-the-month imbalances have their own agenda. Today they were all sells. Dial had 144,000 shares to go. But I know the way Dial trades. I know there isn't much of an orderly market made in this stock. With the stock at 29 and change, I had no doubt what this stock was going to do.

"Stick a 27.75 bid down there," I told my trader. He looked at me as if I had the wrong handle, and that I must have meant 28.75, a decline, but not a precipitous one.

That's right, I said, I mean 27 3/4, which was only up 3/8 after a 2-point move. I know how this stock will be butchered by any sell imbalance.

Sure enough, the market closes in a flurry of weird trading, and boom, I get a 27 3/4 report and the Bartiromo upgrade is history. The stock closes up a measly 3/8 of a dollar. My best gain of the day sent to oblivion because of an inability of the market to handle 144,000 shares.

I know, I should consider myself lucky. I was able to sell some stock and then buy it back for a great round trip. I think this close does an injustice to all of the hundreds of thousands of shares that were bought much higher throughout the day. I would have liked for the close to reflect how the stock traded. I think everybody who bought Dial on Tuesday would agree.

But that's not how things work in the bigs. These imbalances are a license to print money for those insiders who know about them first. They are brutally unfair. Someone should shine a disinfecting ray of sunlight on this process before it stinks up the whole joint.

James J. Cramer is manager of a hedge fund and co-founder of At time of publication, his fund was long Dial. 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