It hit me Thursday after I took a little
after hearing Chase mentioned positively on
I had done my homework. Chase has less exposure than most other money-center banks to the turmoil overseas. That's not to say it doesn't have a ton of it. It is to say that the bank has been among the most aggressive institutions in the world at reducing that risk. It sells at 12 times earnings, so I am not paying a sky-high multiple. But when I went to "take" 25,000 (take being the word for buy in institutional parlance) at 64.75, not only was I filled (institutional gobbledegook for the price I bought it at) at 64.625, but the stock was immediately offered LOWER than I was willing to pay just a second before. And all that had happened was that Chase got pushed on TV!!!!
In good markets, things "lift" after a buyer comes in. Sellers disappear, buyers swoop in to compete, there's no merchandise available and the stock moves inexorably higher. In bad markets, sellers seek you out after you have bought something. They make you feel like a sucker for having bought and they urge you to buy more of their merchandise, with the full knowledge that they have more to go after you've done your purchasing.
Thursday, other than
I did not see a single stock that was in demand. Not one. And the only reason I know SGP is because I was attempting to sell some at the 94-and-change-level and the buyer kept coming back to me after every sell program hoping I would hit him again.
That's a strong stock. But, whoa, don't get your hopes up. The day before you couldn't give SGP away at 93. Some institution just had to have SGP, perhaps because of Claritin sales being stronger because of El Nino. Frankly, I sold him almost all of my stock because if he doesn't come back today, that stock's going nowhere fast.
Sure, maybe today, with the futures looking up, things will lift again. But it will be the programs, not the customers, who lift stocks and that is NOT natural demand.
Markets that have no natural demand and a ton of supply go down regardless of buybacks and upside surprises and the occasional futures buy program. I have seen markets like Thursday's, chiefly in the summer and early fall of 1990. During that period, I ran my fund market-short, as the only real hope of making money was to be betting against the banks, savings and loans and retailers.
Sure, the character of this market can change, provided we hit the
checklist of our esteemed editor,
. But until it does, I am adopting 1990 rules. Don't try to lift anything. Sell into the futures buy programs that periodically punctuate this market. And if you have to get long something, make sure you are willing to wear it a long time.
Because you will.
Please be aware that I disclose anything that I own, regardless of whether it is a trade or an investment. Anybody, for example, who buys Chase because it is in my disclosure statement really ought to think about doing a little more homework. That's not the way to make big money.
James J. Cramer is manager of a hedge fund and co-chairman of TheStreet.com.
At time of publication his fund was long Chase Manhattan and Schering-Plough, although 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 TheStreet.com at