SAN FRANCISCO -- Stocks fell

Wednesday, which really shouldn't have come as a surprise to anyone.

The earthquake in Taiwan, the reality of the




Terra Networks


merger (vs. speculation thereof), and



earnings merely provided excuses for what was bound to happen anyway.

Recall, the

Nasdaq Composite

was up 9.8% for the four trading days prior to Wednesday's session, the

S&P 500

by 6% and the

Dow Jones Industrial Average

by 5.5%.

So Wednesday's setback was part of the normal course of action rather than a "delayed reaction" to the

Federal Reserve's

rate hike, as was suggested by the financial news powers that be.

The market "moved up for five days, now it's coming back in," explained Robert Harrington, co-head of block trading at



Harrington, like many, sees the market stuck in a trading range, which he pegged at between 10,300 to 11,200 for the Dow. Others see the Comp meandering between 3300 and 4100 for the foreseeable future.

"A lot of people are sitting and watching and waiting," the trader said. "I think we'll move higher by year-end but with a lot of back and forth, backing and filling."

The fact the "V-bottom" has proven elusive for the first time in recent memory has a lot of folks talking about bear markets and worrying about another big downturn coming.

Only time (and the Fed) will tell if that's the case.

But demographics, the strength of the U.S. economy, the fact that monetary policy remains "relatively and historically easy," and the "grand experiment" being conducted by the Fed -- to allow unemployment rates to fall without making the knee-jerk assumption it is inflationary -- together suggest such a bearish outlook is unwarranted, according to Scott Bleier, chief strategist at

Prime Charter


The fact that many of the

wild and crazy guys -- momentum players, that is -- were "halved, if not quartered" during the spring thaw (of the excess) will keep a lid on trading volume, as well as the upside. But there are opportunities to make money, Bleier said. "Just not wild, rampant, crazy speculation which is not good for anybody."

He sees opportunities in "good quality, New Era stocks," such as

Sycamore Networks



Metromedia Fiber


, because of their roles in the "broadband build-out."

Just because the stocks "got ahead of themselves and crashed" does not mean these companies are not for real, he said. "The broadband build-out is going to make people fortunes."

Other names Bleier likes include






CAIS Internet


. Prime Charter has done no underwriting for the aforementioned.

Wednesday Afternoon QB

Several readers felt compelled to critique Tuesday night's

poll for omitting what they felt was the "right" option. I guess that proves you can't please all the people, all the time. It also shows how uncertain people are about where the Fed goes from here.

In that light, I was struck that the clear majority of respondents to the poll fear another 50 basis-point rate hike is coming at the June meeting. (Are those people "adjusting" their portfolios accordingly, I wonder?)


readers, it seems, are more concerned about the Fed short term than is Wall Street, which is expecting either a 25 basis-point hike or no action at the next meeting.

One reason market pros are less concerned about the June meeting is the

1994 scenario. After tightening by 25 basis points each in February, March and April that year, the Fed hit the market with a 50 basis-point tightening in May. (Sound familiar?) The central bank then took no action at its July meeting, then unleashed another 50-basis-point hike in August.

Alan Greenspan

must love to play hopscotch, because the game continued into the fall and winter.

The Fed paused at its September 1994 meeting, then hit the market with 75 basis points of tightening in November. It paused again in December and unleashed another 50 basis-point hike in February 1995, which proved to be the last tightening of that particular cycle with the fed funds rate topping out at 6% vs. 6.50% currently.

Thanks to my colleague

David Gaffen

for pointing out that history may not repeat itself, but is serving as a guideline for many on Wall Street.

This issue deserves additional attention. Unfortunately, it's not going to come from me at this time. I'm off to get married (married? Yes, married). I'll be back after Memorial Day.

Until then ...

Aaron L. Task writes daily for In keeping with TSC's editorial policy, he doesn't own or short individual stocks, although he owns stock in He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. He welcomes your feedback at .