Get in the

Wayback Machine

and travel with me to 1990, another one of those bear market phases where you felt like you needed an emergency tracheotomy with a ballpoint pen to keep from suffocating from the tape.

During those terrifying months where we kept waiting for a peaceful resolution for the Iraqi crisis we would get a plethora of terrible news on the tape. That was the period where both the retail sales and the real estate markets fell apart.

There would be raids, periodic, vicious bear raids where people would get short stocks like


(TGT) - Get Report

(the old

Dayton Hudson

) or

First Interstate

(the old Letter I) and then they would hit the trading wires and spread nasty rumors about weaker sales or light reserves. The stocks would cascade down and the bears would reel in their shorts and go home with big buckets of honey.

Now, get back here Time Traveler. And what do you see? Check out that nifty raid in


(TER) - Get Report

. This was the work of some bears playing the fear game better than I have seen it played in any time since 1990.

My hats off to them. They made good money. They got short, they blitzed in, they terrorized and they won.

They can do it, because nobody who owns these stocks has any confidence. Everybody is scared. Everybody is frightened who is long.

Perfect raiding grounds.

How do the raids end? Do the good guys in white hats come out and save the market? Do the bulls get howitzers and knock out the bears? Do the bears get glutted and go home?


Stocks go to some level where they represent such value that they can't be raided. They fall to some level that makes it so all who own believe.

Then the bears get endangered. In fact, it's hunting season when that happens.

Until then, the longs are the hunted.

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