On Wall Street nothing soils a stock's multiple worse than when a company raises expectations, and then in a few short weeks lowers them. It is doubly painful when the brand name sullied is none other than that great whitener,
The decline in this stock, from 130 to 95 Thursday, is one of those vertical selloffs that just takes your breath away. Before our eyes, Clorox is going from the highest multiple in the group to potentially the lowest multiple (unless they pole-axe
on its preannouncement after the close), and it is Clorox's fault. It got the Street hooked on high single-digit growth and then blew everybody away by intimating that after the
acquisition closed, it would be doing low single-digit growth -- and that growth would be below historic trend for a full year.
This news shocked people, especially because Clorox had just blitzed New York with a rah-rah high-growth presentation and a super-de-duper story in the
New York Times
. Nothing stings more than when one of these safety stocks turns out not be so safe -- and at any price. Clorox shocked both holders and its analyst fans on Wall Street, all of whom have stood behind the stock all the way down.
How swift has it been? One of the things I like to look at is when a stock declines or advances so fast that the options professionals don't even have a chance to revise their highest or lowest strikes. You can tell how incredibly weak Clorox is by the simple fact that there are no June 95s, which go out today, because the stock collapsed too fast for the options folk to add a new lower strike.
(One only needs to look at the action in
to see the opposite effect. This company blew so fast through the strikes that it did not have a June 135 to contain it as it advanced. That's sheer upward power.)
Some may look to bottom fish in Clorox after this vicious decline. Not me. Many times I have gone to
and asked him whether we could "take a shot" at the darn thing. And he just keeps reiterating that when they change guidance on you, just stay away. He's been dead right.
I now fear that one of the analyst supporters who has ridden this thing down will bail on the buy rec because he or she can no longer take the pain. Only then, maybe, just maybe, will we get a tradeable bottom. In other words, I am staying away for now.
James J. Cramer is manager of a hedge fund and co-founder of TheStreet.com. At time of publication, his fund was long Texas Instruments. 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