Waiting for the Fourth Quarter

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It's like the NBA. What does it matter what the score is midway through the third quarter? We have to wait until the last five minutes.

Again, on days like today, days where nothing is clear, I pick at my longs and my shorts. I covered some brokerage shorts and I bought some old tech. I have put out no shorts because I want the market to be up before I do that. If I normally do 15,000s and 20,000-share lots, I am doing 5,000s and 10,000s. You might call me chicken, but I am calling it prudence.

Not a lot of velocity to the downside, not a lot of oomph to the upside. Just like the third period in the NBA.

What am I not doing? I am not taking any big swings. It is just too strange, too unlike any other paradigm that seems fresh to me. It is not acting like October of 1997, where we got a great snapback rally. And it is not acting like the day before the Crash in October of 1987. It is acting a lot like 1994, where the bears took profits on Fridays, keeping the market more aloft because of short-covering.

I am a guy who lives by the paradigm. Without one, I cannot make a big bet. I have not seen this market before. Old-timers might say, "ah hah, Cramer's never seen 1973-74," and that is true as I was too busy protesting against the government back then to pay attention to the economy. But we were passing the torch of greatness to the Japanese back then.

I may not know the direction of the next 200 points, but I know that the torch isn't headed back to East Asia any time soon.

James J. Cramer is manager of a hedge fund and co-chairman of TheStreet.com.

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

letters@thestreet.com.