When you sit down next to chief executive officers of the great American companies, you can feel their restless impatience with doing anything but putting points on the board for their shareholders.
On Friday, as I co-hosted "Squawk Box" for
, I got to chat both on and off camera with these chieftains. You may have seen the on-camera drive, but during commercial breaks almost every one of these top dogs wanted to know how his stock was doing, how the market was acting, and whether the cyclicals were still rallying.
Many of these bosses seemed openly gleeful that the market is finally rewarding them for spending all of that money on technology, and keeping prices stable, while margins exploded. They liked the comeuppance, too, of the .coms, many of which they seemed mystified by. And who can blame them? These guys have seen all sorts of downturns and shakeouts, and they have had to make decisions about issues that no .coms, born of an era of incredible stability and prosperity, have yet to face.
Of course, when someone is smooshing mascara all over your eyelids and putting anti-shine on your bald pate during each break, you can't truly engage the CEOs on equal ground. Nevertheless, I came back recharged by Willliamsburg, ready again for any cyclical selloff to snap up just about every stock of the bosses we interviewed. In particular, I was impressed by
, who were very wired to current business trends, and I liked
focus, too. (No slight to
, but those are hardly cyclical.)
Oh yes, one word of caution: Last year I came back all fired up about
restructuring, and if it weren't for my partner's insistence that TEN's businesses were doing quite poorly, I would have lost a boat load when, a few weeks after the
, Tenneco preannounced bad earnings.
But from what I heard, I would not expect anything like that from any of the companies we interviewed, and I am including
, where Phil Condit seemed quite sure that the trough really is at hand.
Got a couple of emails from people blasting me for not attacking Boeing's CEO for the company's years of underperformance. Look, I pride myself for being a tough interview, but I am not going to embarrass Condit, especially when his stock has been on a tear. What's the point? To prove that I am some sort of rogue
, willing to badmouth at the drop of a hat. Forget it. ... Stopped at
on the way home and had to wait 30 minutes to be seated for incredibly mediocre food. What's the story with that place? ... On the way down to Williamsburg, we take the scenic route, 301, millions of lights, all of which turned red on us, and finally we pull over in some godforsaken area at a beat-up old
in Fort A.P. Hill Virginia, and who is there but
and his family. We couldn't stop laughing about the coincidence the rest of the way.
James J. Cramer is manager of a hedge fund and co-founder of TheStreet.com. At time of publication, his fund was long General Electric, 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 at