We just had a 10% correction. I am going to write that again. We just had a 10% correction. It may be a tad late to get bearish. If you were long
, a premier growth stock with midteens growth and a rock-solid balance sheet, you just rode that stock down for 20 points.
If you were in
, you just experienced a 10% decline, and all that happened was that your company just delivered a fine quarter. And if you were long
, you just dropped almost 25% of your value.
And those are the good ones. Forget about the bad ones. What happened to create such a huge selloff, one that many people believe is just beginning? Quite simply stocks went up too much. Interest rates did not skyrocket. Earnings did not fall apart (despite some notable misses). Inflation did not just vault out-of-control. Asia did not suddenly get bad. We just got values that were out of whack with prospects. Now they are less out of whack, and in some cases, out-of-whack cheap!
Sure, if the whole move from last October was a phony, and you are one of those believers that despite low interest rates the P/E of the market should never trade above 20, there is nothing here for you. Go away.
But if you are someone who was long an
, you know that there is some value out there. That's why I am putting cash to work here if we see a selloff at the opening. I had thought that we would go to the lower end of the range -- which I said was 8500 -- and here we are. I would be lying to myself if I now said, hey wait a second, we are there and it is too ugly.
That's why I forced myself to read the charts Tuesday night, to look for things that may have bottomed, to look for things that might be AMP, and to look for high-quality stocks that beat the numbers and that have come down in price to levels that I can live with.
I listened to
. All he said was that
was jarring, so jarring that he did not know where the next P&G would come from. But that's not his job, that's my job, because the next P&G will come from where all the other P&G's are from: the fundamentals.
So I am culling and looking and paring those that have deteriorating fundamentals without value. And I will place my bets Wednesday, as I would any day, provided we have the RIGHT kind of opening.
What do we want to see happen in the a.m.? If we are going to put in a bona fide bottom, we want to see gap openings down, a panic in the futures, and then a rally with better breadth than we have had in some time. If we want to drag this affair out, we see a sharp rally at the opening among a handful of faves, and then a hard and scary selloff. That gets us nowhere and just suckers more bulls in. And if we really want torture, we get nothing: a plus or minus day that leads to more down days later on, kind of like a 1990 scenario, where the market settled into an ugly correction over the course of many months.
Therefore we DO NOT WANT
Goldman's Abby Joseph Cohen
to reiterate her bullishness. We want
Morgan Stanley Dean Witter's Barton Biggs
to reiterate his bearishness. Yes, it is that counterintuitive. Bottoms get formed by capitulation. By people giving up and losing money. Not by people holding on and making money. That does not mean individual bottoms aren't being formed right now. AMP got formed at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday. American Stores got formed Friday at the bell. But if you want more than needle-in-haystack bottoms, you better hope for horrible headlines in places like
The New York Times
front section (not the green one), delayed openings, tons of stories about redemptions and a giant give-up by some brokerage house that has hung on this far. Bottoms are ugly affairs; not pretty ones.
Like I said at the get-go of this establishment: I don't call bottoms. I tell you what I am looking for. That's good and bad. It's bad if you want it easy. But it is good if you don't want me to say on Monday we are going to 10,000 and on Tuesday that we are going to 7000.
That's for losers.
James J. Cramer is manager of a hedge fund and co-chairman of TheStreet.com.
At time of publication he was long Bristol-Myers and Cisco, 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 by sending a letter to TheStreet.com at