All weekend we fretted about being too long ahead of the Fed meeting.
Now, after yesterday's
explosive rally, where we took trades off the table, I worry about being not long enough! I suspect I am not alone.
The penalty for owning high-quality stocks, particularly high quality tech stocks, has been so great for two months now that the idea of not owning enough of them seems almost quaint. Why is it so hard to strike a balance?
Because, fundamentally, we don't know if the vast, positive backdrop of the last 10 years has been altered. We don't know if inflation is under control or not.
Whenever I am asked by a reporter about whether I like stocks or not, I always say the same thing: "As long as the backdrop of high growth and low inflation remains the same, I want to be long equities."
This year, the backdrop seems to have changed. We have high growth. But we have higher inflation. Those who are still not recognizing that simply aren't, a) reading the papers, b) talking to businesses -- or c) reading the data about prices that the government puts out.
Of course, ultimately, it doesn't matter whether "we," meaning everybody but
, see it or not. If the
Fed chairman sees it and he is unhappy with it, he has to find a way to stop it. The reason why it is so hard right here, right now, is that stock prices have triggered so much of the inflation. If Greenspan says the wrong thing today -- meaning if he says something too positive for stocks -- then it is self-fulfilling that we will have a problem down the road if the market rallies too much.
What makes this dilemma go away? Slower data. Higher inventories. Crummier sales. Lower margin debt. In short, more of the stuff that we have been seeing since Thursday.
Have we had enough slower data to please the Fed? Nah, we just started. And I hadn't even seen the
CPI before I penned this piece! But can the Fed afford to keep taking action beyond today now that the data has started to slow? I don't think so.
Which is why I come in this morning wishing I owned more stock than I do. I think we are about to discover that the Fed is less worried than we thought, but is probably afraid to articulate that for fear that it really gets the stock market going.
What do you do if that's the case? You raise rates and then you take the rest of the summer off without declaring victory. Seems plausible. Seems bullish.
Don't forget my chat rematch tonight with Bill Fleckenstein on Yahoo! at 5 p.m. Be sure to
register (it's free and easy)!
James J. Cramer is manager of a hedge fund and co-founder of TheStreet.com. 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