Earlier this week, I managed to huddle a couple of times with Ben "Buzz" Gould, the highflying manager of a mutual-fund portfolio that was, at one time, up 66% this year after being up 100% last year. Buzz's fund ended last week deeply in the red, but two days of up action vaulted his $4 billion mutual fund right back into the black. Much of my conversation with Buzz has to do with the trading techniques he has honed over the last three years. In a rare moment of humility, Buzz admitted that Batch Hammer, his sidekick and head trader, played a big role in making sure the fund "does well" every day. While Buzz was at a money show in Vegas whooping the elderly into a frenzy for his go-go fund, I got to sit on Batch Hammer's desk and question this grizzled 26-year-old about how he handles the orders for Buzz and how the last crazy few weeks have been.
So Batch, how have you been navigating these difficult markets? (Friend-of-
type softball opener):
First, call me "Batch-o," or "Batch-mo," or, "Batchy" or "Cookie," 'cause I am a trader.
Well, we had a couple of good days Monday and Tuesday. You know the shorts had pressed their bets against a lot of our smaller high-bore velocity names -- you know, the
-- so I was able to take them right back up by using a strategy I call "the blitzkrieg."
That's where I come into several different market makers at once, hit 'em with big orders to take up a Kana and then I go into
and I take offerings too. Sometimes I do it alone, sometimes we do it in conjunction with other traders as part of an agreed-upon plan. We get together at Scores every Monday night and hash out which stocks need to be up for us to do better. Sometimes I will move up a Kana for one of the buying group and, in exchange, one of my buddies will ramp up a
. It's a good game if you are in the club.
What happened yesterday, Batchy? We saw some stocks really get hammered -- so to speak -- like
You know, Cramer, yesterday was a discouraging day. Buzz had given me orders to take up a bunch of stocks. I went in with guns blazing, to get this Intel through 125, but -- holy cow! -- sellers were everywhere. Must have been something fundamental. I hate it when that gets in the way.
So what do you do when that happens, when you run into a wall of sellers?
First you have to understand that Intel is really not our kind of stock. We like the ones with the controlled floats, the ones that can be gunned up by a couple of buyers -- where we can beat up on the hapless over-the-counter market makers because we do so much commish we can tell those guys to stuff it if they give us trouble. Anytime a stock gets too big, like
is now, we run into trouble and we have to operate on the smaller ones, the ones that can be squeezed up for a quick couple of points on the
I hear you folks speak a lot about the NAV. Tell me why that is.
Why you bald-as-a-cue-ball dope, that's what it's all about. We gun the stocks up, especially the illiquid ones, everyday here. Then our NAV goes up, Buzz gets on TV, more money comes in, we gun them up again and it's what I call a virtuous circle. But it doesn't work if we can't mark up our stocks. And boy, some of these bigger stocks, I can't take them anywhere.
Can you talk a little more about the Marshall Plan to bail out some really hurting mutual funds earlier this week?
We heard that some reporter was doing a story about one fund in our manager's club getting really wrecked, so we figured -- heck, we'll take up his stocks in a combined effort and get him out of the jam. That's what Tuesday's action was about.
Gee, that looked like a powerful rally.
Well, I am a powerful guy.
So what do you see happening today?
Could be a good day. Buzz told me a bunch of our companies reported good quarters. So I am going to go in early and walk the stocks up in Instinet so that the TV guys mention that they are strong. That way, I get a firm base to operate on. Should be a good day, unless the sellers get in our way.
Batch-o, I am going to let you get back to the sports pages -- have a good one!
James J. Cramer is manager of a hedge fund and co-founder of TheStreet.com. At time of publication, his fund was long Intel, Vignette and JDS Uniphase. 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