Ugh. The past five days have been brutal. I've heard this phrase from many people: "I've never seen anything like this." It's true. And it's hard to be a buyer in the face of such a brutal onslaught.

I daytraded for a living in the brutal bear markets of 2001 and 2002. The single best way to make money in those bear markets was to buy high-beta stocks on sharp declines, when VIX was moving 20% to 30% higher in a day or so. Then hold on for dear life. The same technique has not worked in this environment, but the week/month/year is not over.

Here are some thoughts and reasons to consider buying here.
  • The past five days have been the third-worst five-day period since 1932. (Side note: The biggest year ever for the Dow was 1933, when it went up 100% in the middle of the Great Depression.) People think now that we are heading for a depression, but nothing could be further from the truth. If there is no depression, then the market is cheap, even discounting earnings 20%-40%.
  • The arguing over the bailout bill has been borderline insane. One media pundit said it was the kind of government intervention that caused the Great Depression of the 1930s. Again, nothing could be further from the truth. The Great Depression was caused by three things: increased tariffs, rising interest rates (i.e., the government was contracting the economy to avoid the speculation on stocks that led to the 1929 crash) and wage freezes. The government is doing the exact opposite here. Flooding the economy with trillions of dollars in cash -- trillions. That money will work its way through the banking system and will eventually inflate asset prices: commodities, stocks, houses, gold, etc. It's a tsunami of cash that will overwhelm anyone trying to dam it.
  • The single biggest reason the stock market has fallen in the past five days is hedge fund liquidations. Of the top 20 hedge funds in the world, something like 18 are down 20% or more this year. They are getting redemptions, they are liquidating, they are selling stocks with reckless abandon to raise cash. Our job as good investors is to give them liquidity and take their bargain-basement merchandise off of their hands. Let's get their selling over with so we can make money.

  • "But it's not a bottom yet." You will never call a bottom. Ever. In your life. But by the time the bottom has been "confirmed" (a hateful word used by technical analysts), the S&P will be 200 points higher and the fast money will be gone. The key is always to use no more than 1% of your portfolio per trade, hedge if you must (by selling short the SPDR Trust (SPY) ETF against your positions) and buy every increment down.
  • A lot of people are saying, "Don't trust Warren Buffett, he didn't buy stock." This is true. He bought debt and warrants on Goldman Sachs (GS) and GE (GE), and those warrants can convert into common stock at some later point. But Buffett is in this to make an enormous amount of money. He'll only do that if the stocks go higher. He used a very similar structure on Gillette in 1989, and it was one of his most successful investments ever. Ditto for his investment in tech company Level 3 (LVLT) early this decade.
  • Every record has been broken, every systematic trading method has flown the coop. But that doesn't mean sentiment can be completely ignored. When everyone in the media is telling you to sell stocks, and the market itself is 35% down in the last 12 months, you have to begin by asking, "Why didn't they tell me to sell 5,000 points ago on the Dow?" Who now is left to sell?

I'm continuing to buy good companies. I've been buying Nvidia ( NVDA) ($3 a share in cash, $7 stock, buyout prospects), more GE (below Buffett's price), Franklin Resources ( BEN) (the top-performing stock from 1980-2008, even more than Berkshire ( BRK.A)), State Street ( STT) (solid bank being destroyed in the selloff), Mosaic ( MOS) (top fertilizer company -- I'm not of the camp that people will stop eating in a recession), Dry Ships ( DRYS) (trading at a forward P/E of 2 and just expanded its fleet), Sirius ( SIRI) (one exception to the rule of buying the best companies is to buy the absolute worst companies -- they bounce harder in a snapback), Goldman (below Buffett's price) and Juniper ( JNPR) (a good proxy on the tech sector and has held up fairly well; I also think Cisco ( CSCO) could buy it). Today, I'm going to start looking through the portfolios of Atticus Capital, T. Boone Pickens and a few others to see which of their holdings I can load up on. These are the best investors on the planet, and the whole idea of Stockpickr is to buy their stocks in moments like this, when you can get them at a severe discount.

What are my sell metrics? If the S&P goes up 100 points, I'll take a deep breath and survey the landscape and consider selling half; I'll report back then. Keep positions sizes small. Hedge with a short on SPY. And leave room for opportunistic trades, arbitrage, pairs, etc. I'll be starting a trading diary soon on RealMoney that focuses more on these market-neutral opportunities, but for now it's time to be a buyer, as scary as that is.


Ever wish you had a chance to meet Jim Cramer, James "Rev Shark" DePorre and Vince Farrell? What would you ask them about their investing strategies or aligning your portfolio for 2009? You'll get your chance at a TSC conference on Oct. 25, in New York City. Please click here to email us for more information.
At the time of publication, Altucher and/or his fund was long Nvidia, GE, Franklin, State Street, Mosaic, Dry Ships, Sirius, Goldman Sachs and Juniper, and short SPY, although positions may change at any time.

James Altucher is president of Stockpickr LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of TheStreet.com and part of its network of Web properties, and a managing partner at Formula Capital, an alternative asset management firm that runs a fund of hedge funds. He is also a weekly columnist for the Financial Times and the author of Trade Like a Hedge Fund, Trade Like Warren Buffett and SuperCa$h. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. Altucher appreciates your feedback; click here to send him an email.

TheStreet.com has a revenue-sharing relationship with Trader's Library under which it receives a portion of the revenue from purchases by customers directed there from TheStreet.com.