Don't let the headlines fool you
The pessimism I'm reading this earnings season isn't helpful unless balanced with some optimism.
By Jim Cramer, TheStreet
As earnings season begins in earnest, I always like to point out how hard it is to make money during this period. We rarely see any good gains once the report cards come out, based on a combination of confusion, information overload and run-ups ahead of numbers. That's been the pattern for years. That's why I always stress that you can't just wait for the all-clear to buy, that the hard buying -- before all is known -- is often more fruitful if you have a longer-term thesis driving your stock-picking.
But the flipside of that method really gets to me. I can't stand it when I see someone say, "You can't buy now," after they never told you to buy in the first place.
Take this headline from Monday's "Money & Investing" section of The Wall Street Journal: "The Downside of Optimism on Earnings." The piece, which is the "Abreast of the Market" column, says that stocks have gone so far up on expected good earnings that, sorry, you missed the chance to make money on them.
What bothers me is this: Where was the positive piece in between? Where was the piece that said stocks are too cheap ahead of what might be good earnings? We get the negative piece, sure enough. But the "downside of optimism" only matters if you caught the "upside of pessimism" piece that I never read; I doubt you did, either.
The one-dimensional nature of the reporting I read always stuns me. I am not asking for 50% negative vs. 50% positive, even though given how stocks have done a 100% positive vs. a 0% negative would have been a lot more worthwhile in the last year when the average stock, as represented by the Value Line index, is up 158% since the bottom in March last year.
I just want some positive articles meant to put you in stocks, not take you out of stocks, like this typical piece does.
What makes for such "caution"? I put quotes on that because when taken in its entirety, it is hard to argue that caution is behind it, as a better word might be "pessimistic."
I think the enjoyable innate skepticism might be a part of it, meaning it is a lot more fun and "rigorous" to be negative than positive.
We get two strains working here: 1) It doesn't do any good to be a cheerleader, even if you are right -- something I know all too well, and 2) nobody ever has to apologize for being skeptical or wrong.
Either way, I point out that the pessimism is just not helpful unless balanced with some optimism. To read the papers is to believe that the market has no business ever being up.
Yet, anyone who sat out from last March to today because she read these pieces and was scared off deserves to have answers why "facts" can always be against the story.
My bias comes from being a one-time money manager. My goal was never to be cautious full time. It was never to be toxically skeptical. My goal was to make money, to catch good wave and bad wave.
That's the same goal I am advocating here. The bad wave, alas, is very well covered. But the good wave? I think that before we hear about the downside of good earnings, we should have heard that there might be good earnings in the first place.
I guess I just missed that story.
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Stocks drift lower and bonds are hit as investors await the Fed. Prepare for higher volatility this week.
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