Stick to defensives here

Use puts in cyclicals to protect yourself from irrational buying.

By Jim Cramer Jan 12, 2010 8:53AM

Guarding against identity theft  (c) Ingram Publishing / SuperStockBy Jim Cramer, TheStreet


 Eaton (ETN): Caught! Caterpillar (CAT): Caught! Parker-Hannifin (PH): Caught! Textron (TXT): Caught! Deere (DE): Caught! All up big, all up on nothing.


When I see moves like I did Monday in bread-and-butter names like those, without even so much as an analyst nod, I ask myself: How many crosscurrents created that upswing? How technically driven was this rally? How easily could we and will we give back these gains?

You could see that people were shorting calls near the strikes for these and figured they wouldn't be called away or come in short next week. You could see that people thought that with employment so weak, who the heck would want to own a cyclical. You could see no catalyst whatsoever, so the risk-reward ratio must have seemed pretty darned great given the pump-up of the calls.


And if that was your game plan Monday, you got destroyed. Of course, with Alcoa's (AA) miserable quarter, Tuesday will be a new day. You could see all of these short-call people trying to get their money back today, cursing that there are no do-overs, furious that Alcoa didn't kill the rally midday instead of too late when the day was over.


I can't blame anyone for getting short the cyclicals here given Monday's almost parabolic move in some of these names. It is entirely logical, especially given the spike in the 10-year rates, which should always be a warning to buyers to put out some shorts here. Monday the irrationality belonged to the longs, not the shorts. The "caught" stocks I describe shouldn't have been going up at all. There's nothing new that's good. But it is so hard to stay short that the shorts were their own worst enemies, and they create the rallies as they did on Monday.


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I think that in scenarios like this when the buyers are artificial or oblivious, you should have enough puts on to protect yourself from that irrational cyclical buying. Go out one month, go deep one strike. With the buying I saw Monday, unless you get a perfect week of earnings -- and we have already started out on the wrong foot -- I think you will do better short than long these kinds of names. Stick with the defensives. They aren't overbought, they are oversold, they're cheap, and they are much less dangerous.


At the time of publication, Cramer had no positions in the stocks mentioned.


Jim Cramer is co-founder and chairman of TheStreet. He contributes daily market commentary for TheStreet's sites and serves as an adviser to the company's CEO.


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