No desire to argue with billionaires

Waiting for a dip amid this relentless merger wave is like waiting for the Pacific to run dry.

By Jim Cramer Feb 19, 2013 11:21AM

thestreet logoPArrow Up copyright Nicholas Monu, iStock Exclusive, Getty Imageseople like to fight the tape. It's a natural instinct, given that stocks have been such mediocre assets for so many years. The buy-the-dips, sell-the-rips attitude has been winning for them since 2000.


But it isn't winning now. If you'd sold the rips, you'd have sold a ton of stocks a long time ago. The charts are breathtaking now, with breakout after breakout all over the place. I'm seeing them in housing, hotels, lumber, semiconductors, construction equipment, cable television and entertainment, health care, consumer packaged goods, packaging, chemicals, drugs, biotechs, retailers -- you name it.


The lack of even a pause to refuel is about as unprecedented as I have seen in all of the years I have invested. 


It's as if there is a supply shortage up here, with no stock to be found and none to be shorted, so the buyers just keep reaching and reaching and then reaching for more. The rips and have been sold and resold, and it doesn't matter. The dip-buyers have been left at the altar, or for the slaughter, if this market doesn't do some tumbling soon -- or at least some flat-lining to catch its breath. But certainly not its breadth, which it has in spades, hearts, diamonds and clubs, while we are at it.


But everything, every breakout, every spike, pales in comparison to what's driving so much of this market behind the scenes. That's the urge to merge, the rush to get married, even the desire to elope on weekends -- something we haven't seen in eras long since bygone.


So I guess we shouldn't be surprised that two ne'er-do-well companies that tried to merge 15 years ago -- OfficeMax (OMX) and Office Depot (ODP) -- are back at the altar again. In 1997, the Justice Department blocked this merger as being anti-competitive, since it would have led to a duopoly between Staples (SPLS) and Office MaxDep or whatever.


These days it's vital to keep both in the game, because the office-supply business has become a mainstay of everyone from Wal-Mart (WMT) to Best Buy (BBY) to -- most important, where I get all my stuff -- Costco (COST).

 

Sure, this is no surprise, particularly when we have a Justice Department that seems as pro-merger as any Republican antitrust Department I have ever seen -- except that, of course, it's made up of Democrats. But I think what makes this deal all the more intriguing is that, as with so many other stocks that have gotten bids this year, these two had already been huge, huge winners. OfficeMax shares had doubled since August. I know, big deal; Office Depot had tripled in that time.


During the sell-the-rips days, both of these stocks would have been sold and shorted 50% ago. Plus, we know that the principal clients of these places, small businesses, are supposed to be dying in the vine -- aren't they? Isn't President Obama squelching the small-business job-creator with higher taxes, as the Republicans love to charge? Maybe he is -- or maybe he just isn't squelching hard enough yet, because otherwise you wouldn't be seeing these kinds of moves ahead of the mergers.


In other words, business is strong enough to merit companies talking to each other about combining, rather than thinking that if they just stick around and compete, it's almost a matter of time before the other guy keels over. Hmm, maybe this OfficeMax/Office Depot merger is between two companies that failed to keel over. More important, though, it is a merger borne of confidence -- confidence that, despite the runs in the stocks, there's much more upside because things are just plain better out there than we might realize. The confidence says that, even though the stocks are up from where they were, they are down huge from when the good times were being had.


That's a seminal theme behind almost all of the deals we've been seeing. It's worth talking about the commonality of the breathtaking number of takeovers -- because they were supposed to have fizzled already, as they did last year, rather than apparently ratcheting up.


Let’s start with Heinz (HNZ). You know what got me about this deal? It wasn't that Warren Buffett, via Berkshire-Hathaway (BRK.A), saw the intelligence in buying a company with a brand that means ketchup worldwide. It was that this merger hadn't happened a long time ago. Here's Heinz increasing earnings per share year after year, expanding internationally, and yet kept down by frozen foods and a slowing restaurant economy. The darned thing has been ripe for the taking for years and years. It always amazed me that it hadn't happened.


The bears always chide the optimists as complacent and lacking in rigor. Yet, not that long ago, when I questioned a Goldman Sachs analyst who put a sell on Heinz, nobody I know thought it odd that such a terrific company would be sell-rated. After all we've been zero-summing around here for ages, and if traders are reaching for Manitowoc (MTW) and Terex (TEX), not just Caterpillar (CAT) and Deere (DE), you know that it's no time to own Heinz. (Also see TheStreet's: Where value remains in today’s stock market.)


Warren Buffett, however, doesn't care for or about rotations. He cares about brands -- lasting brands that sell for less, like some sort of consummate wholesale buyer -- and now Heinz is his. Who was really complacent here? I say it was the Goldman analyst who stayed too negative.

Dell (DELL)? You really think Dell's that much different from Heinz? I don't. Here's a stock that's been left for dead -- no, maybe even pronounced dead -- and yet it simply refused to die. Too much cash. Too much cunning. Yet did anyone care? Yeah, founder and CEO Michael Dell cared. He cared like Buffett, and now he's in a huge fight with people over pennies on the dollar, even though we'd be tripping all over ourselves to high-five anyone who just caught a 35% move. Dell will get his man because, alas, his man is Dell!


Virgin Media (VMED), the third-biggest deal of the year, is once again emblematic of the flaw of the sell-the-rips strategy that had been so brilliant for so long. Virgin Media had already jumped, and jumped big, before it got its bid from Liberty (LBTYA). The odds-on move would have been to short this company, especially in light of the weakness being shown at Newscorp's (NWSA) similar properties. But it didn't matter. Weakness now means strength later, at least to Liberty, and who is to argue with CEO John Malone? That's like arguing with Michael Dell and Warren Buffett, a trio of billionaires I don't feel like arguing with.


Certainly no more than I want to argue with billionaire Rich Kinder, the CEO of Kinder Morgan (KMP). He is taking advantage of the market's ridiculous valuation of oil in the ground vs. in the pump, and is stealing Copano (CPNO), which couldn't be given away the day before. 


Or maybe you want to have a slugfest or at least give a lecture to billionaire Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle (ORCL), for his bizarre purchase of Acme Packet (APKT). This is a telco stock that had been a free-fire-zone short, virtually a short-seller's annuity stream for almost two years now.


I don't feel like arguing with Ellison any more than I want to argue with Kinder or Dell or Malone or Buffett. I do, however, want to find the stocks that the next billionaires are intent on buying. When the richest are doing the buying, I don't know about you, but it makes me a heck of a lot more confident.


Oh, and do you mind if I throw in one more billionaire, Brian Roberts -- CEO of Comcast (CMCSA) -- buying the rest of NBC Universal from General Electric (GE) well ahead of when he had to? He's another guy I don't feel like arguing with. In part, of course, that's because I work for him. But, more important, it's because I respect him and what he and his father have built, and they don't like to part with a nickel unless they can make a dime off it.


Yes, you can see what's happening here, can't you? The tax-haggling is behind us. The sequester bark is worse than its bite, if there will even be one. Finally, confidence is back, particularly among those who have the most dollars to back it up. I know the first person to say RIP to sell the RIPS will be hit with a gigantic selloff right in his face. But let's tell the truth. Waiting for a dip in the face of pool of liquidity brought on by the fire hoses of Buffett, Dell, Ellison, Kinder, Malone and Roberts is like waiting for the Pacific to run dry. I'd just rather dive in and join them!


cramer

 

Jim Cramer is a co-founder of TheStreet and contributes daily market commentary to the financial news network's sites. Follow his trades for Action Alerts PLUS, which Cramer co-manages as a charitable trust and is long NWSA and GE.

 

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45Comments
Feb 19, 2013 7:24PM
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Way to go  Jim I have only made about 300,000 $ dollars from your advice from March 9th of 2009.  I fired my broker and took my 169,000 and put it to work and made  turned it into 469,000 since then.. I too was thinking where are the dips but not wanting to get left out  I have been buying 100 shares here and there and building a portfolio similar to yours.. Thank God we live in this country where even the Obamas cant keep us down.  I manage 20 positions and watch about 30 charts on a daily basis, while being self employed in the stove and spa business. I'm involved on a daily basis but feel free to leave on long weekends when the market is closed on Mondays and Fridays.  Thank God for Jim Cramer and his staff. The best 300 bucks a year I ever spend. I will trade now until you die or I get to senile to buy and sell as I am now 61. Your antics keep me going and  the cash I make keeps me in the game.. Tough times don't last but tough people always do.. Teaching my kids to trade and they are even better then I am even with the limited money they used as start up dough.  They have a young perspective on companies I would  pass on..  Give em Hell Cramer we can laugh all the way to the bank or to the Hog store to spend or bank our winnings.  Next time your in Colorado I would love to shake your hand.. Gary Spinuzzi
Feb 19, 2013 6:56PM
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Combining organizations without economic growth is simpey circling the wagon.  Come on Cramer, Buffet is Obama's lapdog and purchased Heinz to help John Kerry's wife.
Feb 19, 2013 6:36PM
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Insider sell/buy ratio is 9/1 -   The insiders are bailing on the pyramid scheme just as Jim in encouraging the noobs to jump in.

 

Feb 19, 2013 6:08PM
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We were able to hang in there nicely....This rally continues....Be careful though, many people calling for a correction...Lots of folks will really like one...We will see what happens...So far so good though
Feb 19, 2013 5:53PM
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Cramer's article has some merit except it is too little and too late. To some extent this is a fantasy market and those who jumped in a couple of months ago can withstand the prospect of a small loss without too much hurt. It's the old story of 3 steps forward and 2 steps back. Those who bitch and moan  about all the ills and foresee nothing but disaster should seek an alternative investment vehicle.

The stock market is not designed to only have an upside.

Feb 19, 2013 5:22PM
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i think ill wait till the second 2007 is over.why get in at the high?i stayed back in2007 ,got backin at low,was rewardedin 2009. loading up now seems dangerous.if you can afford to lose  it, use it.

 

Feb 19, 2013 4:49PM
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We are experiencing a bubble, created by the Fed. It may go on and on until inflation shows up and forces the Fed to withdraw. Or forced spending cuts neutralize the money printing. Risks are there, but getting the timing right is a matter of luck.
Feb 19, 2013 4:29PM
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If the market is up so much, where then is all the prosperity?
Feb 19, 2013 4:21PM
Feb 19, 2013 4:09PM
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It´s a trader´s perspective, on a daily basis anything goes. But gas prices have been rising everyday the last few weeks, it may soon hold back the Fed in its money printing. 
Feb 19, 2013 4:05PM
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The top 200 or so Internationals are holding 3 trillion in the bank because they are sooo positive doing R and D and building out will pay off real soon.  They have no clue all the pressure of this forgotten arbitrage will lower Americans real incomes and standard of living.  But all of the international economist who are predicting the inevitable decline of the American middle class don't have a clue.  I know most people who see their customers burdened with overwhelming debt always invest for the long term.
Feb 19, 2013 4:02PM
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cramer predicting that which has already occurred !!

As for comcast ...toast within 2 years ....will you pay $150 a month for cable when you can get netflix, amazon & hulu for about $20 a month !! Hell no !

Btw cramer what was your AA portfolios results last year ? Can't have been good or you would be bragging already !!
Feb 19, 2013 3:36PM
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Yeah, it's no use arguing with billionaires such as Michael Dell, who founded his company in a U of Texas dorm room almost 30 yrs.ago when Apple pitched its famous '1984' Super Bowl commercial. 
Feb 19, 2013 3:29PM
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DLH2448:Is it crack or meth you`re on?
Feb 19, 2013 3:24PM
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So these companies will merge to gain efficiency and cut costs, not to mention jobs ... " because things are just plain better out there than we might realize"???!!!

Is this a joke?
Feb 19, 2013 2:46PM
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THERE is  "ALWAYS"  a CORRECTION COMING....

 

Tell me "exactly" when;  Then we can talk.. 

Feb 19, 2013 2:43PM
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Wugo....You are correct about "buying issues at the top", I have cautioned about many, very good companies at or near their 52 week and even 3-4 year highs...

 

Most would only be for solid fundamentals or dividend producing..So to speak weather the storms.

Many of those same companies have a tendancy to recover quicker in a correction, downturn or recession...

The secret is "always buy low and sell high.."

But life isn't that cut and dried....Always reminds me of "Buffet's Rule" amongst other's.

Simply: "Buy on the Fear, Sell on the Greed."

And do it to have fun, but make money doing it.

Think I might go to a Casino now, to sharpen up my Gambling or Investing skills...Ciao.

After I feed my Birds..

Feb 19, 2013 2:32PM
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This guy said buy Lehman Bros a week before they collapsed.  Why, again, does he still have a column and a tv show?
Feb 19, 2013 2:10PM
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V_L....Wasn't me with a thumbs....As stated already "broke from mold."  Toggy don't play the children's game of likes/dislikes...Don't give a shidt...Too much effort to click on something stupid.

But NOT really interested in following them to the Moon, in a steel container; That sounds Spocky.

 

Read occassionally about those Billionaires, they do lead a different life...

Some would surprise us..

And some have ideas worth noting when it comes to investing..?

But, alas they can order caviar at fine restaurants...When I can only walk down to the pond, catch a Bluegill and gut it, for the "fish eggs" or Roe.

I followed some of them, followed them down in 2008; Reallocated and readjusted like some of them;   And then followed them back up in 2009-2010...It was very worthwhile..

I was depressed, but did not panic(well too much) anyway...And there were plenty of lessons to be learned....I think it has improved my investing habits...IMO

Feb 19, 2013 2:00PM
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he may have picked the exact top today..........he usually gets his idiot followers in at market tops
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