Don't let the bond sell-off spook you

Such indicators have nothing to do with fundamentally priced stocks.

By Jim Cramer May 29, 2013 9:06AM

thestreet logoThe move in Treasury rates Tuesday was pretty breathtaking, as any move is, percentage-wise, when it starts from such a low base. The action reversed a very strong morning, perhaps stronger than it should have been, because end-of-month markups have been taking place three or four days before the end of each month, and I think the market had been in the process of a big one.


When we see a backup in rates, we recall all other backups and remember that they are horrible for all stocks. I get that. It's what you should be thinking: The bubble in bonds has been popped, which spells the end of the rally in everything.

In fact, for now I don't even feel like disagreeing with that argument. I like being part of the fray for a moment until the market gets its bearings.


Because the truth is that the conventional wisdom has meant nothing since the Great Recession and since the takeover of globalization and world fund flows. Everything that we have learned has been pretty worthless.


Let's just take the curious case of Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY), my go-to equity that's meant to mock all of those who think they understand the way the market works, when they actually do not.


Arrow Up © Nicholas Monu/iStock Exclusive/Getty ImagesHere's a stock that has put on 15 straight points since writing off a $2.5 billion acquisition of Inhibitex, a company it purchased eight months prior. Inhibitex was thought to have a cure for Hepatitus C, a scourge that could be affecting tens of millions of people.


That write-off should have crushed the stock. But it didn't get hit for more than $2 because, at that point, its dividend yielded 4.5%. So it switched from being a growth stock to being a bond equivalent, and stopped in its tracks at $31 so people could use it as a CD with growth.


Then it started showing some leg for its new anti-cancer pipeline, and the stock climbed to $43. We sold it there for Action Alerts PLUS because we feared that it would have a terrible quarter and that the stock would sell off.


It did have a terrible quarter, and then it did sell off -- only to immediately run up another 20%. That wasn't because it was a bond equivalent, as now it yields less than 3%, but because business got better due to its pipeline. It was re-ranked as more of a biotech than a big pharma.


Throughout this period, I have continued to rail against people who have considered this market doomed with this simple admonition: "What's Greece, or Cyprus, or Japan or you-fill-in-the-blank have to do with the price-to-earnings ratio of Bristol-Myers?" I say Myers with a ridiculous twang because a southern broker first turned me on to the stock about 25 years ago and I never forgot the way he said it. I loved it!


Now, let me just say that my railing about the price-to-earnings ratio of Bristol is repulsive, lightweight, totally lacking in rigor and completely in the face of the intelligentsia, the hedge fund honchos, the black-swan long-tail guys, the random walkers and everyone else who is 10 times smarter than I will ever be.


But I have one big advantage over them. I am right.

Which brings me back to the bond bubble. I think that if a company has good earnings growth and good revenue that might be improving, this bond-bubble pierce is going to be much less eventful than you think.


FirstEnergy (FE), which was annihilated Tuesday, does not have good earnings or good revenue growth. The real estate investment trusts that were crushed don't have great revenue or earnings growth, either. They just have stable distributions going for them, and those distributions are way too small right now vs. their stock prices.


But if you have a stock like Bristol-Myers that is getting a higher price-to-earnings ratio because of something good happening at the company, that's going to matter.


Now, some people will take this squib as an endorsement of Bristol-Myers Squibb. I say, "Give me a break" -- and focus. That's not the point. I am saying that if you can find stocks of companies that are doing things right, they can be bought when this market comes down because of the panic over the bubbles. That's what it means when I say, "What does fill-in-the-blank have to do with the P/E of Bristol-Myers." It's not, "Go buy Bristol-Myers." (Excuse my tenor. I am sick of being misinterpreted in pretty much every article and many tweets and such, and it was a nice break for four days not to read the critics.)


So here's my bottom line: Fret and sell everything if you want. That's what people will want you to do who are behind the averages or fearful of everything or falling back on dogma that stopped working a long time ago, yet who cling to it because they can't adjust. Do some solid panicking based on the bizarre spike in 10-year interest rates. Please do the obligatory freakout when some media person quotes some Federal Reserve official saying this must all end.


But remember that stocks do occasionally move because of direct actions taken by management. They do move because business can improve or get better. They can advance because people are fired and better people are moved in. The fundamentals do matter to all except for those who don't care to know them, or don't think they need to know them, or don't have the time to find out about them.


It is that troika of stooges I just mentioned that has been blown out by this rally a long time ago. They desperately need the market to go down in order for them to validate their positions, if not their existence.


So sell the market down for them. Let them be right for a change. Give them a solid chance to recharge their frayed or exploding batteries, and get some dignity.


Then we will look to see who is improving, what's gotten better, and what's gotten worse, and we will figure out how to value the future earnings of given stocks by their given prospects. Because I don't know what the heck all of that mumbo jumbo has to do with the price-to-earnings multiple of Bristol-Myers.




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 has no positions in stocks mentioned.   



More from

May 29, 2013 10:43AM
Cramer is right up to a point; stocks DO move based on the actions of management.  They do move based on growth and M&A activity.  They DO move because of cost cutting plans and improved efficiency.  Yes, the fundamentals DO matter, there's no doubt about it - always have and always will.

But pray tell, Jim, how the hell are we supposed to know what's real and what isn't when there's so much outside influence that hasn't existed before, historically speaking?  Profit margins might be up, but is that really based on sustainable efficiency, or is because interest rates are being artificially suppressed by every central bank around the globe?  What are balance sheets going to look like when interest rates return to more historical levels?

What happens when we lose the $85 billion in QE and how is that going to affect balance sheets?  You can paper over a lot of crap with that much QE, and exposing what's really underneath could get real ugly, real fast.  This puts any and every stock at risk, including those Cramer referred to as the equivalent of an investment in a CD or bond. 

Sure, a 4.5% dividend is nice right now.  But it's not hard to see a scenario where shareholder in that situation takes it in the shorts on 2 fronts.  When interest rates return to historical levels (notice I said when, not if, it's only a matter of time), not only does that 4.5% not look so attractive anymore (because you'll have 12 month FDIC insured CDs paying more), but chances are the stock price will get killed, as borrowing costs rise.  4.5% dividends really don't look good when the share price drops 20%.

For the past couple of months, we've seen a strengthening of the dollar AND a run up in stock prices.  This is completely counter-intuitive and something will have to give somewhere.  If it happens on the currency side, the negative effects from trillions of dollars in carry trades are going to be brutal.  If it happens on the stock side, the "Great Recession" will live on in plain sight and no one will be able to deny its continued existence. We are in uncharted waters and the jury is still out as to whether the old rules and technical indicators still apply. 

It is naive to think that all this meddling by the FED, ECB, BoJ, etc..., isn't having any effect on balance sheets, management decisions, M&A activity, etc...  Companies that look strong and hopeful now could easily be ugly dogs when the layers of monetary stimulus are peeled back.  And at the same time, those companies that look like old, slow, under-performing dogs now, just might end up with a really strong-looking balance sheet and plenty more market share when the debt-riddled ones collapse in on themselves.

May 29, 2013 11:08AM
I've used this idea before but I think we should all recognize the potential again.  Have you ever seen how the Japanese harvest dolphins?  They herd them into a small inlet and then net off their escape and have their way with them.  I see very harsh similarities to how so many folks have been herded into this market with so few alternatives for making a return on their capital.  There is now and always has been a huge risk in stocks.  You can lose a lot of money very fast in these markets. Just my opinion of the importance of what the term  "preserving capital" is all about. Don't be complacent.  JMHO
May 29, 2013 11:48AM
Cramer is getting ready to sell his bond holdings. He want you to hold yours until he's finished.
May 29, 2013 12:16PM
If you are retired and can't afford to loose your life savings, invest with caution and keep some cash in reserve for a major opportunity.
May 29, 2013 10:05AM

What's fundamental in this market is $85 billion a month.


Where's the prosperity?


When this breaks wide open, not everyone will be able to jump ship at once.

May 29, 2013 1:51PM
Bernanke and his cohorts don't care at all about America. For them it's all about some fantasy new one world economic system and government where the banks rule. If they cared about what's best for America and its people, they'd tell us the truth: the actual statistics, that the post glass-stiegel de-regulated banking system has failed, that there is really no free money, that the banks have fleeced the country, that we are in a perpetual depression...  
May 29, 2013 3:26PM
It seems a lot of people believe the Fed pumping $85Billion a month into bonds is a stimulus for the economy.  WRONG!  It has only been a stimulus for wall-streeters.  It hasn't produced any REAL jobs, just low-paying service industry jobs.  Stop pumping all this phony money into the market and let the market be on its own.  Then, we will know where we really are with the economy and the President can see how his policies have failed us.
May 29, 2013 1:33PM

V_L you are either fkin "blind" or never leave your cubicle.....Which is it..??


I never said things were great....I said I believe, never intent on forcing pessimist like you to think the way I do....I'm looking for the Sunshine, YOU are cowering from the Lightning and Thunder.


I see the empty store fronts in small towns, and degradiation of some of our major cities;

The closed up factories and many empty houses, forclosures also hanging by a thread...

But I also notice some of the bright spots and conditions getting better for some/many...

I CANNOT dwell on all the Negativity and write it off, I know it is there, YOU are living proof of that.

May 29, 2013 10:50AM


A small new casino just opened on Freemont Street in Vegas next to the Crown Plaza.  It's called "Plunge Protection."



May 29, 2013 11:41AM
The world, still is the same, you never change it...
Bond yields will come back to their low points. The Fed, if needed, will even increase its QE. Because Bernanke just can´t afford letting it go.
May 29, 2013 1:41PM

Uncle Sam never wants to call things what they are.

Let's keep it simple. 

Feds policies to destroy the value of the paper dollar.


May 29, 2013 10:01AM
Jimmy, it seems that you are the one always searching for vindication. Folks with any commonsense know that a Market fueled by Bad Money can last for only so long. Why folks like you want to pile folks in towards the end with ZERO exit plans is almost criminal. This has been the best Market any good Trader could ask for. Perm-bulls will be destroyed if they think holding long and strong is the answer in a World full of Global Feds gone Mad.

Also Jimmy, how can anyone have fair price discovery when everything is based on Global Feds gone mad. Jimmy, how can anyone discover what companies are fundamental sound when companies are living off of cheap credit that can't last. We cannot truly figure out what's really going on until the Global FEDS, get out of the way. Let the Markets decide the winners and losers, not Global Feds on Steroids.
May 29, 2013 1:07PM
America is going to have to make major changes in our economic policy. We need jobs, to pay off the debt, an America that directly decides what it will buy thru government (by pass congress), final consumption sale tax only, no person or item exempt. The American people must face the cost of government on a daily basis. We American now believe government programs are free, when we see the cost of government at check out the crap will come out of our heads. The fed needs to keep the real inflation rate between a deflationary 1% and 0% inflation, no more inflation - never. Take taxes off business will move jobs and money to America.
May 29, 2013 1:49PM
Where is the Christmas Club/Passport Savings Club when you need it?
May 29, 2013 10:01AM

"well, they are in absolute control this morning and are dropping us triple digits from the get go why?"


Any idiot knows where SALE funds are generated from. The question for you Mr. Screw Loose is-- did you have the same concerns when Bernanke put those billions ransomed from our future IN yesterday to create those false euphoric gains?

May 29, 2013 10:52AM
Will it gain traction or is this a day like the Nikkei had last week?
May 29, 2013 10:00AM
Market analysts make their money by offering their due diligence as a paid service.  When due diligence no longer matters then folks feel professionals such as yourself don't matter much as well.  And when a market; which is a group of many variables, individuals and factors, says for a period the fundamentals Wall Street has come to accept and be known for determining valuations no longer seem to have a relevant value, folks quit buying their message.  Does anyone suspect fundamentals are the driving force for these gains? So as in the story of Cinderella, you could hope all you want that the slipper would fit, such you could be happy and feel you are getting what you feel you deserve, but in this case the slipper doesn't fit.  Get over it.
May 29, 2013 9:59AM
What actually DOES comprise a stock today, Jim? No factories, no equipment, no skilled labor or aged management with operations acumen... just a bunch of hired-in paper and button pushing alumni in leased office space essentially running an online financial and administration racket. Go ahead and refute my definition with some FACTS you can back up. I wouldn't touch an American business platform stock if you gave it to me... there would still be liability to account for. The markets are dead. Artificially made and sweetened by a Federal Reserve in need of intense reconciliation and scrutiny.
May 29, 2013 1:53PM
Crammer is either not very intelligent or he is a salesman for the stock market... it has to be one or the other... 
May 29, 2013 12:57PM
When you or we, consume our life with hate, envy or pessimism; We end up living a horrible life.
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