A very unwelcome development for the bulls
The stock buybacks couldn't help stabilize that brutal close Monday. Now it feels as if we are back to the same old grind.
All of those buybacks. All of those takeovers. All of that buying power. But it doesn't mean a thing in the last hour of trading, as we saw in that brutal close Monday.
Among the many companies with just-announced share buybacks were 3M (MMM), United Tech (UTX) and IBM (IBM), and these were down huge Monday -- the biggest percentage contributors to the decline in the Dow Jones Industrial Average ($INDU). With all these buybacks, you wouldn't think we'd see this torrent of surprisingly large, unbridled selling, totally unmet by anything other than the most meager buying.
But the buybacks can't be used in force to stabilize stocks at the end of the session, as that's regarded as manipulative. So the companies, which say they want to buy back as much stock as they can -- or have accelerated buybacks or are supposed to be active -- don't get to use those buybacks when they would be most effective.
That's why I have always preferred higher dividends to buybacks. The dividends are "in play" during every selloff. That is, we know a stock is a terrific place to go if a yield gets to 4% from a stock's decline, but a buyback doesn't even stop a futures-led decline.
Now, I know that buybacks can shrink float, and that this is what allows the earnings per share to rise -- but that's not what I am talking about. I am saying that, in a world where we are using stocks as fixed-income equivalents, the dividend is the thing that entices us -- not the buyback. The buyback is ephemeral for most, because so many of them don't even do anything but cancel out the stock options a company issues to management.
Of course, in January there were terrific fund flows, which come in all day and they can cushion the decline. That's why we'd been spared these kinds of hideous closes, as money in stabilizes the market better than does any buyback.
But the money in has dried up. That's why you have this moment, again, in which we see what stocks are like when the data are mixed and the public's already given up, or is spent, or is holding back, because of the tax holiday and the gasoline issue.
The spike of money in, it seems, was just a spike.
My hope had been for a gentle rally and stabilization on big down days, thanks to a combination of aggressive buybacks, more bountiful mergers and a public that recognized the tax law still favors stocks over bonds. That's what had been the case for the first seven weeks of the year.
Now the streak's run out. The question is, can it return anytime soon? I hate to say this, but it does feel as if it was nice while it lasted, and now we are back to the same old grind. There's just not enough money in. The market has come too far for yield support, and the buybacks aren't helping.
- Also see: 'Mad Money' recap: don't panic
All that said, I don't think stocks are going to get crushed here. I just think the volatility is back and that, once it's returned, it becomes very hard to make it go away again without more money in. Of course, it then becomes self-fulfilling, as the public is not going to come to a market that can lose 150 Dow points in 60 minutes, as was the case Monday.
For the bulls this is, indeed, a very unwelcome development.
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 UTX and IBM.
More from TheStreet.com
"a $46 billion reduction in the Pentagon’s fiscal 2013 budget out of $700 billion, barring a last-minute political compromise" will cripple our defense and endanger troops? Sounds like we need some new management in the DoD. If we bring all of our troops back home how can they be endangered?
has anyone written a book on the topic of "Herd Management"?
the concept of understanding how crowd control happens would be great for investing. understand the in's and out's of the manipulation game means one would just need to monitor the charts and react to what is occurring. since you're just WATCHING the game, and not an insider, i think this scheme could be a decent investment strategy.
We have transparency !
The economy is dong great !
We have shown growth !
I will reduce the deficit by half the end of my first term -- oops
Re -Tog Correct their year of the SNAKE ! Our year of the SERPENT !
The stock market tanked Monday because China announced the nail in the US economy.
They are selling Renminbi contracts in Hong Kong now and allowing Sinapore (the third largest money clearing house outside Great Britain and the US) to sell the contracts also.
Also they and Great Britain are allowing banks in London to deposit and square up accounts in Renminbi.
With Bernanke printing money officially at a $85 billion a month rate and letting banks borrow another $125 billion a month at zero percent interest so they can buy worthless US T-bills this means the end of the US economy perhaps in a year or at most 2 years.
Expect a total collapse of the US economy by the end of 2015.
Talking heads aside, I'm getting mixed messages from real estate pros from various parts of the country. Rental properties seem rather hot in the midwest. Condos are doing awful in Fla.
Nationwide, there still seems to be a substantial inventory of residential property hanging over the market
The job market remain in the dumper.
I'm really not a gloom merchant, these remain the facts.
Oh yeh, and then there's a whole bag of problems in Europe.
From the lips of the Almighty Wizard himself Helicopter Ben's morning speech says BUY GOLD AND SHORT BONDS ! GO FIGURE ?
If you held on to your Home Depot today you're getting your reward!
MORE ON MSN MONEY
Copyright © 2013 Microsoft. All rights reserved.
Quotes are real-time for NASDAQ, NYSE and AMEX. See delay times for other exchanges.
Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Thomson Reuters (click for restrictions). Real-time quotes provided by BATS Exchange. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Interactive Data Real-Time Services. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by SIX Financial Information.
All hail the bull market, which ended the week with a big rally. But it also is starting to look a little like 1987, which suffered an epic blow-out.
VIDEO ON MSN MONEY
Top Stocks provides analysis about the most noteworthy stocks in the market each day, combining some of the best content from around the MSN Money site and the rest of the Web.
Contributors include professional investors and journalists affiliated with MSN Money.
Follow us on Twitter @topstocksmsn.