Caution warranted after Cyprus news

The deal will likely not wipe out all the recent gains as some now warn, but some profit taking is prudent.

By Jim Cramer Mar 18, 2013 9:19AM

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Arrow Down Photodisc SuperStockCyprus is a real conundrum. There are some people who categorically believe this is the real deal, the big one, the one we prudent people have all been waiting for. These people believe the U.S. market is about to start the Giant Repeal of the gains it's made. They want to sell the market wherever it opens, and then double-sell for good measure.

Others say that, until this weekend, you didn't even know Cyprus exists. They say it is all a one-off event, because its banks had been well-known hideaways for Russian mafia money, and everybody knows that except the lowly Cypriots who are stuck having to bank there. You literally came to the nuisance. These people are looking to buy the dip and end up longer than they were going into the session.

Then, somewhere in between, there are the ironic historian types. These people say that, when you go all moral-hazard and hurt innocent people, like the million Cypriots who use their native banks, you are triggering "a Lehman." That's correct if you decide the collateral damage of hurting innocent depositors is a small price to pay when teaching a lesson to a totally rogue banking system. In that case, you have to expect that the "better but not great" banking systems of Spain and Italy are next -- even though they have almost nothing in common at all with that of Cyprus.

To me the whole thing is a bit of an abstraction. As I told our colleague Doug Kass this weekend, never forget that the average portfolio manager in this country is thinking, rightly or wrongly, "What does this Cyprus thing have to do with the price-to-earnings ratio of Bristol-Myers (BMY)?"

In other words, when the smoke clears, we will want to know why we sold Bristol-Myers because the European authorities put a tax on the depositors in a renegade banking system. Portfolio managers are tired of selling U.S. stocks for non-earnings-related issues like European banks, or sequestration or fiscal cliffs. They do, however, respect the idea of selling if Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke stops providing liquidity, as he might when we hear from the Federal Open Market Committee Wednesday.

Normally, I am the first to embrace the "P/E of Bristol Myers" argument. I say "normally," though, because all last week I said I was willing to miss the last couple percent of this rally because of the parabolic moves that so many stocks have made, and that I wanted to stay away from the almost-daily new highs and cycle into less elevated stocks.

Still, I would be wrong to say I saw this one coming, and that's a real danger, because if you didn't see it coming it is hard to say, "OK, now this is what I have been waiting for." I was worried about a Fed-induced correction, and now if you buy Monday you have to be worried about a double-whammy come Wednesday.

In other words, after the run we have seen in the market, we were due for a negative event, and I fear that event could be a one-two punch of both Cyprus and the Fed.
Let's pull these two apart, though, and make some sense of them as distinct entities, and then overlay them on the charts that I studied this weekend.

First, I think Cyprus has a rogue banking system. I don't like the idea of making smaller depositors pay anything, even though Cyprus had offered a juicy and unsustainable 5% interest rate on deposits, which meant that the whole banking system was like that of the hot-money-seeking savings-and-loans banks from the S&L bailout era. That's when the certificate of deposit rates varied widely, and the weaker banks paid through the nose to get deposits. Many of them ended up failing when that hot money departed.

That's how the Cyprus banks look to me now. You would no more blow out of your own local bank because of that S&L crisis than you would take your money out of Santander (SAN) because of Cyprus. We did see huge bank runs in Spain during May of last year, but that was forestalled by the government, and then later by the "by any means necessary" words from the European Central Bank's Mario Draghi.

Of course, the big issue in Europe is that the economies of the nations there are getting weaker, not stronger, as austerity continues to drag them down. We have to expect a further leg down now as capital flows get all mixed up and the weaker countries sustain another shock to their business confidence. That's the more logical takeaway and lasting impact of Cypress -- not runs on the weaker Italian and Spanish banks to put money in Deutsche Bank (DB), and not any fleeing from the euro to the pound and the dollar.

Now, we have to recognize that something has changed between the two continents. We are seeing a stable to expanding economy here in the U.S., while Europe remains unstable and in contraction. With the exception of the big international banks, like JPMorgan Chase (JPM) and Citigroup (C), our banks are much better-capitalized by rigorous standards, as compared with the light touch -- some would say ridiculously light touch -- of the European authorities.

So the spillover is contained, and much more so than it was last year or the year before. In other words, Europe can't take us down one-for-one, but it will continue moving the flows into more domestic companies and small-caps, particularly related to healthcare, regional financials, oil-and-gas and the transports, which have been totally on fire.

Which brings me to the real issue that I fear. The reason I've said I don't want to get to the last 1% to 2% of the rally is precisely because so many stocks are too hot.

Let me give you a sense of what we are up against. Whole sectors of this market have just gone totally parabolic, with a completely unsustainable set of moves that have to be repealed before they can be bought on weakness.

I am thinking here of almost every healthcare and healthcare-related stock, from the major pharmaceuticals that have run so much to the biotechs that are crazy hot to the ancillary-medical-device names and hospitals. The charts of such stocks as Becton Dickinson (BDX) and Stryker (SYK) are insanely overextended.

Second, we've seen tremendous moves in the regional banks and insurers and other financials largely unconnected to Cyprus. I am talking about companies like CME Group(CME), or IntercontinentalExchange (ICE), or Chubb (CB) and American Express(AXP), or Discover Financial (DFS), Torchmark (TMK), State Street (STT) and Unum (UNM). Have you looked at names like Metlife (MET) and Allstate (ALL)? These are trading like junior growth stocks on steroids.

Then there are the oil-and-gas stocks like Southwestern (SWN) or Cabot Oil & Gas (COG) and Range Resources (RRC). These stocks have to be anticipating bids that won't come. There are dozens of them.

The transports, particularly the rails, freight-forwarders and truckers, have put on nosebleed moves.

The industrials, like Ingersoll-Rand (IR); anything similar to Rockwell (ROK), the Roper (ROP), Johnson Controls (JCO); and such names as Honeywell (HON) and Mead Westvaco (MWV), and International Paper (IP), and Boeing (BA), are acting like short squeezes. The natural-gas beneficiaries, such as WestLake (WLK) and Lyondell, are acting as if they are growing at 15% to 20% when the reality is that their raw-cost feedstocks have been in decline.

Then, last week, the not-so-hot techs, like Cree (CREE), Micron (MU), SanDisk (SNDK),Texas Instruments (TXN) and Western Digital (WDC), just exploded.

On top of all that, we saw a level of toppiness in the earlier leaders: Clorox (CLX), Kimberly Clark (KMB), General Mills (GIS), Kellogg (K), Hershey (HSY), Pepsico (PEP), McDonald's (MCD) and McCormick (MCK). (What the heck is with that last one? I liked it lower.) All of these have started rolling over.

Of course, anything housing-related has had such a run that who knows where you can step in and buy a name like Sherwin-Williams (SHW) or Whirlpool (WHR).

So it's not as easy as to say "go buy them." The "them" might be some of these incredibly overextended stocks that I just detailed.

Plus, the dividend-yield support now seems to be gone for all of them.

So what does it mean? I think the stocks you would normally run to -- those early leaders, the ones that had a second leg up after the Heinz (HNZ) bid by Berkshire-Hathaway (BRK.A) -- are vulnerable. I believe the red-hot financials could cool a bit and that the transports be rolled back, particularly because they are dependent on overseas markets coming back, and those will now take another dip.

That's why my take is to do very little, except to continue selling the consumer-products-company stocks that were starting to roll over, and to be very careful of the parabolic moves that are all over the place. Those stocks are just too hard to buy. They are all better sales, for the most part, until they get to lower levels.

Now, I am not joining the negativists who think this is the real deal downturn that will wipe out everything. For the most part, those are people who missed the last 4,000 points in the Dow, or at least the last 2,000.

However, I see no rush to buy anything unless it has a higher yield -- perhaps a clobbered master limited partnership or real estate investment trust. Health Care REIT (HCN), American Realty Capital Properties (ARCP) or Enterprise Products Partners (EPD) come to mind.

For the others, I would prefer to wait until they help the cost basis. For myself and Stephanie Link, co-portfolio manager at Action Alerts PLUS, that means a decent pullback.

If, instead, the market hangs up here and doesn't go down, I would like to take more profits vs. money I put to work. Remember, this is for Action Alerts PLUS, where we have kept pace with the market. That gives us a slightly clearer head than those who need this market to be much lower in order to save their numbers for the quarter.

All in all, a cautious approach is warranted. Not extreme caution, but certainly no enthusiasm. I didn't like the last 1% to 2%, so I can't suddenly like it now. We were trimming a lot of the big gainers last week, and that looks right.

Putting the money back in a hurry will look wrong until more is known and more erosion takes place.

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 BMY.  

 

 

 

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68Comments
Mar 18, 2013 12:21PM
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It's amusing that Cyprus gets all the news for taking 10% of depositors savings while the US has taken more then that from savers over the last 4 years by setting interest rates at zero and printing $6-12 trillion to inflate assets. Let's see 4 times 5% = 20% lost earnings plus $8-12 trillion in new currency or 2% means the little old lady who did nothing but save her money has lost 22% of her savings.
Mar 18, 2013 10:18AM
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What Cramer and the bulls always talk about is that everything is going to be alright, RIGHT!----- WRONG! We have a moral breakdown in society around the world along with huge debt. Cyprus is just touching the surface. If the president of cyprus can do this so can our president and he has already. Obama broke the rule of law with GM when he told bondholders that they were not getting any money back and then made the unions half owners of GM. Our banks can be raided the same way because it is human nature and not the difference in countries. Any laws go out the back door when it comes down to huge debt and your back is against the wall.
Mar 18, 2013 11:48AM
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The Fed's stock disaster prevention team will keep things looking good.
Mar 18, 2013 12:06PM
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Cyprus is no big deal, but this precedent is. Many politicians in the U.S. have been drooling over the money held in bank accounts and in 401K accounts. The sacrosanct nature of private accounts was already violated by Jon Corzine at MF Global and since he still faces no prosecution one can only conclude that there is no such thing as a safe private account. Now the Cypriot decision gives the cover for politicians to loot as they please.

 

Under these circumstances the only safe account will be holding physical precious metals. It would not be wise to wait until after they pillage your assets they may not leave you enough to invest.

Mar 18, 2013 12:15PM
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"An official says finance ministers from the 17 eurozone countries will hold a telephone conference Monday evening to discuss Cyprus' bailout package and the proposal to seize a percentage of deposits."

 

Isn't this when the people start rounding up weapons of all kinds and take nasty action?

Mar 18, 2013 12:23PM
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This sets a president that any gov't  can just take money from anyone's bank account at any time they fee the necessity.

So the Cyprus bank depositors are getting a 10% haircut whether they like it or not, just that easy..

The American's are getting a reverse hair cut every month to the tune of 85 billion , only thing is they can't see it, whether they like it or not.

Another chapter to the book " Politician's Hand Book"

 

Mar 18, 2013 12:27PM
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The Prez of Cyprus just said a couple of weeks ago this wouldn't happen. No way. Then he turned around and did it. He could have a good career here. Congratulations to the far left auristocrat running Cyprus. (sigh)

Mar 18, 2013 12:48PM
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When banks are about to go under, they just take their depositors´ money. This is the Cyprus lesson. Inflation in the US is surging, the Fed is still trying to talk it away. The point is just whether there are still some decent governors at the Fed to stop Bernanke from destroying the US currency.
Mar 18, 2013 12:38PM
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Just wait until Obo gets this stupid idea in his head.
Mar 18, 2013 1:00PM
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Hasn't the US done exactly the same thing by paying deposits nothing for their money?  They just didn't make a big announcement about it except to call it the result of quantitative "easing".

 

 

Mar 18, 2013 12:56PM
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It all goes back to Merkel now balking at giving up anymore of the Germans bounty to help these socialist that can't help themselves.  We have had how many warnings and shots across the bow and all for not.  At some point in time these New World Order types with their Central planning and hard fisted control tactics will hopefully fade and go away.  Amazing how unromantic and incredulously dishonest these leaders are about how we should devalue the importance of labor in all of this.  Labor is the engine and without well educated successful labor there is no demand.   So the idea we can drive labor into the ground and yet still have a thriving economy is shear stupidity.  But remember Putin; the king of central planning, has his fingerprints all over this Cyprus thing. He probably has money hidden there himself. I could see him ordering the Blue hats in or if worse case scenario sending Russian troops.  I don't think many folks understand the war of philosophies going on right now.  Central planning verus defacto capitalism about sums it up.  So are you on board to have everything controlled by big government or allow individual initiative lead the world.  The most subtle way i see this world wide battle is along the lines of how the American criminal system was designed.  Our system is designed to allow 99 guilty go free rather than convict one innocent. In this "NEW" economy the assumption is there is a certain percentage of folks who will become stupid lazy and unproductive if given the chance and we must construct a system to do away with them.  My position is yes these folks will always appear but to protect those that will not become lazy, stupid, and fat can and and will do more than make up for the others over the long period. Basic human assumption are at play here. I'm on the side of capitalism.  Where are you?  So it is much more than just a little blip Jim.  It is a struggle for free versus controlled, social versus personal.  In this case it is not just all about the tax.  JMHO
Mar 18, 2013 12:06PM
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And at some point later this week "predict every eventuality" cramer will tell us to buy again !

:)
Mar 18, 2013 1:43PM
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Cyprus is robbing bank account holders on their face. Bernanke is robbing American savers in a more disguised way. Different styles, bunch of thieves ! Call the police !
Mar 18, 2013 12:02PM
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Cramer has clearly never met a Cypriot ..... I suspect one or two may be on their way to de-nut him for calling them "lowly"......


Mar 18, 2013 12:33PM
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MY 6 YEAR OLD GRANDSON SAID," DON'T WORRY, THE EUROPE SCARE COMES UP EVERY SO OFTEN, BUT IT MEANS NOTHING,THE MARKET WILL GO BACK UP" 

 

 

CMON CRAMER..........GET AT LEAST SOMETHING RIGHT

AAPL AT 700

GOLD AT 1900

 

ARE YOU EVER RIGHT?

Mar 18, 2013 11:10AM
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It was only a matter of time; we warned you on friday to watch out, this week would be interesting, well, we started with these manipulators using Cyprus as the reason to start doing their thing early and often....Oh well, they will never change...We see profit taking and things settling down a bit...Folks. Cyprus is a spec, a nothing, an excuse...In a day or two it will be forgotten however, these crooks will use it as much as they can...That's life on Wall Street...More later.
Mar 18, 2013 10:20AM
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They knocked it down on the Bell, just to prove they could...

 

But some of the manipulators, could get caught bagging a loss if they aren't careful...

Cyprus is not an Event, to Correct Markets...But only to take profits...

Mar 18, 2013 2:55PM
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I've said about all, I'm going to Sarge....No need for me to argue, or maybe even display my arrogance or ignorance....??

 

A--TEN--CHUT..........Soldier on Board...Decorated soldier too, no wimp here..

But I retired in '67.

No need to thank me...Thank the families, that gave them their ALL..

Their KIDS names are on the WALLS and Plaques...They are the HEROES, so are the families..

Mar 18, 2013 1:14PM
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IF we had a tax on our savings like Cypress... the reaction is not to complain, riot or protest. It's to close out the accounts and buy as much artibrage assets as you can. Undermine and compromise until they cannot move without significant cost. If you think this is radical, ask your self what organized platform businesses and banks have been doing to you and I for more than a decade.
Mar 18, 2013 9:33AM
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so right out of the gate today i see we're 2 minutes into the morning open, with a -93 drop!  no red banner just yet.....
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