Thursday, October 11, 2007

Cramer's hype and two lessons on 10/11

I am not a fan of Jim Cramer's mad money show. I have to credit him for being a great investor during his hedge fund days, but he has been reduced to a cheerleader on his television show.

Take, for example, what he said on his show just yesterday. Here is a direct excerpt from the writeup about the October 10th show:

"At this point you have a duty to yourself and a duty to your wealth," Cramer said, "never to take financial advice from anyone who doesn't recommend Google." Analysts that knock Google can only be so wrong about a stock for so long before admitting they're wrong, he said, and it's time for investors to stop paying attention to the bears.

Cramer said his price target for Google has always been lower than where he actually thinks it's going to go.

Cramer then raised his price target to $750. "This is a total and unequivocal lowball estimate," Cramer said.

This estimate might seem overly exuberant, but Cramer believes it's based on genuine arithmetic. If Google earns $20 a share next year and continues its trend of 30% growth, it should hit $750. He then said that a nonconservative but rational price estimate would be $900.

It's truly irresponsible and unprofessional for a man of Cramer's reputation to pump up a stock like that. Calling analysts that do not recommend Google sissies or idiots is disrespectful and uncalled for.

Let's see how well Cramer's "four horsemen" did today:

Google, -.5%
Research in Motion, -8%
Apple, -3% -6%.

Those numbers don't necessarily show how bad a Cramer-follower could have done; all but Amazon rebounded from intraday lows. At one point:

Google traded at prices as low as $609, after an intraday high of over $640. An ameture trader could have really gotten burnt.
Research in motion spent much of the last two hours of the day down over 10%.
Apple also fell almost 10% before recovering some ground.

It's also worth mentioning that, another stock Cramer pumps, lost over 10% of its value today.

My point is that Cramer's constant pumping reminiscent of the market sentiment in 1999 will only hurt his beloved viewers. As his four horsement hit daily highs, Cramer hit "Buy, Buy, Buy." If these stocks correct to appropriate levels, average, ignorant investors that fell victim to Cramer's antics will be left holding the bag.

So my two lessons:

Don't by into hype; do your own independent research. Are Google and Apple good companies? In my opinion, yes. Are they good investment ideas right now? Maybe not.

Don't be as yellow-bellied as I am; have a little courage.

I bought an Apple October 160 put contract for $1.60 on Octover 9th, looking for a pullback that I believe is due. I sold them early today for no gain, because I was worried about a continued rally.

The options closed at $3.60 today, after a few trades above $6. If i had followed my CORRECT investment instincts, I would have made out handsomely while the market got punished. However, I bought into the hype myself and it cost me a couple hundred dollars.

And, because I love being kicked while I'm down, I decided to personally add some insult to my injury.

After I sold the Apple puts, I bought Google's October 560 Puts for $.90. I sold them for a modest gain after the stock dipped for $1.20.

Once again, I should have followed my instincts; the options closed at $2.25 today after trading above $3. I would have realized returns of hundreds of percent today if I would have just believed in my ideas.

So enough rambling. My point is, I made to very, very stupid trades, influenced by the sentiment that I was trying to play against - the overhyped, artifically-inflated hysteria that had been sweeping the market.

Just to clarify, Those two trades represented less than 2% of the money that I manage; my equities were actually up today. So, I didn't lose money, but stupid, sheepish trading prevented me from making a couple hundred dollars today.

My message to you is this: be braver than I am. Do your own research, and when you come to factual conclusions and believe in your idea, stick with it.

Don't be influenced by Cramer, any talking head on TV, or even myself. I encourage independent, smart investing.

I'll admit my mistakes, and chock this one up to a powerful, yet unfortunate, learning experience.

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