Thin Green Line

I have a column coming out later today on sentiment and speculative excesses. Its an area that many investors have a hard time finessing through; There is a tendency to want to "be a contrarian."  But be a usccessful contrarian means more than merely go against the crowd.   

Why? It is the Crowd, after all, who takes markets higher. Hence the expression, "Don’t fight the Tape." That translates as go with crowd.

The value of the contrarian play is to indentify when the
crowd goes postal. Its only when they become over-stimulated, that the line between exuberance and
sheer madness fade away. Indeed, that
"thin green line"
 is all that separates Bull Markets from “irrational
exuberance.” Crossing that same line is how an otherwise normal aggregation of
sporting fans morphs into a full on mob of rampaging soccer hooligans. When the unthinking, instinctual part of the brain takes over – the ancient lizard
brain – speculative excesses often occur.

The trick is in identifying what data to use and what to discard. I have
long counseled against overweighting
anecdotal evidence
versus actual data; It is too easy to simply filter
everything through your own rose or cloud covered glasses.

I ifnd that anecdotal
evidence has a very specific purpose:  when it implies excess speculation, it  should send you out hunting for specific quantitative sentiment data (which we detailed lots of specifics
about here


With those caveats in place, consider these peculiar anecdotal examples of
sentiment run amuck: Prices of Jim Cramer’s Mad Money tchotckes on eBay.

The auction giant eBay has become legendary for all sorts of odd items being bought and sold. Recall the Vintage Stock Market Machine Predictor Computer we found last April.

Now, the trading of these items are not what’s at issue. What raises a red flag now are some of the eye opening prices that these otherwise modest giveaway items are fetching:


Jim Cramer Talking Bobbleheads:

Bidding: over $127 (see here and here)
Prior winning auctions of Talking Bobble Heads went as high as $255 and $212.50.


The Red and Black Bulls and Bears
Bidding: $160  (see here)

02_1jpgThe Winning bid for just the head — the head!– of a bull was $26.00; The narrative is priceless:



Official MAD MONEY Jim Cramer T-shirt

Bidding $46 (see here)


Perhaps its not all irrational exuberance:  Mad Money "Bling"  — in the form of this 14K Gold MAD MONEY Charm Pendant  — has precisely zero bidders.

Perhaps we haven’t reached the level of total madness . . .


Unreal Mad Money Trading After Hours!
Paul Hickey and Justin Walters
Birinyi Associates, January 27, 2006

Completed eBay auctions can be seen here, and current sales are here.

Granville, Cramer and the Second Coming
Doug Kass
Street Insight Contributor, 1/16/2006 8:47 AM EST

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What's been said:

Discussions found on the web:
  1. scorpio commented on Feb 3

    barry, they keep saying that companies are beating 4Q estimates, and completely aside from downbeat guidance for ’06, my question is this: who cares about the # of them beating est when the NAME BRAND, BIG CAP names are the ones who are doing the missing??

  2. Mark commented on Feb 3

    Of course none of those could compete if The Sweater were suddenly to find its way to eBay. Records would topple! :)

  3. B commented on Feb 3

    I like to use anecdotal indicators when the speculative juices are high. ie, p/c, surveys, etc. But, those tend to be dicey if used alone. And, sentiment can get more overbought or more oversold and stay there for a long time. Per your comments, the bulls were out in force all of 2003 and if you used sentiment to bet against them, you were a fool because they danced on the bear’s heads all year long. I think alot of this generally available stuff waxes and wanes as more people use it.

    I use a proprietary indicator similar to Cook’s Cumulative Tick that shows exhuberance is stupidly high. It’s been at this level two times in the last six years. December of 04 and three months before the bubble top when it started cratering. During 2003, it never got oversold even though the NAZ 100 was up 80%ish? ie, The rise was orderly unlike today. We may yet go to new highs of substantial percentages in 06 but I think the odds are remote it will be before a correction of some sorts. Hence my two correction in 06 scenario.

  4. Crab Nebula commented on Feb 3

    I think so many Wall Streeters love Jim Cramer because they are angry megalomaniacal blowhards….the quintessential “guy guy”……just like Jim Cramer. Not unlike many talk radio listeners and hosts, in style if not in politics.

    Much like politicians manage to rope in the naive….”hey, that so-and-so….he’s kind of a regular guy, unlike the other ones…..I’ll vote for him.”

    Neither Jim Cramer nor any major elected official is a “regular guy”.

  5. Barry Ritholtz commented on Feb 3

    I’m finding most Pros hate the show, and most non-pros love it!

  6. trader75 commented on Feb 3

    “I’m finding most Pros hate the show, and most non-pros love it!”

    That’s interesting — why do the Pros hate it I wonder. Perhaps because Cramer has taken what Wall Street does best and distilled it down to its naked farcical essence?

  7. Brian commented on Feb 3

    There’s nothing worse than owning a nice quiet little company and it gets a Cramer pump. Like my CHK last year. The volume triples and the thing falls into the hands of daytraders and hedgies.

    That’s pretty funny trader75. . .

  8. Mark commented on Feb 3

    More disturbing is the way the a stock craters when Cramer mentions it. He recommended RHEO on Jan 17th as a headliner in one of his shows.

    He called it “the greatest medical stock you’ve never heard of”. Today, RHEO is down 70% after surging close to 50% on Jims recommendation.

    Is this show good for the public?

  9. KirkH commented on Feb 3

    I call this trading strategy arrogance arbitrage. Tivo Mad Money. Buy whatever he talks about right before the rerun airs. Plenty of knuckleheads will run to their computers hoping to get in early. You on the other hand will know what the “future” holds.

  10. B commented on Feb 3

    Cramer does NOT move widely traded stocks. He may move thinly traded stocks that the Cramerite retards can bounce but many times smart traders will fade his recommendations as buying pressure dries up soon after that initial bounce.

    The retards are surely out in force. And they all watch Mad Money. Cramer was a fund manager when any and every goof made money. You threw darts and the picks went up 100%. Could he do it now? I’d seriously question if he could.

    That said, he’s never shy about telling you how good he is…………Nothing wrong with a little bit of a healthy ego. But, his is huge and I’m not sure it’s grounded in reality. Nor are his comments about making bazillions of money in his hedge fund. From what I’ve seen, he underperformed the markets when he ran his hedge fund……………. May have made alot of money but if you underperformed the biggest blow off bubble in history, that doesn’t really say much does it?

    And, there was a site that followed his Mad Money recommendations and they were right about 50% of the time. Coin flipping investment methodology. That site is down today and I haven’t been there in months so maybe they were legally forced to shut the site down………That in itself would be telling.

    Anyone who poo-poos the work of quants ain’t too swift in my book anyway. Even his old stomping grounds, Goldman, makes monstrous loads trading using what he says doesn’t work or is voo doo.

  11. cm commented on Feb 3

    In the picture where he is looking up, he looks like Lenin.

  12. j. frampton commented on Feb 3

    You have problems with the contraction “It’s,” which of course compacts “It is.” E.g.: Its only when they become over-stimulated … As you learned in third grade, before you had a clue about stochastics, “Its” is a possessive pronoun, apostrophe free.
    Love your blog,

  13. robert commented on Mar 4

    Jim cramer is an idiot. He made money when everyone made money. He thinks he is smarter. Hes got the hero syndrome going where he is helping the poor guy. (and not getting paid for it i might add!) A total joke. He has recommended to the nines, google, toyota, first solar, petro china that all went for a dump. Then he tells everyone to sell it and it goes for another dump. You can only wonder how someone like that can have a personal life or even a conscience. He should go into acting (over acting)

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