There were plenty of people who believed, right up to the instant
those airplanes crashed into the towers, that the economy was on
the verge of turning. Hedge-fund friends of mine were taking the
stocks of cell-phone-makers and networkers, two of the hardest-hit
groups of 2001, the moment before impact, having just been pleasantly
surprised by the first good news out of Nokia in a year. But now,
a 50-basis-point cut on Federal Funds, something that would have
sent the markets soaring 500 points in normal times, simply breaks
the market's thousand-point fall into three awful days instead of
one vicious session.
So the stocks fit the mood of downtown. They are barren and sad
and profitless and painful. They fit perfectly into the new smoldering,
traffic-less landscape. They are so not where the action
When will things return to normal? That's what everyone keeps asking.
And if someone can't come up with a good answer soon -- some reason
to hope -- then this new world will become the norm. We on Wall
Street love analogies. They are our friendly, historical guides.
They tell us how the movie ended last time we saw this plot. No
one, however, can think of an analogy that fits. No one can figure
out how things play out positively. Cuban Missile Crisis? Nope,
nobody got killed. Gulf War? Once the battle began, you knew it
was over. For the first time, we have no analogies. For now, we
would be satisfied with a return to the bustle, to that glorious
din that existed two weeks ago. Maybe then we could find our footing.
Right now it's just too darned quiet for me to think.
Maybe, though, just maybe, I am too close to this story. All my
indicators tell me that you have to buy, not sell -- too many bears,
too many people capitulating, too many funds redeeming, too many
people heading one way -- and my wife, the Trading Goddess, didn't
put the discipline trumps conviction Post-It on my Bloomberg machine
for nothing. So I am going against my own gloom and putting money
to work in some solid blue chips -- Chevron, General Electric, United
Technologies, Bank of America -- even if they currently seem to
be saying that we will never return to any sort of normalcy.
And I am leaving this ghost town early, back to Jersey to lead
a practice of 10-year-old girls, the Summit Charge, before our big
first game, against South Mountain at Memorial Field. I need a dose
of laughter, of spirit, and of, well, September 10. I'll get it
there long before I get it down here again.