The gloom remains thick as I step away for a couple of days to do some first-class gardening and cleaning. I am reminded that Thursday brings a difficult 4-billion-euro auction of Italy's ten-year notes, and the numbers out of Spain remain hellish. China's nowhere to be heard from and we know that the emerging markets are pathetic.
But can we just stop for a moment and remember where we were last year? At this time a year ago, the S&P 500 was at 1212 on the way to 1154, and then 1154 on its way to 1099 at the beginning of October -- a 19% correction from peak to trough that defined the year. We had no plan for our own pathetic self-inflicted problems -- we were worried about Social Security checks not going out and we had a European Central Bank that had just finished some important TIGHTENINGS. Sure, Brazil and China were okay but they were beginning to decelerate, too. We had hawks on our own Fed, including St. Louis Fed President James Bullard, worried about inflation and overheating. (And we take him seriously!)
We had a tremendous period of uncertainty with no plan for it, which is the worst possible combination. Now we have a Fed that's vigilant and ready to stand by even as we get some half-decent retail and regional Fed reports. We have Europe putting in plans to save the countries that would otherwise be left to go under. China? Hard call. The problem with China is it has no place to export to now that Europe is so weak.
And, most important, we have the beginning of a housing boomlet that might lead to a re-liquification of bank balance sheets.
All in all, we are in a heck of a better place.
Now you could argue that the S&P 500 at 1400 or so fully reflects the good. I think it reflects some of it, but we have so many stocks that are still so far down that I think it is reasonable to speculate that we can go higher without stretching the boundaries of multiples-to-earnings.
Plus, if we are doing this well when things are still horrible overseas and China hasn't offered any serious cuts, who knows where we can go.
My perspective comes from being away for a couple of days and recalling how I lived through this period last year, and I was so concerned that the crisis is, again, upon us.
It can be revisited, but it is harder to have a crisis when you have a fire department and the fire department is ready to help, not standing by or throwing gasoline on the buildings as they were in Europe last year at this time.
So not all things are good. But things are always best at the top, and I don't see us there yet -- as easy as it is to conjure a frightening September. If you don't agree with the calendar, you could look like a fool. But if you do agree with "sell now" and "September is good," there will be no harm, no foul.
The bears have a great risk-reward when it comes to the media, but a bad risk-reward if everything works out to the positive.
Random Musings: I see everyone trying to rally around Nokia (NOK) post-verdict. I am sure it can go up a bit but I prefer Sprint (S). Over at Action Alerts Plus, where we never take a holiday, I think Bristol-Myers (BMY) has truly bottomed after shedding much more than it spent on the aborted Hep C drug.
DISCLOSURE: Action Alerts PLUS, which Cramer co-manages as a charitable trust, is long BMY.