You know what? I'm tired of hearing that the Fed made it all happen. I am sick of the endless rap that the 254% gain since we hit bottom eight years ago today belongs to the Fed's easy money policies. I think on a day like today it is worth spending some time to debunk that canard because it presents the whole edifice as a castle in the sand with the wave of a Fed tightening cycle about to wash it all away.
First, some initial premises. If you bought stock at the bottom or anywhere near the bottom. If you listened to the late Mark Haines speak about how the sellers had at last exhausted themselves at 666 on the S&P 500-we are now at 2362-you could cash out of some of your investments and take them to the bank and deposit cold hard cash in your account.
Now I'll let you in on something startling, amazing even. When you get there the teller will not look at that cashier's check from your mutual fund or broker and say "Sorry, we can't take this. It was all made by the Fed, not you." There is no asterisk on that money either, no scarlet letter that says "Sorry we can't take this, you will have to produce other money to buy your groceries or you clothes." Yep, you earned it by going where others feared to tread and I say congratulations.
Second, if you believe that it is all about the Fed and not about the companies in which you bought stock, then you should be scared out of your wits to hold on to those stocks given that we are probably going to get a very strong Labor Department report tomorrow and it is going to show that the Federal Reserve better start tightening and tightening fast.
We got these low rates in order to entice our country to have more commerce. We have it now, so let's move on to something more befitting a growing economy. I agree with CNBC guest David Tepper that it wouldn't be so bad for the Fed to say "Hey, we did it, we pulled it off, we are back" or words of that nature. At least that could keep some of the people who really believe in the claptrap that all of the gains were caused by ultra low interest rates from kicking out their stocks.
But perhaps the best thing we can do is to show you what led the market so you know how some of these fabulous gains were made. I defy you to put any of these at the feet of the Fed.
Let's start with the number one gainer in the S&P 500, Incyte (INCY) , which is up a staggering 6,543%. Incyte's one of the great biopharma companies of our time, a pioneering immunotherapy drug maker that's profitable with a tremendous pipeline. Did Ben Bernanke tinker in their Wilmington, Del. lab in his spare time? Now I have to admit we should asterisk this company because it just joined the S&P 500 at the end of last month. No matter, it's a $25 billion dollar company that I think remains a terrific takeout -- I have said this forever -- for a company that needs a better cancer franchise than it has. AstraZeneca (AZN) or even the now challenged Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY) would do well to pay the going rate of $136 plus about $50.
Second is frequent "Mad Money" guest United Rentals (URI) , with a stock that's up 4,002%. Did Janet Yellen come up with the bright idea to roll up a bunch of heavy equipment rental companies because it's cheaper to borrow a Caterpillar (CAT) tractor than it is to own one with all of its downtime and insurance costs? Call me parochial, but I think CEO Mike Kneeland should get the credit for this brilliant' company's M.O.
Our first guest almost 12 years ago on "Mad Money" was Len Schleifer, the CEO of Regeneron (REGN) with a stock that's gone up 2,975% since the market's bottom. I love the idea of low interest rates. In fact it's created a whole class of good acting stocks called bond market equivalents, like the consumer packaged goods, and real estate investment trusts and utilities. But Len's Regeneron isn't one of them. No, Len's company created a drug, Eylea, that you have to inject into your eye once a month to treat age related macular degeneration of the eye. Sounds horrible, right? Well, it replaced the existing treatment where your eye had to be injected once a week. Twelve injections in the eye versus 52? Maybe that was monetary policy? Or maybe it was ingenuity? I am going with the latter.
Next up? Alaska Airlines (ALK) with a 2,631% gain. Nothing like a niche airline that knows its business and its market better than anyone. We have anointed Alaska as the best regional and I think its acquisition of Virgin will make it the ultimate West Coast powerhouse. Did the Fed dole out those federal gates in San Francisco's airport that have given Alaska such a leg up over the years? We know from the critics of low rates that the Fed is all knowing and all seeing and all manipulative, but I don't think they pull the airport strings.
We've had Steve Holmes on a bunch of times and when I saw Wyndham (WYN) on the list as number five -- up 2,561% -- I felt proud that we had him on the show early in that run, just as we had Len from Regeneron. Steve's got that fabulous asset-lite hotel motel where he franchises and manages what turns out to be a pretty scarce product: rooms to stay in. There were 178 million shares of Wyndham at the bottom of the market, now there are 108 million. That's putting your money where your mouth is and then some.
Six? I bet the Fed at one of those off-the-record meetings near the bottom, one of those where the minutes are out but not the transcripts, said that it would be fantastic to have an internet product where you could binge watch TV when you are not reading boring beige books and really sink your teeth into some excellent programming. Or are you under the illusion that Reed Hastings actually thought of Netflix (NFLX) himself? How dare you not credit the Fed with most of the 2,451% gain that the creator of "House of Cards," "Orange is the New Black, Narcos," "Luke Cage" and new Cramer fave "Black Mirror" came up with? Or do you think that Fed Vice Chair Stanley Fischer has a fantastic dramatic flair on the side?
Coming out of bankruptcy and into clover is something we aren't used to from airlines, but number seven on the list of gainers, American Airlines (AAL) has pulled it off. Here I will give credit to the government for some of the 2,133% gain because the feds did allow all of the airlines to merge into one fabulous slaphappy oligopoly -- fabulous that is, unless you are a traveler!
Priceline's (PCLN) not going to get its due as a company because it's largely used by foreign travelers and because it seemed like a goofy idea from the start. You can't name your price for a room or a seat on a plane can you? Of course you can, which is why number eight on the list is up 2,125% and I think goes much higher.
Number nine? CBS (CBS) ? Les Moonves has done a terrific job here with programming of all sorts and with cash management and that's combined to give his shareholders a 2,101% gain. I bet a lot of Fed members watch CBS programming and Ben Bernanke did go on "60 Minutes" eight years ago this month to say that he was drawing a line in the sand and there would be no more bank failures of any large size in this country, which actually did precipitate the real bottom. But, try as the "all Fed all of the time" people might think, I don't think Ben using "60 Minutes" counts as a Fed derived gain. Actually you could argue it's the opposite!
Finally, number 10, is a Fed winner, Fifth Third Bancorp (FITB) , with a 1,861% gain. I'm not kidding. I don't know if FITB would have made it if the Fed didn't put its foot down and say enough is enough. So let's spot them Fifth Third and call it good old free market American ingenuity nine, Fed one. And let's leave it at that.
So go ahead, say goodbye to the bull as so many are doing, given the fact that the Fed tightening cycle is about to begin in earnest. I say hold on, nine out of 10 success stories since the bottom really didn't need the Fed. I bet the same can be said for the next generation's winners eight years from now.