Here's that bad setup playing out in a way that can take your breath away, can't it? What's got this market down and what can be done about it?
First, we had one of the foremost investors of our time basically yell "Fire!" in a crowded theater today. I am talking about Carl Icahn, who came on my friend Scott Wapner's Halftime show and basically lowered the boom on equities.
I was in the dentist's chair getting drilled not once but twice, the first by the dentist, the second by Icahn, as you could see the pillars of the market tumble down in front of you as he spoke to Scott. I was waiting for my dentist to ask me "Is it safe?" to which I would have said, "No, not at least according to Carl Icahn," that is, if I wasn't experiencing a Marathon Man-like moment and could barely mumble "aargh" without some clove to calm me.
Icahn's brief against the market was a bit difficult to understand if only because it was so wide-ranging. The occasion for his talk was actually a celebratory one -- a victory lap for the multibillion-dollar windfall he had with his purchase of the stock of Netflix (NFLX), a trade, by the way, he shared with the world. Can't blame him for not cutting you in.
So, when he tweeted that he took the remaining stock off the table after Netflix jumped 20 points early on in the session on the news of a 7-for-1 split, you can bet he had accumulated a massive amount of Street cred.
That said, I thought his beef was more with the lack of worth of the high-yield market than with equities, especially given that he still owns a ton of stocks, including a massive position in Apple (AAPL), which he endorsed mightily as still in the early innings of its astounding move.
Icahn indicated that he's hedged on his stock positions. But he hasn't sold any Apple and wants to buy more on any dip.
So it wasn't like Icahn was saying it's time to get short. I heard him say he had more of a desire to ring the register on some stocks like Netflix because we have had some terrific moves. Yet there's still some value in the biggest stock in the world, Apple, so it doesn't look like the end is nigh for everything. Apple's stock got help not just from Icahn but from a callout of Piper Jaffrey, the ax in the stock, so to speak, based on a channel check that showed good cellphone sales, the key metric.
Second negative? Greece again. I hated that false confidence about a deal we got yesterday, really hated it. This is the kind of torture that doesn't end until after the 11th hour -- call it the 13th hour -- when it turns out that Greece has enough money to make some payments to someone, so there's no drop-dead date after all.
I was having my granola after a near-sleepless night and saw the announcement that Europe wasn't happy with the Greece concessions, and I felt sick to my stomach because you knew it was going to be a bad day from the get-go, and the S&P futures complied with an immediate nosedive.
You simply cannot have this darned thing hanging over us and believe we are going to get a big, fat, non-Greek rally, which is one of the reason I didn't want any Fed governors talking about one or two rate hikes until the fat lady sings and Zorba the Greek dances.
This whole saga is now starting to read like a real bad Euripides play, pure misery that dovetails perfectly with the tale of dreary prospects by Carl Icahn just when the Nasdaq -- the hated Nasdaq -- was breaking out. Timely.
Leadership's been a precious thing during this most recent rally and the leaders have been the banks, notably the big international financiers, like Goldman Sachs (GS) and Citigroup (C). So it sure didn't help that Deutsche Bank (DB) pulled the plug on these two, going buy to hold with alacrity.
Deutsche Bank, no standout itself, didn't clobber JPMorgan (JPM), but still, Goldman's a huge and visible Dow stock that has been a beacon of late and we thought Citigroup, after vying with Moses for wilderness time, had at last found Canaan. The Deutsche Bank rebuff reminded you that the milk can sour and there ain't no honey, just to keep the 1960s Broadway metaphors going.
You want killjoys? How about Citigroup taking the wood to the cybersecurity stocks today? We've said you are going to get a pullback, but we didn't expect Citigroup to comply with the request and the firm really seemed to be down there giving Fortinet (FTNT) and FireEye (FEYE) the business. Sellers beware: When the next hack comes along, you might ask yourself, "Why did I sell them?" You won't remember. (Fortinet is part of TheStreet's Growth Seekers portfolio.)
Nevertheless, when you have parabolic moves you are going to get an analyst to say "enough is enough," just like you had one pull the plug on GoPro (GPRO) and drone chip supplier Ambarella (AMBA) the other day. It comes with the super-high-growth territory.
And, of course, the transports have to crash the misery party. FedEx (FDX) is still reeling from that not-so-hot quarter even as so much of the damage came from the super-freaking-strong dollar. Union Pacific (UNP) and United Parcel (UPS) looked like they were basing at par, genuine Wall Street gibberish for $100. The bears, though, have been working on the railroads all the live long day, and UPS can't put any distance between itself and its competitor. It falls through the $100 floor and everyone feels insecure about this key group, which has again become the downside leader. (Union Pacific is part of TheStreet's Trifecta Stocks portfolio.)
So, you crush the bank and the cybersecurity plays, sending down the biggest sectors, finance and tech, you get run over by a freight train and a big brown truck on a day when Greece is back messing up the storylines and you aren't going to go picking among the red-hot rubble until it cools. Especially not when investing icon Carl Icahn makes it pretty darned clear that he doesn't care for the tape.
So what do we do? Frankly, everything I heard about the overheated market, to use Icahn's terminology, is, well, sensible. As I have said for many days now, I do not like the setup. You've got Greece not "done," so to speak -- told you not to get too comfortable any time they bear gifts. You have the Nasdaq needing to simmer down. You've got the Fed itching to hike the moment that Greece is "solved," whenever that is.
To me, that says nothing's urgent here. As we told readers of Action Alerts PLUS, the companion to my charitable trust that tells you what we will do with the trust money ahead of when any trigger is pulled, we are happy to buy stocks that are down already, namely the oils with good yields. There's value there that even an Icahn could love.
Now you have to like the tenor of anything housing after the magnificent Lennar (LEN) seconded KB Home's (KBH) motion that the first-time homebuyer is back. There's another company with a strong-enough quarter to withstand the Guns of Navarone, a terrific war flick about a fictitious Greek island, which is fitting given the fictitious taxes and the fictitious pension cuts the Greeks seem to be clinging to.
But housing's too narrow, so the market enjoys a buying respite, one that's, of course, not enjoyable if you own stocks. However, this kind of action is precisely what has to happen if we lack enough good news to serve as a safety net.
So you let it happen. You wait to see if this is the pullback that jibes with the "wait for a pullback" talk. And you take it all in until the fear trumps the greed and the weak hands are played out and fold.