Sure, the market can go down. It should now and then. Certainly, it makes no sense to keep going up and up and up on the same stories.
But we have to use this interregnum, if you can call it that, to go over the bull-market rules, what happens in a bull market that is different from a bear market or a market that has a propensity to go down on any negative news.
Why am I even thinking about this? Because of the tremendous outpouring I got from yesterday's stuff about how I am not afraid, like everyone else I know, to say this is a bull market and the preponderance of people who refuse to acknowledge it are simply tape fighters who just don't get that things have changed and changed for the better. Or, perhaps, they fear the YouTube factor where you say you are a bull and then the next day stocks get hammered and people replay your bullish comments and you seem like an idiot.
Maybe I am simply less worried about looking like an idiot than being concerned that I am keeping people out of the stock market by being too negative or tepid, or cynical, which I regard as the prevailing wisdom.
With that preamble, let's get right into it.
First rule of a bull market: Stocks can go higher than you think and the discipline changes. Instead of being disciplined to want to sell when you have a small gain, which is what you needed before the market became broad and healthier, you need to recognize there is a new discipline: You have to learn to hold on to terrific stocks of terrific companies, perhaps even beyond where you expect them to go even in your wildest dreams.
Case in point: Adobe (ADBE) . If you are a member of the Action Alerts PLUS club, you know that we decided to ring the register on the stock of Adobe because it had advanced 40 points pretty much in a straight line before the company said its growth rate may dip a bit.
It seemed like the prudent and disciplined thing to do because you don't want to turn a gain into a loss, which had been a feature of the market before it started snorting.
Now, though, it's all changed. The discipline flipped. Now you have to be able to stay the course, which is the toughest thing to do, because there is a chance to make much bigger money than you were able to before.
Adobe's stock proceeded to go up 30 points from where my charitable trust sold it as the growth wasn't slowing at all. My discipline was from a previous market. The current discipline, according to bull-market rules, is to learn to hold on, not to give up on great stocks before their full potential is realized.
Second rule: Analysts now matter. For the longest time, when an analyst would raise a price target or slap a buy on a stock, it was a yawner or a head-scratcher. Now it is something that moves the stock. It's been 18 years since analysts were trusted enough to play this role. The rise of Eliot Spitzer as the so-called sheriff of Wall Street, who exposed the Chinese wall as phony, who revealed that analysts often work for the investment bankers to bring in business, so tainted these people that their pushes meant little or nothing.
However, enough time has passed that we have forgotten those prosecutions -- some would say persecutions -- and salesforces at big brokerage houses are now able to use pound-the-table buys to their advantage and get individuals and institutions to buy stocks. A brand new buy recommendation matters. It moves a stock, especially if there is an event or catalyst ahead that could cause the stock to react positively. In a bear or neutral market, these people don't matter. In a bull market, they matter big.
Third, you have to be willing to accept that we will blow through levels in the indices and in individual stocks and accept that a lot of stupid things occur. Close followers of my writings and shows know I used to joke that when I would go see clients, I would say you have to buy $90 stocks. Clients would ask why. I would answer, because stocks that get to $90 go to $100. The clients would look at me like I was nuts. But then they would watch and it would happen. That's just momentum talking, but momentum must be respected. And yes, stocks that go to $100 go to $120.
Fourth, we get anointed stocks and you have to be willing to accept that stocks do reach that status in a bull market. Consider that we are no longer in Kansas anymore, where only FANG goes up. As Carl Quintanilla said this morning, I have to come up with an acronym for all the industrials that are blowing the bears away. I've been toying with a C for Caterpillar (CAT) , an H for Honeywell (HON) , an E for Emerson (EMR) , a U for United Technologies (UTX) and a B for Boeing (BA) and a D for Deere (DE) , but I am not yet in the formative stages.
Fifth, a bull market tends to ignore negative news. You see a tax reform package that has hope of passing yet? Can you believe that we actually want a rate hike? Do you see that China's been slowing of late and no one cares? Remember the $500 billion for infrastructure? None of that matters now.
Sixth, you want to get hung up on valuation, but the bulls are happy not to think about it. The big institutional money managers decide that a certain stock or stocks are good and when they get new money in they buy more of those stocks. Endlessly. They don't say, wait a second, maybe we are paying too much for that. They say, "Hey, we love it, we have anointed it and it doesn't matter how high it goes."
OK, now let's unpack this exercise with some caveats. I don't like a lot of this activity. But it is not yet widespread. I think there's tremendous negativity and resistance to this whole rap stemming from all of the pain we have been through. When you begin to hear these bull-market idiosyncrasies from others, you need to pull in your horns.
Yes, I do believe that while you have to be willing to let things run, bulls make money, bears make money, but pigs get slaughtered, so I am not averse to taking some profits. You know I have flogged this Nvidia (NVDA) to death, but today we told members of the Action Alerts PLUS club that we are taking the stock from One to Two, which means we would not buy it up here. This dog can hunt but, let's face it, the move is too much based on its relation to Bitcoin. I say let it come down before you buy. If the trust owned enough of it, we would probably ring the register on half of the position. (Nvidia is part of TheStreet's Action Alerts PLUS portfolio.)
Finally, not all stocks are good stocks. You have to be willing to use these incredible moves to take out the garbage, get rid of stocks of companies that just aren't doing that well. I don't really care for the food stocks.
I am not enamored of the drug stocks. They don't work in a sustained, synchronized global growth moment like we are having. They get lifted because a rising tide lifts all boats, but Karen Cramer, who used to run the trading desk, reminds me that some boats are garbage scows like the good ship Mobro -- Google it if you don't remember or know it -- and you must, must, must jettison the disappointers and the out-of-synchers when you get a chance.
I don't make the rules. But I remember them. I don't play by all of them, but I respect them. I don't think that it is all that rigorous to buy a stock that's at $90 because it goes to $100. However, this is learned behavior speaking, and one of the few things that is good about being older than most with a decent memory is I remember the '90s, and I know we are not yet that far along in this kind of action, and all you can do is hope for a pullback, which will be short, sharp and scary, to buy those $90 stocks before they get to $100.