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Cramer: It's a Worldwide Crash

By Jim Cramer

10/06/08 - 11:49 AM EDT
This post appeared earlier today on RealMoney.  

Here it is, the dawning of the selloff that will finally put us at levels where ... we will sell off again.

For two years the credit markets have been submerged under central bank happy talk and a sense that the worries were about inflation. You can see why in the outlines of the institutions that are failing now.

The problem is the Europeans got stuck fighting the inflationary war that ended in July. Rates are ridiculously high in Europe vs. the crunching of debt that is happening and will continue to happen.

In our country, the "Fundamentals are Sound" group at Treasury, and the "Whip Inflation Now" group at the Federal Reserve couldn't switch fast enough either.

But boy, are they great at public relations. There has been remarkable awe at how well Treasury, the Fed and the FDIC are handling the crisis.

It seems very misplaced. Some of it is pure economic ignorance. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke studied the Depression, or so they say, and knew more about how to stop it than anyone. Actually, he knew less than anyone, and he and his merry band of governors and presidents presided over the deflationary destruction of Western finance with a bias toward -- are you ready? --inflation. Yes, that's still their bias. We were able to jump-start the economy in 2003 with rates as low as 1%. But our rates are twice that now even though we are in a deflationary spiral, not an inflationary one. We should be printing money left and right here but Bernanke is Hoover and we all know it now.

There's another sainted figure, who I guess must call the media all the time to burnish his image. That's Tim Geithner, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York president, who is supposed to be the eyes and ears of the Fed. We learn from The New York Times Monday that Geithner was the genius behind the "not too big to fail" decision to keep Lehman out of the Federal Reserve system. That was brilliant. We had rescued Bear, but not twice-its-size Lehman, perhaps because the watchdog/press hound Geithner didn't understand the complexity of Lehman's book, or because it was time to mete out punishment to the worst banker on earth, Dick Fuld.

And I thought the guy had a handle on it. I was fooled, but unlike Geithner, I would have had to call Fuld a liar, and you can't do that without subpoena power and a bunch of sources who would betray him. I knew only the people who surrounded him, and they told me everything was fantastic, just a little slow.

Of course, we know the truth now. The Fed has been put out to pasture, a victim of being theoretical, not practical, an organization that simply didn't take seriously those of us who warned them in person and on TV. What did they think, we made it up for ratings? Is that what they thought? You think I, a reputed bull, want to go on TV and scream that they knew nothing? I would rather recommend Colgate(CL Quote - Cramer on CL - Stock Picks), but given the crisis it sure seemed worth waking them up.

Even as late as the summer, the Fed thought for sure the price of iron and copper meant more than the implosion of housing-based finance.

Now along comes Sheila Bair and Hank Paulson, who alternately want us to believe that everything is sound (with public pronouncements that the worry is misplaced) and that there is a list of obscure banks that might have to be taken over.

Then Paulson comes to the Capitol and says the truth, that the Western world of finance is going to break, and Bair seizes Washington Mutual and tries to seize Wachovia(WB Quote - Cramer on WB - Stock Picks), no doubt to save Citigroup(C Quote - Cramer on C - Stock Picks), which could have risen, done an equity offering and joined Bank of America(BAC Quote - Cramer on BAC - Stock Picks), JPMorgan(JPM Quote - Cramer on JPM - Stock Picks) and Wells Fargo(WFC Quote - Cramer on WFC - Stock Picks) as the new titans of finance.

Of course, either the FDIC doesn't know the tax law changed to make it so if Wells bought WB it wouldn't have to pay taxes on ordinary income for years, or was oblivious to the imminent passage of TARP.

This, plus the disintegration of Lehman, which then left Morgan Stanley (MS Quote - Cramer on MS - Stock Picks) and Goldman Sachs (GS Quote - Cramer on GS - Stock Picks) in the hands of the shorts, was too much for everyone, and now no one lends to banks and it makes no sense to them, and no one wants commercial paper because it makes no sense to them.

Which is where we are this morning, in a worldwide crash that will leave us with gigantic institutions that we have never heard of, with balance sheets that are ridiculously large that must fall, and a hedge fund community that has lost control of its asset base.

And in this moment we are supposed to be buyers?

I say let it fall without me. I say keep selling industrials unless they yield more than 4%.

I say it is no longer in the hands of the central banks. It is in the hands of rational people making rational decisions to get out before more institutions fail, more hedge funds liquidate, and still lower prices are upon us.

At the time of publication, Cramer was long JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs.

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