Washington pulls the rug out from under us

With the recovery possibly stalled, here are 3 indicators that would signal the selling is over.

By Jim Cramer Nov 15, 2012 9:54AM

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CorbisIt's indisputable that we were about to take off in this domestic economy after a slow recovery from the recession.


The twin trends of a return to a slow climb in the value of housing as well as the renaissance of industry courtesy of cheap natural gas were enough to get things rolling. The lack of new construction, the age of the average car -- 11 years -- the need to be able to get out of your in-laws' house and buy housing of your own, something that had actually been put on hold, all of these had created what looked to be a sustainable recovery, despite the problems in Europe that were clearly worsening.


You don't get fantastic numbers for companies as varied as PetSmart (PETM), Cisco (CISCO), Home Depot (HD), Kors (KORS), TJX (TJX), as well as Boeing (BA), Ford (F) (domestic), Dow Chemical (DOW) (domestic) and pretty much every consumer packaged goods, aerospace, telecom and health play if things aren't improving. Yes, we can complain about the earnings, but the retail, restaurant, housing and auto industries were all doing incredibly well as recently as October and the question was going to be, I believe, how much longer can the Federal Reserve stay accommodative in 2013 if these trends pick up. It's really only the companies that have moved aggressively into Europe and those that depend on Asia for marginal growth that have been really hurting. And we have had enough hopeful signs in China for me to believe that 2013 could be a good year for the companies depending on the Peoples Republic of China for its recovery.


All of these trends meant that the most important statistic, the one that is most correlative to the stock market -- employment -- was going to turn up in 2013. That was going to be the elixir that made it worthwhile to be bold and buy aggressively.


Suddenly, all of that is out the window. Suddenly, none of it matters. Once again, Washington has pulled the rug right from underneath us and every one of those positives is now either being overlooked or simply doesn't matter because it is about to change for the worse.


That's what we saw Wednesday with that awful press conference where the president made it pretty clear that there is no hope for anything to happen quickly to resolve what 2013 is going to look like and we are going to see sharp increases in taxes and sharp declines in spending that can trump all of the good news we have been seeing. There's simply no need to hire and plenty of reason to fire until we get there and the smartest executives are going to be like Dave Cote from Honeywell (HON) and not hire to respond to the regular retirement quota that occurs naturally at big American companies.

That means stage one is now upon us: the recovery will be broken by this logjam. That's what it does. I don't even know if you can refute that.


Stage one is hitting with brutal force and it is dragging the averages down quickly. Keep in mind that the Dow Jones is now only up about a couple of percent, less than many European stock markets, including France, and is up only about 1/6 as much as Germany. In stage one everything is guilty until proven innocent, including the companies that are just now reporting blowouts.


Stage two? That's when we try to figure if the selling is done or if it is overdone. The first means you have to pick, the second means you have to buy. The swiftness in which this is all happening, accelerated by hedge funds that remember how they lost their year last year very quickly by not acting, will make it so the selling runs its course before we run over the cliff.


But how do you monitor it to be sure?


Let me give you three ways that are going to put it in a workable context for you.


The first is the Washington-on-TV indicator. This is a simple, easily monitored and perhaps the most important of all indicators. That's when the president or any of the leadership from the Republicans or any of their important minions utters anything about the fiscal cliff.


Right now we know that we aren't on track for a resolution. Time, distractions (Petraues), rancor, they are all against a deal. There is no move to rise above yet.


That means every time someone comes on television you can expect the market to go down. Don't trust any initial bursts of optimism before or after a soundbite unless it is from both parties at once standing at a podium saying "we have a deal." Use Wednesday as a template. When you see or hear about a presidential event, be ready.


We will know when we are close to a deal or when we are done going down because the fiscal cliff is now "in" or fully discounted in the market. That's when we don't go down within the hour after a speech. That's it. That's what's been my indicator in all of Washington's impact on the market over a 30-year period. If we stop going down on talk, then we are at a bottom.


Second, we have the purest of pure plays out there in Lockheed-Martin (LMT). It is a total canary in a coal mine. It's a good company, despite the recent management upheaval, with an outsized 5% yield that will be worth much less after taxes after December.


It got hammered Wednesday, as it should. It will be right in the cross hairs of the government's crosshairs and the fact that it is up 8% for the year is totally absurd if we are going to go off the cliff. This one should be front and center at the upper left on your screen. It might as well be the thermometer for the market and it is a perfect one.


The third? Let's call it the Cisco, Home Depot and PetSmart indicator. These are the three biggest upside surprises since the election and they correctly capture discretionary retail, housing and technology spend. If these stocks cannot hold their gains, no stocks can right now except higher-yielding stocks that are regarded as recession proof, like Coca-Cola(KO), Kellogg (K), General Mills (GIS), Verizon (VZ) and AT&T (T).

Of course we have to monitor employment. We need to look at aggregate retail sales, transports -- they were hideous Wednesday -- and any of the broader commodities like copper and oil to monitor how deep the slowdown will be or if it just rolls right into recession, which is what the stock market's telling us is going to happen. No, that's not too dire.


But those three indicators will tell us if the bad news is in or not and will allow us to begin to speculate that the stock market itself has Washington worried and is therefore somewhat self-correcting.


Of course, there is an orderly path to make it so the slowdown doesn't occur and the cuts aren't all that harmful and the increases not all that hideous. That's why we were not tanking before the election. There was so much momentum going Romney's way in the market that the cliff's harms could be ignored.


No more momentum. No more Romney. No more ignoring.


So watch those indicators. Recognize that the good news is ephemeral and the bad news transcendent. Make some sales of economically-sensitive companies of all stripes that don't have higher-yielding protection and watch those signs.


They will get you through this and, yes, we will get through this, even as we have to admit that the odds for going over the cliff have now increased greatly because the sniping's just begun.



JimCramer's face


Jim Cramer is a co-founder of TheStreet and contributes daily market commentary to the financial news network's sites. Follow his trades for Action Alerts PLUS, which Cramer co-manages as a charitable trust and is long BA and KO.



More from TheStreet.com

Nov 15, 2012 3:54PM
I had a bad feeling about this whole thing.  Now it's reallity! 
Nov 15, 2012 3:54PM

The highest numbers of new filings (jobless claims) came from Pennsylvania and Ohio, where there were thousands of layoffs in the construction, manufacturing, and automobile industries. 


I am laughing so hard I have to stop to wipe the tears from my eyes.  So hilarious, so much for voting for Obama.

Nov 15, 2012 3:53PM

The market hates uncertainty.  That is the reason for the recent drop.  When the cliff is solved it will go back up.  It will be solved, the 1% have more to lose then anyone else and their puppets in office will do their bidding. 

The economy on the other hand is stagnant and will continue to be for some time to come.  The feds actions have not helped and won't help.  Rates have been pathetically low for years, more bond buying will what drive it down maybe 0.1 % more, who is this really helping?  Why would a bank lend at that rate, there is no return on risk.  Seems like just another way to syphon money out of the country and into overseas accounts. 

 Also does it make sense that one arm of the government owns bonds or debt from another part of the government?  We all just accept this as real?  Oh it's ok the FED owns that bond.  If I issued my own bonds then changed my name and bought those bonds, what would they be worth to the public?

Nov 15, 2012 3:53PM

Ask yourselves.  What has obama done for rhe  American good?

Nov 15, 2012 3:50PM

I have sat back today and read the posts from both sides. I don't understand the liberal side? I see people defend the prez over and over on here, Why? He's a man and he needs no one to defend him. In fact its not Obama that your defending, its his agenda. He is merely a key to unlock what you all most desire. I work with 1 person who will state that obama's policy's are what this country needs. This person is brave to take such a stand in fornt of me. His feeling are strong, he feels that to many people have too much. I asked him of the family which owns the company we both work for? "Yes" was the answer, The same family which 50 years ago this year started a company out of a garage. Worked 6 years before making a profit. A family which now operates 4 production facilities in 3 states and employs over 300 people? "Yes" he said again. "They have more money than they could ever spend, Its wasted. It should be put to good use helping the poor and less fortunate". I asked him how much of a socialist are you? he thought a second and said "I don't consider myself a Socialist". So we come full circle back to the agenda, which is merely a wolf in sheeps clothes.

Nov 15, 2012 3:49PM
I have better idea, why doesn't Obama increase the taxes for just the voters who put him back in office.  After all, they are the ones that wanted the same but with a higher price tag.
Nov 15, 2012 3:49PM

The highest numbers of new filings came from Pennsylvania and Ohio, where there were thousands of layoffs in the construction, manufacturing, and automobile industries. 


I am laughing so hard I have to stop to wipe the tears from my eyes.  So hilarious so much for voting for Obama.

Nov 15, 2012 3:46PM
I agree with "liberals have no clue".  The people who pay no taxes voted to increase taxes on those who do pay taxes.  They have no clue that the taxes paid and collected by our government are spent in great part by the handling and redistribution of them.  Also much of it is just thrown away on silly stuff like putting shrimp on a treadmill.  I can't remember what that was supposed to prove.  The tax money would be put to better use if the companies kept it and hired people.  Socialism has never worked anywhere.  Why are we trying it?
Nov 15, 2012 3:45PM
Nov 15, 2012 3:33PM
Jim, Have you seen Europe ? Its on fire !!! literally !! We are next so lay off the pipe !! Crack Kills !!
If Cramer knew what he was doing when it comes to the economy and business and how to make money, he would not be writing this senseless column and his name would be Romney.

"It's indisputable that we were about to take off in this domestic economy after a slow recovery from the recession."


What planet is Cramer on????

Nov 15, 2012 3:28PM
The stock market is a clear indication what they sense of obama!  It has been down greatly  since his re-election!  Not much hope for America!  We will all pay!!!!!! 
It's more indicative of the lack of confidence in the Republican party coming to their senses and working for the American people.......
The House Republicans could immediately pass a tax cut for All Americans on the First 250,000 of income.....That would send confidence to consumers, business and the markets...IF THE GOP REALLY CARED ABOUT THE ECONOMY THEY WOULD PASS THIS BILL IMMEDIATELY........We know from the last 4 years the GOP puts party over Country.......In two more years, the GOP will not get that chance again,  the GOP will be POWERLESS.........
Nov 15, 2012 3:16PM
Bernanke commits more resources to what many see as a make believe housing recovery.  Pressure to lower wages by allowing illegal immigration to run rampant is key to keeping wages low and lowering.  Allowing unregulated products to enter our markets from countries with cheap labor exacerbates our unemployment problem and thusly lowers the American lifestyle.  Money printing and 3% interest rates hold consumer interest rates historically lower than market and contributes to long term inflation as well as a disincentive to save and destroys long range planning and investing. Free trade is a great short benefit for large international corporations but in the long term kills small and intermediate businesses jobs development and further stresses the wage increases needed to support any type of  housing recovery.  We have many experts standing in their own shadows with their individual ideas about what is needed.   They all seem to think their "plan" is what we all need and with any political backing becomes the accepted. . We need a long term overseer who can incorporate all economic aspects to form a cohesive policy benefitting all Americans.  Politics unfortunately will make this an entirely foolish excercise.  So i don't believe that I am "imagining" problems that any 1st year economics student shouldn't easily recognize. The conclusion I make is we can't have growth without controls on immigration, trade, and reasonable interest rates to encourage saving and investment.  Thusly the headwinds we all are feeling are easily identified.  It is the political commitment to a fair solution that is lacking.   So where am I wrong?
Nov 15, 2012 3:14PM

here's a clear signal......the EXPERTS stop the bs and report reality.......


Santa will be sending a few dollars less than your usual millions in bonus no matter how rosy a picture u paint or your bs reasons....

Nov 15, 2012 3:12PM
Here's to 4 full years of full court lock down defense by the Republicans ................ LOL!
Nov 15, 2012 3:11PM


We are awaiting impatiently the coming Fiscal Cliff confrontation with the President versus the House of Representatives. It’s imperative the rich pay a little more money to improve our economy, and to pay our Fiscal Debt. Fiscal changes our citizens want now to make America a better place to live, to pay our Nation Bills to correct the deficit! And then, of course! Mr.Obama, may needs to get ready to clip for last time, Mr.Boehner wings. We think, one way or another, Mr.Bohener, Ryan, Cantor will return to the old times tricks of bartering one goods for another, like many times before, but we aren’t going to be the losers this time, all that past abuse was very, very humiliating to our citizens, you, and all your followers Tea Party and Republican Members in the House, so much poor of conscience, and careless for the future of our country. You, and the full House members have obstructed the President too much, too many times, much too far! Mr.Bohener, keep playing hero, telling the president how to fix the Economy, listen, one more time it’s getting old, and we, all of us, millions of us, are awaiting impatiently for the fairness created by our president with this new Congress. We are here, all of us, late at night, awaiting in front of our TV sets, the final results of the efforts from yours/our president Obama, to dismantled the infernal machine of your House of Representatives budget locks, and cut your engines power, with all of you aboard members, all of yours live gifted millions of dollars provided by the sweat and work from our backs, in our great nation of purposely induced by you all, a systemic cruel land of hunger of the American people. You all Tea party and Republican members are the abusers, continuous negation to work for the people, by the people, and only for the people, and in 2014, we will let all of you feel the powerful winds of anger from all the guts of the millions American citizens that will not take it again from you, or anyone like you! We have too much hunger in our country, and you need to help now!

Nov 15, 2012 3:11PM
Think of all the ways those in power seek to divide us ........demo/repub, jew/christian/muslim, catholic/protestant, sunni/shia, reform/orthodox ......bengals/browns etc etc etc ........

Now ask yourself WHY ?  Bread and Circuses.
Nov 15, 2012 3:07PM

Cramer the clown mad hatter of Obamanomics ... I will tell you how to invest in America. Rule # 1 If it can be made in another Country ... Sell Sell Sell Sell. Rule # 2 If Government has close or hands on oversight ... Sell Sell Sell. Rule # 3 If it has or doesn't have huge Government contracts ... Sell Sell Sell. Rule # 4 If it relies on a affluent or affluent middle class ... Sell Sell Sell.

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