Washington pulls the rug out from under us
With the recovery possibly stalled, here are 3 indicators that would signal the selling is over.
It'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.
- Also see: 'Mad Money' recap: be ready for the turn
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).
- Also see: Cramer: Facebook rally not surprising
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.
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.
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"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????
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....
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!
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.
Wake up America!
It seems nothing has change, we just finish an election, and we have to listen to Ryan the liar advancing his wonderful ideas of how handle the coming Fiscal Cliff, this guy needs to realized, Mr.Obama is President. We just herd Mr.Boehner give his talk a few days ago about the Fiscal Cliff, and other economic situations he thinks he has the answer how to it fix, as usual! The things he said that infuriated many of us much was his statement that he wishes the elections had turned out another way, we thought it was an improper remark for the Speaker of the House to make, indicating one more time his personal feelings rather than showing a professional dedication to his job, lacking the vision to work fruitfully for the citizens of the USA. He’s contending us one more time in his own personal hypocritical super bully hero attitude! He has a recurrent amnesia problem like Mr. Romney had, and seems to be having troubles learning, and accepting from the American people the facts after the election. Sir, Mr.Boehner? Are you there in the House of Representatives? We just elected Mr. Obama as your President for another four years. We all truly hope you and your followers not trying to perpetuate the same old anxious lyrics coming from the mindless abusive House of Representatives, following yours and theirs perpetual intransigency and mental aberration in insisting in no tax increase for the rich, and emphatically suggesting cutting the entitlements programs. Your wrong ideology shows all of you wanting to sink our old citizens deeper in a hole of hunger, and miser their health care. Come to your senses, all of people in Medicare have earned their Medicare after years of dutiful work, but remember as you try your dirty tricks on them one more time, as you all well known for a long time, the SS is not a part in any of these talks, so make sure not to monkey with it! Keep holding back America, and fighting for the very rich, while 46 million Americans are in poverty, and I promise, we will never ever forget all of you in the House of Representatives. Be smart, work for the people that have waited over four years to overcome your permanent intransigency in helping the American people, we put you there; it’s your responsibility to the people!
Are you simply a Buffoon or can you produce a simple spending transcript, showing who spent what and why our debts so high.
MG doesn't care about the truth............................ because it's not HIS truth.
As of today, this country is still stronger and wealthier. Sorry, the end of the world is not near, and you all will just have to adapt.
Mirage, You repeatedly call Obama a borrow and spend socialist, and you repeatedly fail to show me the numbers when I challenge you to show me the proof. Are you simply a Buffoon or can you produce a simple spending transcript, showing who spent what and why our debts so high.
Spend by Bush and Republicans, Spending by Obama, 8 year projection,
Iraq, Afghan wars $1.469 trillion Bush tax cuts $425 billion
Bush tax cuts $1.812 trillion 2009 stimulus $711 billion
Added discretionary $608 billion Discretionary $278 billion
TARP $224 billion Healthcare $152 billion
Medicare D $180 billion Defense cuts -$126 billion
2008 stimulus $773 billion
Total Republican spending $5.07 trillion. Total Obama spending $1.44 trillion.
The fact is spending under Obama is at the lowest level in 60 years just 1.4% annual increase, compared to 7.7% annually under Republicans.
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All hail the bull market, which ended the week with a big rally. But it also is starting to look a little like 1987, which suffered an epic blow-out.
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