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

Thestreet logo

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 10:43AM
This is an amazing piece of garbage coming from someone who should know better.  There will be no jobs recovery and no housing recovery as well.  What in the world do these people think is going on.  We have killed capitalism and the job creators that go with it.  We have shipped all the jobs that could improve our econmy overseas and the jobs left are for kids living with their parents.  The only direction in housing we will see is the movement towards 15 people living in one room together. We are now a socialist country where those that don't wear a blue hat are demonized and the talented and willing just shake their heads.  What person in their right mind would start or run a business in this country now?  The masses voted to take from the rich to spend on themselves.  So those that have will now curl up and live in defense mode and exhibit limited risk in that any positive return will be taken from them.  When was the last innovative product introduced here?  Socialism inhibits the individual taking personal responsibility and discourages personal initiative. We are now Europe and Mr. Cramer delivers this as a responsible journalistic excercise?  So sad so sad.
Nov 15, 2012 11:16AM
Best Buy laying off and closing stores, JCP fading into oblivion, Hosetess Brands closing factories and liquidating sending thousands to the unemployment line, Sears Holding that owns Kmart will close stores after Christmas, Supervalue struggling to stay alive with the drag of their Albertson's division. impending layoffs in defense, massive Obamacare layoffs at small businesses, and the fiscal cliff.. Not much to base a rally on!!
Nov 15, 2012 12:12PM
OK Libs, you got what you wanted, unfortunately WE ALL have to live with it. Let's see, 47+ million now in poverty, that's 16% people,the DOW continues to go down...rapidly. Obama says he has a "mandate" to tax the "rich"......funny how his "mandate " to increase taxes comes from people that PAY NO TAXES. We are on the fiscal cliff, Israel and Hamas are going at it, Obama care is getting ready to hit private business.....and Obama HAS NO PLAN or clue how to straighten this mess out other than print money and blame Bush....welcome to the new "normal"...and thanks to all you clueless Liberals.

Nov 15, 2012 10:05AM
I had to stop reading after the first sentence.  Cramer's OPINION that our economy was about to take off is indisputable?  - what a pile of bovine excrement!
Nov 15, 2012 10:52AM

Cramer's an idiot,


Nov 15, 2012 11:29AM
Now a storm is the reason 400K+ jobs cut in a week. The actual storm? or the one casued by 6,000+ new regulations just since the election... ...
Nov 15, 2012 11:14AM


  Obama is going to marching us "FORWARD" into oblivion.  He's taking Cramer with him........

Nov 15, 2012 11:47AM
Gee, we have tried Borrowing and Spending our way out of debt....  Now are going to try to tax our way to prosperity...

The imbecile Obama is going to cause a depression.   He will stick to his socialist dogma till the end.

I see unemployment skyrocketed.  The media is blaming Sandy, but the real increases in claims didn't come from the east coast....

Keep taking money from the private sector to grow government and reward your special interest groups.  But when the depression hits, we told you so...

Nov 15, 2012 11:41AM
bamas economy will never be good , oh yea its obamas failure now
Nov 15, 2012 12:18PM
Those who voted for Obama.........as the stock market tanks, just remember one thing: THIS IS WHAT YOU VOTED FOR!!!! BYE-BYE retirement savings.

Oh yeah, you also voted for: $6 gasoline in two years, 50% increase in electricity prices in 4 years, $20 Trillion in national debt, more expensive medical insurance and less service from your physicians/hospitals, more multi-billion dollar giveaways to failing "green" energy companies, more poverty, more food stamps, more welfare cheats, more indoctrination (versus education) in the public schools, foreign energy dependence, etc.

Just remember, those of you who voted for Obama.  Of course, you'll blame Bush or someone else other than the empty suit you worship.

Nov 15, 2012 11:42AM

I'm going to appoint myself as an analyst.


I predict the selling will be over when the buying begins.


Nov 15, 2012 11:18AM
Funny how this guys opinion on the economy changes from day to day based on the newest info.  If anyone kept track of all his failed predictions it would be a long sad list.
Nov 15, 2012 12:19PM
our only recovery was called Hope and change, then it was Forward, well here we go off the cliff- Romney would have given our economy some direction if nothing else, now we have a president who has made it perfectly clear he is coming after those who have money- which means 1 million small companies will feel it- look for unemployment to rise along w/our deficit- the Chicago Cowboy is riding the range
Nov 15, 2012 11:26AM

Wall street is panhandling for another government handout. And why not, meddling in the economy on wall street’s behalf seems to be the government’s main focus these days. You’d think Article 1 of the Constitution states; government shall borrow, manipulate, cheat, steal, cover-up, and lie to boost the economy, no matter the consequences. Sadly, until they quit, we’ll never know these things:

Which corporations would be in business and which would be gone?

What is the real GDP?

What is the real value of stocks, bonds, gold, and houses?

What are the real statistics on inflation and unemployment?

Nov 15, 2012 11:43AM
there never were any jobs created smoke and mirrors
Nov 15, 2012 12:22PM
The budget jam will not wreck the recovery Cramer ! The recovery is already WRECKED and OFF THE CLIFF ! Thanks to government intervention to save the Criminal Banking Cartel and the FED and their endless printing of worthless money to save the BANKS=SCREW THE AMERICAN PEOPLE !
Nov 15, 2012 1:23PM

Our once Great Nation is a mere shadow of its former self. We are being stipped of our core values and told that the goverment knows what is best for us. The very things which made this country great are now the things which people are being told are the problems. Be successful today and you are guilty of making a living at someone elses expense. While this is plain as day to me, out there as I write there are masses, some reading this who buy into this socialist idea of "shared Wealth" or common good. I for one will not drink the kool aid. I will not forget how is was. We have become a nation of Fools running head long into destruction at the cost of our Liberity and Freedom.


P.S. Jimmy thanks for the platform. Personally I view you as a entertainer. I mean if you actually were as smart as some people believe, you would be screaming at the top of your lungs how the current fiscal practices and debt are destroying our system. Here let me fill your cup up again.

Nov 15, 2012 10:52AM
i know a few people whose economy was wrecked by cramer. caveat emptor.
"It's indisputable that we were about to take off in this domestic economy after a slow recovery from the recession."

Nov 15, 2012 11:46AM

Words like Quantitative easing ,capitulation, fiscal cliff,Jimmy boy Cramer, makes  me so happy because ,its just another   hole in the boat , . I will either plug it, patch it , buy a new one  sink and swim , or be drowned by a big cat fish because I was noodling to eat and  It will be my fault because  I capitulated off the fiscal cliff and   Quantitative easing, not for noodlers .Hey I need to write a book on how to noodle in the world  of loosing  retirement cash , I knew I'd gain something from reading this catfish poop

Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.


StockScouter rates stocks from 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, using a system of advanced mathematics to determine a stock's expected risk and return. Ratings are displayed on a bell curve, meaning there will be fewer ratings of 1 and 10 and far more of 4 through 7.

125 rated 1
264 rated 2
485 rated 3
679 rated 4
640 rated 5
617 rated 6
632 rated 7
493 rated 8
276 rated 9
153 rated 10

Top Picks

TAT&T Inc9



Top Stocks provides analysis about the most noteworthy stocks in the market each day, combining some of the best content from around the MSN Money site and the rest of the Web.

Contributors include professional investors and journalists affiliated with MSN Money.

Follow us on Twitter @topstocksmsn.