Contrary to what some investors might believe, the U.S.-China trade dispute is not really about trade, CNBC’s Jim Cramer said Friday as stocks tumbled on rising tensions between the two countries and weaker-than-expected U.S. jobs data.
“The trade war with China is not about trade,” Cramer said. “Sure, the Chinese government has all kinds of unsavory practices when it comes to trade — and a lot of other things — but that’s not really the point. The trade war is about who gets to be a global superpower.”
Many on Wall Street worried that U.S.-China tensions would escalate on Wednesday’s news that the global chief financial officer of Chinese telecom giant Huawei was arrested in Canada over the weekend, on the same day that President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping reportedly struck a 90-day tariff truce.
But at the end of the day, this fight goes beyond helping U.S. companies, Cramer said. In fact, White House hardliners actually accept that the trade dispute will hurt public companies’ earnings, the “Mad Money” host said.
“The real point is, wherever you stand on this issue, it’s bigger than corporate earnings. It’s bigger than the economy,” he said. “The trade war with China is about global hegemony — who gets to rule the world — and that’s why it’s so darned intractable, because these are pretty high stakes.”
Investors should prepare themselves for more stock market swings as a host of “difficult crosscurrents” weigh on equities, Cramer said Friday as stocks traded lower.
“Now that the S&P 500 has gone negative for the year, let me give you one warning: I think we’re going to have to slog through these volatility sessions for a bit,” Cramer told investors.
“There are all sorts of difficult crosscurrents here: the trade war with China, the stunning weakness in stocks like bellwether Apple, which got a price target cut from the most influential analyst in the stock, Katy Huberty — it is now down for the year — and, of course, an errant Federal Reserve that’s backed itself into a corner when it comes to the next rate hike,” he said.
Any developments on these complicated issues have the power to sway entire market groups, so Cramer recommended that investors stay vigilant in this challenging layout.
“Get used to these crosscurrents, because this is the new normal, at least for now,” he said.
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The Federal Reserve could cause “panic” on Wall Street if it reneges on its widely anticipated December interest rate hike, Cramer said Friday.
“Because he’s promised a rate hike, [Fed Chair Jerome Powell] risks stirring a wave of fear if he doesn’t tighten,” Cramer said as stocks fell on weaker-than-expected jobs results and trade worries. “Investors will start presuming that something must be wrong, very wrong, that things are worse than they thought.”
But even if the central bank decides that it’s worth taking a more data-dependent approach after the weaker jobs data, its chief has put himself in a difficult position with his recent statements, Cramer said.
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When the stock market sells off, Cramer always advises searching for stocks that have been dragged down with the broader market despite the strength of their underlying businesses.
The last time the market endured a major sell-off, those stocks ended up being the “cloud kings,” Cramer’s group of top-quality plays in the cloud-computing software space.
But lately, investors have been wary of buying shares in the cloud stocks, and for good reason: in October, the group got crushed after Fed Chair Powell signaled an aggressive interest rate hike agenda that could have spelled trouble for high-growth areas of the market.
But now that Powell has seemingly reversed course and many of the cloud kings have reported much better-than-expected earnings results, Cramer said the outlook is brighter than people initially thought.
“[The] cloud stocks pulled back hard today, [but] … we know that business is just fine because — in fact, maybe better than fine — because we just heard from the companies,” he said.
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Even though investing in an e-commerce platform might seem antithetical to a brick-and-mortar restaurateur like Danny Meyer, the founder and CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group, he sees it as a play on the future.
“It is what it is, Jim,” the Shake Shack founder told Cramer in a joint interview with Union Square Hospitality Group Chief Investment Officer Mark Leavitt and Goldbelly founder and CEO Joe Ariel.
“One of the things we learned way back in the year 2000 when we invested in OpenTable, the reservations platform, and now [that] we’re investors in Resy through our fund, is that you’ve got to give people what they want,” Meyer said.
Meyer’s latest venture was leading a $20 million round of Series B funding for Goldbelly, an e-commerce platform that helps deliver gourmet, regional food across the country while keeping it fresh and intact. The platform enables smaller, mom-and-pop operations to ship their specialties anywhere without running up sky-high shipping costs, its CEO said.
“We have some businesses that more than 50 percent of their revenue are now in shipping,” Ariel, Goldbelly’s chief, told Cramer.
Click here to watch the three business leaders’ full interview.
It’s possible that shares of data analytics firm Domo were able to buck the gravitational pull of the major averages and rally over 30 percent on Friday because of the company’s unique offering that the CEO says “no one else has.”
In an exclusive interview with Cramer, Domo founder, Chairman and CEO Josh James explained just how his business intelligence provider differentiates itself from others of its ilk using an example from one of its key customers: Target.
Using Domo’s platform, Target CEO Brian Cornell “walks into a Target store as a secret shopper, pulls out his phone, [and] he knows exactly what’s selling in that store as of that day compared to all the other stores — what’s selling well, what’s not selling well — and he can walk around and see how that’s being merchandised.”
“No one else has that,” James said.
Click here to watch his full interview.
In Cramer’s lightning round, he flew through his responses to callers’ stock questions:
SiteOne Landscape Supply Inc.: “No. You don’t want to be there because people don’t like housing right now and it’s going to be affiliated with the housing group and it just keeps going down. We’re going to have to take a big pass.”
Disclosure: Cramer’s charitable trust owns shares of Apple.
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