Editor's Note: This article was originally published at 6 a.m. ET on Real Money on April 30. To see Jim Cramer's latest commentary as it's published, sign up for a free trial of Real Money.
NEW YORK ( Real Money) -- What would happen if Europe bottomed out? No, not if it went up, but if it simply bottomed out? That's what the European stocks, which hit five-year highs Tuesday, might be signaling. Last night I talked to two CEOs on "Mad Money" -- Sandy Cutler from Eaton (ETN) and Chuck Bunch from PPG (PPG) -- and both indicated that Europe might be hitting bottom and that it may not decline much if at all from the current levels.
For Cutler, who has a huge electronics business in Europe, the continent is mired in molasses but it may not be getting any worse. Yes, the business is terrible there, but it might just be staying terrible instead of deteriorating further.
Bunch goes a step further and says he thinks the first quarter might be the worst, and that things might actually get better by year-end.These are not idle sentiments. Last week, when Starbucks (SBUX) CEO Howard Schultz gave his overview, he said he thought Europe was bottoming. Colgate (CL) indicated the same. Now, there are many companies, including technology companies, that would indicate things are still getting worse. There are auto companies that say it is getting much worse. But the CEOs of PPG, Eaton, Starbucks and Colgate aren't pie-in-the-sky guys. They are very smart people who know what their order books look like and have all been very accurate at forecasting -- which is why their companies have been able to navigate this treacherous period so well. If that's the case -- if Europe's bottoming -- then both Eaton and PPG would be buys (my Action Alerts PLUS charitable trust owns Eaton). That's because these companies have taken out tremendous costs in Europe, and are not willing to wait around for revenue to turn. If sales do turn around, meanwhile, the leverage would be magnificent. As it is, PPG is seeing good strength in its China business because it is geared to autos -- which, like PPG's business in the U.S., is very robust. So if the U.S. remains moderately strong, and if Europe stops getting weaker, that could be the recipe for a major upside surprise. Keep in mind that PPG's major raw ingredient for coatings, Ti02, is in glut in Europe. That bodes well for gross-margin expansion.