Editor's Note: This article was originally published at 7:35 a.m. EDT on Real Money on Aug. 19. To see Jim Cramer's latest commentary as it's published, sign up for a free trial of Real Money.
NEW YORK ( Real Money) -- Is the collective future of Air Products & Chemicals (APD - Get Report), General Growth Properties (GGP - Get Report), Procter & Gamble (PG - Get Report), Beam (BEAM) and Herbalife (HLF - Get Report) hanging on J.C. Penney's (JCP - Get Report) earnings report Tuesday?
It sure seems like it.
At this very moment, based on my scan of the charts this weekend, the most popular trade has to be the "Bet against Bill Ackman" gambit. You can see it happening in all of this biggest positions -- those for which he's employed his "long and loud" attitude, when he takes stakes and has an axe to grind, and even those positions that he's mum about. Quite simply, there's activity underneath that suggests Ackman can be broken.So it seems people are gambling that Ackman's Pershing Square fund doesn't have the horses to get through this tough period after his two most visible positions -- long J.C. Penney and short Herbalife -- escalate into doom. But I think that is too risky a concept to take on. Here's why. We know Ackman has a plan to exit J.C. Penney. We know there's chatter that J.C. Penney is having a good quarter. We know the capital involved in the company has turned minimal because of the downturn in its fortune after the Ron "Ban the Coupons" Johnson debacle. We also know that current CEO Mike Ullman, as weak as Ackman says he is, has the support of the board and certainly of the banks. If this quarter has been a good one for the company, there'll be no reason for the banks to cut off credit. That means Penney would have no problem getting merchandise for the holiday season, be it on the company's own private label or the higher-priced branded merchandise around which Johnson had tried to build his new strategy. Will the $400 million -- give or take $10 million, depending on the numbers Tuesday -- really matter to this multi-billion dollar hedge fund? That's the money Ackman might be able to extricate if Penney stays the same, if it reports a decent number. Of course, everything would be better for Ackman if Penney's viability were taken off the table for now, and that's really what's at stake with tomorrow's quarter.
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