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Jim Cramer: The Only Data Point That Matters

Now, let's compare a couple of the industrials. First, take 3M (MMM), one of my absolute favorite industrials. Despite some vicious downgrades, including an outright sale at one important firm, this stock just wouldn't quit. When it was hammered by the downgrade, many wrote it off, but it could not be kept down as more excellent employment numbers hit the tape that showed real job growth.

Or consider Union Pacific (UNP). Here's a company warned about a shortfall, which drove the stock down momentarily -- and then it had a sustained advance, just as in its sister stock, Norfolk Southern (NSC). It wasn't just the trains, either. Despite endless and worthless, I might add, valuation downgrades of FedEx FDX, the stock wouldn't quit.

But perhaps the most glaring outperformance of all was found in the machinery and mining stocks stocks, led by Cummins (CMI), Caterpillar (CAT) and Alcoa (AA).

Cummins issued horrendous guidance when it reported but, then, because of robust jobs growth in the U.S., the stock roared ahead -- above the level where management had issued a pre-earnings warning. Caterpillar's sad management team couldn't execute on its sound worldview and cut guidance drastically, but the stock rallied anyway. As I point out in Get Rich Carefully, this kind of action means a bottoms is in place. The only news on Alcoa has been what would turn out to be an outrageously stupid downgrade by Deutsche Bank: The stock took off, again, not because of inventories or order books but because of the economic expansion that the employment number foretold.

The pattern is clear. The employment number is the number. If history is right, if the next employment number is strong this outperformance will simply be reinforced, regardless of other concerns. That's what I would bank on.

At the time of publication, Action Alerts PLUS, which Cramer co-manages as a charitable trust, was long JNJ, CMI and CAT.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published at 7:56 a.m. EST on Real Money on Jan. 2.

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