The economic recover has hit a snag, Jim Cramer told his Mad Money viewers Thursday. The one-third of our country that refuses to get vaccinated has derailed the "roaring 20s"-style economic boom we all had hoped for.
It's hard to remember back just a year ago, when everyone was talking about the possibilities of another Great Depression. But then both Pfizer (PFE) and Moderna (MRNA) shocked everyone by delivering vaccines with over 90% efficacy in record time. But instead of a Polio-style vaccination effort like we saw decades ago, where everyone lined up at schools to get their shots, we've created a world where at least a third of our country believes conspiracies instead of science.
In this environment, it's impossible for the banks to do banking, so the fintechs will flourish and the deposit banks will flounder. Travel and leisure will report strong earnings, for now, but no one will trust them. And we'll remain out of cars, out of home and supply chains will continue to disrupt many industries.
The snag will end one of two ways, Cramer concluded. In the good way, the holdouts will see the rising death rates, get scared and take their medicine. In the bad way, they'll all get COVID, and those that survive will have natural immunity. Either way, herd immunity is coming, he said. The stock market will be fine either way, as investors continue shifting their investments.
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Executive Decision: Domino's
In his "Executive Decision" segment, Cramer welcomed back Rich Allison, CEO of Domino's Pizza (DPZ) , the pizza giant that just delivered strong earnings that included a 3.5% increase in same stock sales and international sales up 14%.
Allison said that Domino's success continues to be driven by great underlying business model and great franchisees delivering for customers every day. While the pandemic did provide some tailwinds, like a boost in lunchtime sales, now that the economy is reopening, late-night and weekend orders are back. Carryout sales are also rebounding nicely as people venture outside more.
Domino's was able to flourish during the pandemic thanks to it's focus on digital sales, Allison added. The company already enjoyed 70% digital orders in the U.S. before the pandemic and that number has risen to 75% now. Digital provides a better experience for the customer, store and the driver, he said.
Domino's isn't standing still either. The company is opening new locations, both here and abroad, and they're testing new technologies like driverless delivery vehicles.
Playing the Fitness Trend
As Levi Strauss (LEVI) told us earlier this quarter, waistlines have expanded during the pandemic, which means there's a bull market in fitness afoot. Cramer looked at four different ways to play the trend.
First up was connected fitness giant Peloton (PTON) , which was a huge COVID winner in 2020, that has now become a battleground stock in 2021. With shares off 21% for the year, Cramer said he's avoiding this one.
Next was Planet Fitness (PLNT) , the low-cost, no-judgement fitness center that's picking up customers from the 17% of gyms that closed during the pandemic. Cramer remained a fan.
Then there's F45 Training (FXLV) , the fitness club for hardcore athletes that's backed by Mark Wahlberg. With 1,800 locations and more on the way, Cramer said he likes the financials and the same-store sales growth.
Finally, there's Xponential Fitness, which is coming public Friday. Cramer said this rollup of popular fitness brands is higher risk than Planet Fitness and F45, but could offer higher rewards as well. That will depend on how the IPO prices. The company is seeking to raise $200 million, and offered a preliminary pricing range of $14-$16 a share.
Executive Decision: American Electric Power
For his second "Executive Decision" segment, Cramer also spoke with Nick Akins, chairman and CEO of American Electric Power (AEP) , which just delivered another strong quarter. Shares of AEP currently sport a 3.5% yield.
Akins said after seeing a 6.2% increase in residential load last year as everyone worked from home, this quarter, AEP saw only a 3.1% decline in residential, which means many people are continuing to be productive at home.
AEP operates utilities in nearly a dozen states, including Texas, which was hard hit by freezing weather last winter.
When asked about winter storm Yuri in Texas, Akins reiterated that Texas is a microcosm of what our electric grid needs to fix. The grid needs renewables, but it also needs more resiliency which includes more energy storage and baseload capacity to handle extreme events.
AEP continues to invest in renewable energy, and Akins said it makes sense to do so. The workforce in America is changing, he said, and everyone needs to compete for talent and to stay competitive. That's why AEP continues to invest in its people and its infrastructure.
No Huddle Offense
In his "No Huddle Offense" segment, Cramer said there's only one way this pandemic ends, herd immunity. We can get there one of two ways however, the easy way and the hard way.
For a look at the hard way, we can look at India, where two-thirds of the population has antibodies, but only 6% are vaccinated. That means more than half the country has gotten COVID and there are likely up to one million more deaths likely to occur. That mortality rate should be appalling to everyone, Cramer said.
Here in the U.S., we still have a choice. With the new Delta variant, there's no way to avoid COVID. If you're unvaccinated, you're going to get it, Cramer said. Many still seem to think the vaccine is worse than the disease. But with cases and death tolls on the rise in areas with low vaccination rates, hopefully those people will change their minds quickly and stop the nonsense.
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At the time of publication, Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS had no position in the stocks mentioned.