Our government is not as business friendly as we thought, Jim Cramer admitted to his Mad Money viewers Wednesday. From the Fed-induced market plunge in December to the ongoing tariffs and trade wars, it seems the government is doing all it can to keep stocks lower.
Cramer said we have no idea where trade talks with China might lead, and that's causing havoc for industrial stocks like Caterpillar (CAT) . But even beyond the industrials, the markets overall would be a lot higher if only the government would get out of their way.
Then there's the topic of regulations. What was once a White House focused on deregulation is now one taking aim at big technology, including Facebook (FB) , Amazon (AMZN) and Alphabet (GOOGL) , and others. Cramer noted that today's settlement between Facebook and the Federal Trade Commission may not include that big a fine, considering the size of the company, but the details of the deal were brutal. In the fine print, the company must install two independent directors on its board and remove CEO Mark Zuckerberg from any and all decisions regarding consumer privacy.
Cramer said all of these issues combined are crimping the earnings of many businesses. Fortunately, the consumer is strong enough that, at least for now, no one is noticing.
Cramer and the AAP team say they think UnitedHealth Group's (UNH) fundamentals are strong. Find out what they're telling their investment club members and get in on the conversation with a free trial subscription to Action Alerts Plus.
Smoothing Out the Bumps
What do cyclical companies want most? To become less cyclical, Cramer told viewers. That's exactly what happened with United Parcel Service (UPS) , a stock which soared 8.6% Wednesday after the company reported stellar earnings.
UPS is no longer an episodic cyclical company that's beholden to the broader economy. Instead, UPS is now a secular growth company, one that's levered to the rise of commerce around the globe, thereby deserving a higher stock multiple.
Then there's Texas Instruments (TXN) , the semiconductor maker with shares up 7.4% on what was an ugly quarter. Why the rally? Cramer said it's because the company is also becoming a secular growth story.
But then there's Caterpillar, which has not shed its cyclical cocoon quite yet, and saw its shares plunge 4.4% on weaker than expected revenues. Cramer said he still believes in Caterpillar, but only under $130 a share.
On Real Money, Cramer says it appears Texas Instruments' (TXN) stock is sending a false signal of sanguine economics. Get more of his insights with a free trial subscription to Real Money.
Defense Contractors Get a Break
The biggest news out of Washington this week wasn't about trade or Justice Dept. investigations into big tech companies, it was the raising of the debt ceiling to avoid a budget impasse for the next two years. That means companies like the defense contractors can rest easy, making their stocks ready to rally.
Cramer said he's got a new favorite in the group and it's L3Harris (LHX) , the new combination of L3 Communications and Harris Technologies. He said the merger of equals between these two well-run companies gives investors a lot to love. Combined, the company has a terrific research and development pipeline, it's got an excellent track record of cutting costs and the company is committed to rewarding shareholders with a 10% dividend boost and increased share buyback programs.
Shares of L3Harris are currently trading at 18 times earnings, a slight premium to its peers. But Cramer said this premium is well deserved and he'd buy shares right here ahead of when L3Harris reports earnings. This mission solutions provider has no equal, Cramer said, and the merger is compelling.
Executive Decision: First Horizon National
For his "Executive Decision" segment, Cramer spoke with Bryan Jordan, chairman and CEO of First Horizon National (FHN) , the regional bank that just posted a five-cents-a-share earnings beat with 5% loan growth.
Jordan said business remains strong within their footprint and the economy is growing in the Carolinas and into Tennessee. Businesses have strong balance sheets and are borrowing money to grow, he added.
When asked about sentiment, Jordan said the consumer is optimistic and that's 70% of our economy. There are some segments that are worried about trade, he said, but overall, the environment is good for the consumer and the businesses that serve them.
The mantra at First Horizon continues to be a focus on return on equity. The bank continues to invest in its business and especially in technology to help it grow. Cramer said investors looking for a cheap growth stock need look no further than First Horizon.
Executive Decision: ServiceNow
In his second "Executive Decision" segment, Cramer checked in with John Donahoe, president and CEO of ServiceNow (NOW) , the cloud software provider that delivered an eight-cents-a-share earnings beat with a 35% rise in year-over-year revenues.
Donahoe said ServiceNow now serves 75% of the Fortune Global 500 list. He said they remain very optimistic about their business.
ServiceNow recently announced a partnership with Microsoft (MSFT) , allowing the company to host its platform on Microsoft's Azure cloud service. Donahoe explained that for many of their federal customers, this transition will be important to their business.
When asked about some weakness in the quarter, Donahoe explained that it's true that some renewals got pulled into other quarters, but overall, they raised their full-year guidance.
Cramer was bearish on Summit Midstream Partners (SMLP) .
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At the time of publication, Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS had a position in UNH, CAT, FB, AMZN, GOOGL, MSFT, TWLO.