We're once again in Bizarro World, where good news is bad news, Jim Cramer told his Mad Money viewers Wednesday. Good news is bad because it gives the Federal Reserve another reason to pump the brakes on the economy with more rate hikes.
Fortunately, as earnings season kicks into high gear, we'll get plenty of data to determine whether the Fed's plan for four more rate hikes is right or wrong.
The case that the Fed is right was bolstered today by railroad CSX (CSX) - Get Report , which posted blowout earnings that included strong demand for everything from agriculture and cars to coal and commodities. Yet shares of CSX plunged 5.9% as investors fear the best may already be behind us.
But then there's everything else, Cramer said, and everything else is pointing to weakness in the economy, which should give the Fed pause. Housing starts fell by 5.3%, sparking a downgrade of KB Home (KBH) - Get Report to an outright sell. Home Depot (HD) - Get Report and Lowe's (LOW) - Get Report also saw downgrades that took much of the retail sector lower as well.
There is also weakness in steel, thanks to tariffs, and in loan demand from regional banks. Vulcan Materials (VMC) - Get Report was downgraded as demand for aggregates (think construction) is falling. Then there's China, where tariffs could still spell trouble for many companies.
Cramer said the Fed is being lazy and irresponsible if they ignore all these negatives and don't adopt a wait-and-see approach to raising rates to stamp out inflation before it even begins.
Cramer and the AAP team are holding their free members-only monthly call Thursday at 11:30 a.m. Eastern. 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.
FAANG Stocks Are Ripe
Once again, the rumors about the demise of FAANG, Cramer's acronym for Facebook (FB) - Get Report , Apple (AAPL) - Get Report , Amazon (AMZN) - Get Report , Netflix (NFLX) - Get Report and Alphabet (GOOGL) - Get Report are premature. In fact, after the selloff, some of these are looking ready to buy right now.
Cramer said that Netflix continues to knock it out of the park with new subscriptions, and unlike Amazon, which at least has some competition with Walmart (WMT) - Get Report , Netflix is still the only game in town. Netflix could become profitable anytime it wants by simply raising prices, Cramer said, and people would be happy to pay.
As for Amazon, even with some competition, Cramer said he remains a fan of all this company's businesses and it remains a large position at Action Alerts PLUS.
The other "A" in FAANG is Apple, another Action Alerts PLUS holding. Cramer said Apple now has some China risk that could ding the stock in the short term, but he remains a believer over the long term.
Turning to Alphabet, Cramer said this stock is incredibly undervalued at just 23 times earnings. And finally, there's Facebook, a stock that's held up quite well despite scandal after scandal, but still has a lot of headline risk.
So which of these names would Cramer buy right now? He said Amazon and Alphabet would be his picks, given that Netflix has run up both before and after that stellar quarter.
Over on Real Money, Cramer talks about the decline in oil and the nascent rally in the airlines. Get more of his insights with a free trial subscription to Real Money.
Power Rankings: Industrials
In another installment of his "Power Rankings" series, Cramer dove into the industrial sector, a volatile group that began 2018 strong, only to get beaten down as the trade war began and hit again as interest rates began to rise.
Topping the rankings was Union Pacific (UNP) - Get Report , the West Coast railroad with shares up 12% for the year. Freight prices are on the rise and that's great news if you're a railroad, Cramer said, yet shares trade for just 17 times earnings.
Next was Boeing (BA) - Get Report , followed by two more aviation names, Textron (TXT) - Get Report and United Continental (UAL) - Get Report . Boeing shares are up 24% for the year, despite the trade war, because the company has a backlog of 5,900 plane orders. Meanwhile Textron, makers of Cessna business jets and Bell helicopters, is also strong. As for United, Cramer said this remains the best-run airline and the company continues to be No. 1 in its sector.
Finally, there's Harris (HRS) , the defense communications company that's merging with L3 Communications (LLL) - Get Report in what will be the largest defense merger yet. No one ever cuts defense spending, Cramer said, making Harris an excellent choice.
Executive Decision: Veeva Systems
For an "Executive Decision" segment, Cramer spoke with Peter Gassner, founder and CEO of Veeva Systems (VEEV) - Get Report , the cloud software provider to the pharmaceutical and life sciences industry.
Gassner said life sciences is a $1.6 trillion business and Veeva is proud to be a part of the amazing things the industry is accomplishing. In 2015, Veeva laid out a plan to hit $1 billion in sales by 2020, and Gassner said they're a full year ahead of schedule.
Technology is moving fast, but there are still many policies and procedures that need to be followed, Gassner said, and Veeva replaces paper with software to make the entire drug development process more accurate and efficient. The continue to innovate with new products that customers love.
Veeva is now expanding beyond life sciences with Quality One, a product geared towards makers of chemicals, cosmetics and consumer goods, all of which have similar policies and procedures that need to be followed.
Executive Decision: First Horizon
In his second "Executive Decision" segment, Cramer sat down with Bryan Jordan, chairman, president and CEO of First Horizon National (FHN) - Get Report , the regional bank with its finger on the pulse of the economy.
Jordan said the economy continues to be healthy and is growing well. Both consumer and business confidence remains high, he said, and so far, rising interest rates have not had an impact. That said, Jordan noted that we are getting closer to the end of the cycle than the beginning.
When asked about net interest margins, Jordan said that rising rates are improving their margins and that trend should continue through 2019. Deposits are also increasing. As for mortgages, refinance activity is slowing with mortgage rates topping 5%, but home purchasing is still "OK," he said.
Finally, when asked about the term "non-bank competition," a phrase that's entering the banking lexicon, Jordan said that these entities are beginning to put some pressure on pricing as some consumers try out these new products for the first time.
Cramer said First Horizon remains a good situation.
In the Lightning Round, Cramer was bullish on Ventas (VTR) - Get Report , Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG) - Get Report , Yum! Brands (YUM) - Get Report , VF Corp (VFC) - Get Report , Verizon (VZ) - Get Report , Crane (CR) - Get Report and Gilead Sciences (GILD) - Get Report .
Cramer was bearish on KeyCorp (KEY) - Get Report , Weight Watchers (WTW) - Get Report , Del Taco Restaurants (TACO) - Get Report , Hanesbrands (HBI) - Get Report , Kraft Heinz (KHC) - Get Report and Royal Bank (RBS) - Get Report .
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At the time of publication, Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS had a position in FB, AAPL, AMZN, GOOGL TXT.