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There's a theme emerging this earnings season and it isn't good news for the American worker, Jim Cramer told Mad Money viewers Monday. Companies aren't winning on the top line, so they're beating earnings by reducing headcount.
Norfolk Southern (NSC) - Get Report reported a 6% decline in revenue this quarter, but still saw a huge upside surprise in earnings, delivering $1.29 a share when the markets were expecting just 99 cents. How did they do it? By cutting expenses by 13%, which translated to cutting 1,900 jobs.
But it wasn't just the rails shedding staff, Cramer noted that the banks, including Bank of America (BAC) - Get Report , a stock he owns for his charitable trust, Action Alerts PLUS, and Morgan Stanley (MS) - Get Report also made their operations leaner this quarter.
So, too, did the oil stocks Schlumberger (SLB) - Get Report , which shed a staggering 42,000 jobs since oil peaked in 2014, and Halliburton (HAL) - Get Report , which accounted 6,000 layoffs earlier this year. These companies have subsequently seen their stocks rise on the better-than-expected earnings.
Then there's Alphabet (GOOGL) - Get Report , another Action Alerts PLUS name, which actually increased its headcount this quarter. Cramer noted the market has not reacted kindly to Alphabet, which is now running counter to what the market expects to see during uncertain times.
Executive Decision: Rich Gelfond
Gelfond said things are going strong for Imax around the globe and his company is expanding in Europe, Japan and in China, where it has added 30% more screens to meet the growing demand. At the same time, Gelfond noted the markets are not adequately reflecting the value of Imax, which is why the company continues to buy back its own shares. Patience will pay off, he added.
When asked about competition, Gelfond said Imax has both the brand and the network of theaters to make producing content for its premium experience worthwhile. Studios love Imax, he said, and so do directors. With Hollywood producing fewer but bigger-budget films, there is always something exciting to watch at Imax.
Southwest Is a Winner
A rising tide lifts all boats, Cramer told viewers, but when the tide goes out you discover who the real winners are. Case in point: Southwest Airlines (LUV) - Get Report , which is proving this quarter that not all airlines need to trade in lock-step with each other.
Cramer said Southwest showed some real differentiation this quarter, delivering an 80-cents-a-share earnings beat that sent its shares up 1% after it reported, compared to rivals American Air Lines (AAL) - Get Report , which fell 4.5%, and United Airlines (UAL) - Get Report , down 10%.
The metric to watch for the airlines is called PRASM, or the passenger revenue per available seat model. For this quarter, PRASM fell by 3.6% for Southwest, but both American and United fell almost double that number, down 7.5% and 7.4% respectively.
Cramer noted that while the other airlines portrayed cheap oil as something bad that will only spur on additional competition, only Southwest saw it for what it truly is -- a gift to boost earnings. Southwest is also the leader in labor relations and is not being affected by weakness in Texas and other oil-rich areas.
Shares of Southwest trade at 10 times earnings, a premium to its peers, but Cramer said he still sees the stock as a value.
Can Manitowoc Be Too Successful?
There's a lot to like at Manitowoc, Cramer said, not the least of which is the company spun off its food service business as Manitowoc Food Service (MFS) just last month, leaving the company as a pure-play industrial that any analyst can easily understand.
But beyond the breakup, Manitowoc is also now a pure-play industrial at a time when oil prices are stabilizing and the European, and possibly the Chinese, economies are improving. Not bad timing. Manitowoc also has CEO Barry Pennypacker at the helm, a seasoned turnaround expert who already has plans to innovate with new products while cutting the costs to the tune of $35 million over three years.
Given the stock's amazing run, Cramer said he cannot fault anyone who wants to sell and take profits, but he would still be snapping up shares on any market-induced weakness.
In the Lightning Round, Cramer was bullish on CVS Health (CVS) - Get Report , Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA) - Get Report , KB Home (KBH) - Get Report , Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) - Get Report and Enterprise Products Partners (EPD) - Get Report .
No Huddle Offense
In his "No Huddle Offense" segment, Cramer said that he's decoded the data from this quarter's earnings and one thing is clear: The world's economy is getting better.
After listening to countless conference calls two things are clear, Cramer said. First, oil has bottomed and, second, both Europe and China are beginning to recover. These trends were reiterated by countless industrial companies, from Caterpillar (CAT) - Get Report to General Electric (GE) - Get Report to Honeywell (HON) - Get Report and Schlumberger (SLB) - Get Report .
Commodity prices are confirming the economy is getting better, Cramer concluded, and that's great news for many of the stocks he follows.
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At the time of publication, Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS had a position in BAC, GE, GOOGL and WBA.