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NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The Federal Reserve remains the most important factor driving the markets, Jim Cramer told his Mad Money viewers Tuesday. Unfortunately, no matter what the Fed decides to do with interest rates, it could be a lose-lose for your portfolio.
On the upside, the Fed could say that interest rates are on hold until there's more clarity with global markets. That would send stocks soaring dramatically higher, Cramer said. But it's not likely the Fed will follow this path.
More likely is that there will be a small bump in rates, which will impact the markets in six ways.
First, the housing and auto sectors, which are closely tied to interest rates, will slow. Second, the resulting stronger dollar will impact any company that exports into foreign markets. Third, companies that sell into the U.S. -- think foreign autos -- will become cheaper.
Fourth, a hike in interest rates will also accelerate the crash of the Chinese stock market, Cramer noted. Fifth, from then on the markets will be "fighting the Fed," turning the once tailwind into a headwind. Finally, Cramer said the markets will be kept lower simply on the "surprise factor," that additional rate hikes could come at any moment without notice.
Of course, any clear statement from the Fed will only reassure the markets, Cramer concluded. But so far the Fed under Janet Yellen has not been prone to clarity of any kind, which makes for enormous downside potential.
Off the Charts
In the "Off The Charts" segment, Cramer went head to head with colleague Bob Lang over what a Fed rate hike just might mean to the markets, especially as it relates to the U.S. dollar versus other currencies.
Lang noted the VIX, a volatility index, has been falling over the past few weeks and is now below its 20-day moving average. Meanwhile, the Fed funds futures are only signaling a 12% probability of a rate hike, while the S&P Skew Index, another measure of fear in the market, is also signaling the markets just aren't that concerned about an interest rate hike.
Then there's the euro, which, according to a weekly chart of the Currency Shares Euro Trust (FXE) - Get Report, bottomed early this year and has been getting stronger ever since. The relative strength index, a measure of momentum, is positive for the euro, which made Lang feel that if this index can hold above $113, it might be off to the races.
Cramer's Fantasy Stock Portfolio -- Quarterback
Cramer said while Home Depot is what's known as a mature retailer, only putting up a handful of new stores every year, the company has a long track record of making the most of what it has, as seen in its last earnings report, which boasted a 4.2% rise in same store sales.
So while the housing market may be hurt by rising interest rates, Home Depot's earnings aren't likely to be affected. In addition to great earnings, Home Depot also has a sizable stock buyback program that's purchased almost a quarter of its shares in recent years, plus a dividend to boot.
Add to all of that a successful omni-channel experience for its customers and Cramer said it's easy to see why Home Depot should be at the center of your portfolio.
Executive Decision: Tom Pike
For his "Executive Decision" segment, Cramer sat down with Tom Pike, CEO of Quintiles Transnational (Q) , the company helping the pharmaceutical industry make the most of its clinical trials.
Pike said Quintiles is a simple story in a complex industry. His company has been growing revenue steadily at 8% a year and, given the backdrop of a thriving biopharmaceutical industry, that growth is poised to be even better in the future.
With over 1,000 doctors and PhDs on staff, Pike explained that Quintiles can help a biotech with everything from designing a trial to finding patients for that trial and managing that trial anywhere around the world.
Quintiles has a close partnership with larger biotechs such as Biogen Idec (BIIB) - Get Report, but is also creating programs for smaller biotechs, helping them from development all the way through commercialization.
Executive Decision: Larry Johnson
Johnson described the Fogo experience as an "adventure in a safe environment." Fogo offers dozens of meat, fruit and salad offerings, all table side, and guests are in charge to sample and customize as they see fit.
When asked about rising food and labor costs, Johnson said Fogo has a unique business model. The chefs do it all from butchering to grilling and serving their creations. Meanwhile, on the food side, Johnson noted Fogo offers dozens of different options so the company is not boxed in by a set menu.
Turning to the issue of growth, Johnson said that with only 26 stores currently and five more under construction, there is plenty of opportunity for growth in the U.S., and there could easily be over 100 stores in the near future.
Cramer said with so many initial public offerings of late, this one may have gotten overlooked.
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At the time of publication, Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS had no position in stocks mentioned.