Nobody likes tariffs except the people whose jobs are saved by them, Jim Cramer told his Mad Money viewers Thursday. But in the end, the markets will settle down and recover from Thursday's announcement of a 25% tariff on imported steel and 10% levy on aluminum.
The bears will have a lot to say about today's news, Cramer said, but the reality is that we're not entering a trade war with China, we've already been in one and are only just now deciding to fight back.
The bears will say that China's only option will be to fight back, hurting American companies. They will say that aluminum and steel prices will rise, causing undo inflation. They will predict slowing global trade, warning that this is just the beginning for President Trump and this is also exactly how the Great Depression began. And the bears will say that the combination of rising interest rates and slowing trade will be a total disaster for our economy.
On the plus side, Cramer said that China and others have been dumping steel for years, so they may not react at all. China does, after all, need us as much as we need them. We still have a pro-stock market president and after our huge move off the lows, the market was due for another shakeout. In the end, Cramer reminded viewers that all stocks are not tied to China and it never pays to be greedy.
Cramer and the AAP team say that with markets lower, they're dipping their toes back in for more 3M (MMM) - Get Report . 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.
Look out for Retail REITS
Don't get faked out by the strength of the retail REITs, Cramer cautioned viewers. This group has become incredibly risky and it's time to sell.
Every high-yielding dividend stock is competition with bonds, Cramer reminded viewers. As interest rates rise, the risk-free nature of bonds makes MLPs, REITs and other big dividend names become less attractive. This hasn't been the case over the past few weeks, as interest rates have declined, but the long-term trend of rising rates remains in tact.
Cramer has long been a champion of stocks like Simon Property Group (SPG) - Get Report , Federal Realty Trust (FRT) - Get Report and Tanger Factory Outlets (SKT) - Get Report , but now, they must be sold and it's better to do it into strength. The retail REITs are up 10.2% from their previous lows.
Beyond just interest rates, retail REITs in particular face another systemic problem: online shopping. Recent research forecast that up to 25% of American malls could close over the next five years as more and more shoppers buy from home.
While the industrial and data center REITs may be able to weather the interest-rate storm, the retail REITs likely won't fare as well against the seismic fallout of store closures that could be looming.
Cramerica Calls In
On day when the market plunges, Cramer likes to take calls from viewers in Cramerica and answer their questions. Today was no exception. When asked whether Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) - Get Report(BRK.B) - Get Report could handle trade wars and tariffs, Cramer said that Berkshire is exactly the type of stock investors should be looking for.
The next caller was also worried about his portfolio, which included Amazon (AMZN) - Get Report and Apple (AAPL) - Get Report , two Action Alerts PLUS holdings, along with Boeing (BA) - Get Report , Netflix (NFLX) - Get Report and Cedar Fair (FUN) - Get Report . Cramer said these domestic names were also perfect, and China needs Apple and Boeing, so not to worry.
The final two callers asked about Exact Sciences (EXAS) - Get Report and Celgene (CELG) - Get Report , and Cramer said this group is hard to own at the moment and he's less hopeful of Celgene than he once was.
Executive Decision: Conagra Brands
For his "Executive Decision" segment, Cramer sat down with Sean Connolly, president and CEO at ConAgra Foods (CAG) - Get Report , the packaged foods maker with a stock that held up quite well during today's downturn.
Connolly explained that ConAgra is a house of 55 different brands and serves consumers of all kinds in many different categories from frozen foods to snacks. He said that ConAgra is unwinding a number of bad legacy habits, like pushing their products simply with low prices. Instead, they're meticulously modernizing all of their brands, breathing new life into them.
Brands like Healthy Choice, for example, are seeing sales rise by 16% as that brand evolves from heart health to a lifestyle focus. ConAgra is appealing to younger millennials with new branding and responsible plant-based packaging that is fully recyclable.
When asked about the recent corporate tax cuts, Connolly said the tax changes equate to $120 million in saving for ConAgra, money which they play to use on dividends, buybacks and more mergers and acquisitions.
Cramer said ConAgra is the perfect stock for this environment.
On the company's conference call, the analysts were almost speechless at the strength of this quarter's results. But perhaps, Cramer posited, Salesforce is just the right company at the right time, as huge swaths of businesses are in the early stages of digitization while bursting with cash from a recovery in Europe and tax cuts here in the U.S. Even the financials, a historically secretive bunch, seem to be trusting and embracing Salesforce.com.
On Real Money, Cramer says many companies don't know how to marry artificial intelligence with their own data. But Salesforce.com does. Get more of his insights with a free trial subscription to Real Money.
In the Lightning Round, Cramer was bullish on CIT Group (CIT) - Get Report , JPMorgan Chase (JPM) - Get Report , Abbott Laboratories (ABT) - Get Report , Valley National Bancorp (VLY) - Get Report , Square (SQ) - Get Report , FMC Corp (FMC) - Get Report , Manitowoc (MTW) - Get Report and Radius Health (RDUS) - Get Report .
Search Jim Cramer's "Mad Money" trading recommendations using our exclusive "Mad Money" Stock Screener.
To watch replays of Cramer's video segments, visit the Mad Money page on CNBC.
To sign up for Jim Cramer's free Booyah! newsletter with all of his latest articles and videos please click here.
At the time of publication, Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS had a position in MMM, AMZN, AAPL, JPM, ABT.