This column was originally published on RealMoney on March 18 at 3:58 p.m. ET. It's being republished as a bonus for TheStreet.com readers. For more information about subscribing to RealMoney, please click here.
With analysts believing that crummy undocumented loan problems have already seeped into less-crummy loans, with the bears contending that inflation is raging, with everybody arguing that the
is boxed in, the question isn't how far the market's going to go down, but why it hasn't cracked already.
Isn't that the real question? What's with the market anyway? Doesn't it know that it is supposed to go down, either in the form of a series of down-100-to-200 days or in a straight line as it did in 1987, or 1997, or 1998 or 2001? What gives?
Perhaps, at least when it comes to the
, there are peculiar factors buoying most of the index. It's time for a special, end-of-quarter analysis of why the market is so resilient despite end-of-the-world pressures from residential mortgage-backed securities and collateralized debt obligations, a belief that Blackstone thinks it is the top, horrible CPI and PPI, a crippled president, rate hikes in China and the rest of the world and an overall belief that the smart money says were are going to crash.
It's time to figure out why we haven't repealed the whole move from September and then some. I believes the answer lies, as is so often the case, in the components themselves.
So let's look at them to see why we have that resilience, or at least, where we could stop if the market's bears tag-team the ETFs to take the index below where the components want to go.
stays stubbornly in the low $30s even though it was back at $26 in the fall. I think that's because Alcoa is too much of a bargain for
, all of which at one time or another coveted this company. And why not?
All of those commodities "arms" dealers are trying to have an armory of metals to service rest-of-world demand, and Alcoa fits in, even as aluminum seems to be the only metal not in short supply ... for now. CVRD, BHP and RTP are doing well despite the alleged worldwide slowdown; all three have a currency. Would they let Alcoa go back to $26? Would speculators?
: With a split-up coming and an even higher yield on the remaining stock (which company will be kept in the Dow? interesting question, no?), Altria's not going much lower. You get 4.4% on the when-issued, which in 10 days will be full-fledged, and that can stop any barreling bear truck, given where yields are.
3. American Express
. This stock has little in its favor other than low valuation, with a price-to-earnings ratio of 16 on a 12% growth rate. Can it go much lower on fears the consumer is done? I say yes, and I would sooner be short this component than long.
4. American International Group
: Reports a monster quarter, grows at 12% with a price-to-earnings ratio of 10, but has a bad seller who owns a ton of shares through lots of entities: Hank Greenberg. I believe that the valuation makes it less vulnerable, and its franchise is thought to have little in the way of exposure to "bad financials."
: Strong franchise that should be going up here as a safety play with a 4% yield. Not vulnerable.
: Owing to the implosion of
and the great orders it has on the books, Boeing's been climbing throughout this period. Shares are always subject to a quick 2- or 3-point takedown, but the company's order book makes it resilient. Buyers are likely to come in at the top of the $80 range as the bull market in aerospace remains totally intact.
: I bought a little CAT on Friday for
Action Alerts PLUS owing to the amazing performance of cohort players,
. Caterpillar is always perceived as vulnerable to U.S. housing, but its buyback program and rest-of-world orders, plus the persistent high price of oil, make this company the one to buy on weakness. Shares are down 15% year over year, with 12% growth and a P/E of 11. Without a number cut, it seems like it will be supported by its near-52-week low status.
: With a 10 P/E on 10% growth, a 4.4% yield and the possibility that Chuck Prince will be fired, this stock is invulnerable here, in my opinion.
: With vastly improved fundamentals, strong management, a big buyback program and its status as a big defensive play, this stock has held up better than any in the Dow save AT&T. I would buy it right here, as would everyone else. The weak dollar makes an upside surprise likely. Plus, the company could even preannounce to the upside.
: This is a gigantic beneficiary of the weak dollar, the year-over-year decline in gasoline and a hit TV schedule. Another stock coveted by managers on any decline. Like
, it's perceived as a go-to media play in an era where there aren't many others.
: This is expensive after a big run, but agricultural exposure, lower raw costs and excellent pricing, plus its 3% yield and status as a weak-dollar play, will keep shares from going down more than 2 or 3 points, in my opinion. A probable
restructuring makes companion DuPont seem even more exciting.
12. Exxon Mobil
: With a huge buyback program and its status as favorite defensive oil stock, Exxon will be perceived as
way to play oil for the next generation of managers. Very little vulnerability. Too loved for that.
13. General Electric
: Yield, buyback and proximity to a 52-week low keep the stock aloft here, but it has done nothing for ages. The company is under-reserved, and a surprise from subprime can't be ruled out. Three points down max, though, on any revelation that subprime was not accounted for and reserved properly.
14. General Motors
: Its first profitable quarter in ages, plus the offloading of much of its subprime exposure, make this stock less vulnerable than would be expected. Down 2 or 3 points it will attract institutional buyers who respect the turnaround.
: Just announced a gigantic, aggressive buyback plan and has little competition from
. Seems just too cheap to get hammered, and it has a better quarter coming.
16. Home Depot
: This is a private-equity put, plus it's well off the highs. It should be lower, but the company buys back stock, and its stores are on the mend now that Bob Nardelli is no longer CEO.
: Everyone recognizes the Dave Cote turn now in place, and it could still be busted up. Aerospace is making this one fly high, and if it goes down a dollar people will swarm for it as they have for the last year.
: A huge buyback and the possibility of a second upside surprise make this stock one that gets bought every time it approaches $90. Three points down, not much more than that.
: No one wants to sell this stock at the low at $19, with
hurting so badly. No upside, but not much downside.
20. JPMorgan Chase
: Jamie Dimon has turned the earnings corner, but there's not much dividend support. I think this one is vulnerable to $44-$45.
21. Johnson & Johnson
: This is one of the worst-acting stocks in the Dow, with many miscues and a questionable pipe. But its rock-bottom valuation relative to historicals and its defensive nature should allow it to hug $60. It's already been trashed!
: Had better-than-expected earnings, plus it's a gigantic beneficiary of a weak dollar. I suspect this company could preannounce to the upside and buyers will want in on
: With earnings momentum, yield support, a defensive nature and the weak dollar, this is another coveted stock unlikely to get hammered here.
: Can they hit this one any more than they have off of Vista? Can it really go back to $25? Anything's possible, and the stock did hit $21 last year (and I hate tech), but I would buy this stock at $25 on its cash hoard and low valuation relative to growth. So would many others. Point and a half of downside.
: This company has low valuation, new management, good leverage to the dollar, a 4.61% yield, almost no downside and is prone to preannounce upside.
26. Procter & Gamble
: This company is smoking and is a great weak-dollar play, plus it has defensive characteristics. It's on everyone's buy list as an antidote to subprime.
: Its buybacks are the most aggressive in the Dow, the company is perceived to be turning and it's a weak-dollar beneficiary. Two points down, max, despite cyclicality as buyers circle on any down day.
28. United Technologies
: This is less levered to the U.S. than any other Dow stock, with great earnings diversity and fabulous Asian exposure. It also has exposure to aerospace and military bull markets.
: This is a massively defensive stock with a bountiful 4.4% yield and a great buyback program.
: This never wants to go below $45, because of the possibility that
good month will send the stock higher, and because when the economy slows more people visit its stores. It didn't really get hurt on the bank fiasco. Love down here.
Amazingly, most of the Dow stocks are actually likely to be bought on any further subprime contagion, something that's now taken pretty much as a given,
the lack of evidence so.
Think of it like this:
- Altria, AIG, AT&T, Coca-Cola, Exxon Mobil, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Pfizer, Procter & Gamble and Verizon are all considered classic defensive plays that money will flow into off of subprime. That's more than a third of the Dow.
- Citigroup has a 4.4% yield supporting it.
- Boeing, Honeywell and United Technologies, while cyclical to some degree, are more levered to the aerospace market, which, like the agricultural market, remains in a tremendously bullish mode.
- Alcoa has a private-equity put that makes it unlikely to go below $30 and is actually the favorite stock in the Dow from people who want to play private equity. Home Depot is the second fave.
- Disney and McDonald's, both weak-dollar plays, are suspected to be having much better than expected quarters. And of all the stocks in the Dow, they're most likely to beat estimates.
- 3M's buyback program is so aggressive that it has actually walked the stock up here, and the stock barely has been hit by the downdraft. Weak dollar exposure is equal to Coca-Cola, Altria and United Technologies in the Dow.
- H-P announced a buyback just Friday. It seems somewhat insulated.
- GE shares do nothing, so no one has profits in it and there are no profit-takers. There is very little downside unless under-reserved subprime worries make the rounds.
- Intel's valuation is at historic lows, the company has a great buyback program, and, like Boeing, hobbled competitors. There are just way too many value buyers at this level.
That leaves the following stocks as potential candidates for real declines:
- American Express: Even though it could see a real decline, the weak dollar could counteract any slowdown in consumer spending resulting from the subprime mess.
- Caterpillar: A misunderstood play on subprime that therefore makes it attractive to knowledgeable buyers.
- DuPont: Clearly vulnerable down to when dividend matters.
- GM: Clearly vulnerable, but with its first profitable quarter in ages, so it might have takers if it goes to $25-26.
- IBM: Simply underowned and just reported a good quarter.
- JPMorgan Chase: Vulnerable with no yield backstop.
- Microsoft: Vista weakness might be priced in.
- Wal-Mart: Very hated, and although I can't stand it, I recognize the defensive nature of Wal-Mart's earnings going into a recession.
There's just not that much vulnerability in this index to see it decline more than 200 to 300 points. I think that's why it hangs in. And that's my reasoning why we haven't been clocked yet. In fact, when you look at it like this, with two-thirds having little vulnerability, you have to question whether it couldn't go
Dare I actually write that?
Wow, am I a cockeyed optimist?
I don't think so.
I like the "What will
portfolio added yesterday on
. I also thought that
Baupost had some interesting new ideas.
General Electric owns CNBC, for which Cramer is a featured commentator. TheStreet.com holds a minority ownership interest in Stockpickr LLC and serves on its Member Committee. Jim Cramer is a director, co-founder and stockholder of TheStreet.com. At the time of publication, Cramer was long Altria, AIG, Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Johnson & Johnson.
Jim Cramer is a director and co-founder of TheStreet.com. He contributes daily market commentary for TheStreet.com's sites and serves as an adviser to the company's CEO. Outside contributing columnists for TheStreet.com and RealMoney.com, including Cramer, may, from time to time, write about stocks in which they have a position. In such cases, appropriate disclosure is made. To see his personal portfolio and find out what trades Cramer will make before he makes them, sign up for
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