Cramer's 'Mad Money' Recap: Nasdaq's Integrity Outage

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NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- C'mon guys, get it together. The markets are too important not to have a backup plan, Jim Cramer said on "Mad Money" Thursday.

There needs to be an emergency system that kicks in when the system goes down and trading is halted, as it was this afternoon at the Nasdaq for more than three hours, Cramer said. He added that he didn't feel like sharing the numbers from the markets today, particularly the Nasdaq close, because he wasn't sure if he trusted them.

What happened today was profoundly disappointing and disheartening, said Cramer, and he was especially concerned no one at the Nasdaq said anything.

How could this happen? Cramer asked. It's a for-profit company. There's a CEO, Bob Greifeld, and he's got a chain of command. Any one of them could have come out and apologize and explain what was happening.

Also, Cramer asked, where was the government? Where was Mary Jo White of the Securities and Exchange Commission? In the meantime, exchange-traded fund and index trading was on hold because many hold Nasdaq stocks and the market was compromised. The SEC should not tolerate this nonsense anymore, Cramer said.

Cramer wondered, where is the backup system? Cramer's theory is this: Many professionals have become inured to this kind of nonsense. They say it comes with the territory and shrug their shoulders. There is no sense of outrage anymore. No one gets outed. No one loses his job.

The SEC has to represent the regular guy, Cramer said. Trading has gotten titled toward the big, rich trading firms and against the moms and pops. Cramer called for the government to lead and the Nasdaq to be investigated and end these debacles once and for all.

Executive Decision: Cheryl Bachelder

There are still stocks working well right now. Case in point, AFC Enterprises ( AFCE), which runs Popeye's, the number-two chicken chain in the country with more than 2,000 locations. AFCE reported on Wednesday night and shot the lights out, Cramer said, with second-quarter revenue rising 21% year-over-year and beating expectations. The stock was up $2.45 Thursday, and up 74% since Cramer started recommending it one year ago.

Cramer visited a Popeye's location in Brooklyn, N.Y., to talk to CEO Cheryl Bachelder, the company's terrific CEO. Bachelder credited innovation, cost savings, driving the top line, running a better restaurant for the guests, and remodeling restaurants so they look spectacular for the great earnings. It doesn't hurt the company provides an affordable meal at a time of high unemployment.

Restaurant remodels have led to a 3% to 4% lift in remodeled restaurants, Bachelder said, and customers are staying in the dining room longer. By the end of the second quarter this year, about 40% of AFCE's domestic restaurants had been remodeled into the new Popeye's Louisiana Kitchen image. That number will reach 60% of the system by the end of the year and close to 80% by the end of 2014, Bachelder said.

Popeye's is seeing great results from new markets such as Minneapolis, where AFCE has bought old KFC restaurants to remodel in its own image and found pent-up demand. Bachelder said social media has been a big driver of growth.

Popeye's is growing overseas as well, Bachelder said, and the company has yet to find a country that doesn't enjoy its chicken in the Middle East, Latin America and Asia.

Cramer asked what Popeye's plans to do with its cash. Bachelder said it plans to expand the company's footprint in the U.S. and internationally.

Hope for Hewlett-Packard?

In the wake of a disappointing quarter, Cramer wondered where Hewlett-Packard ( HPQ) should go from here. If you are CEO Meg Whitman, how do you stop the bleeding after revenue shrunk by 8% in its third quarter?

Sales in HPQ's consumer PC sgment fell 22% in the third quarter from the same period last year. Enterprise sales are down 9%, Cramer said. And yet, lost in all the disappointment, cash flow from operations is healthy.

In an interview with Whitman earlier Thursday, Cramer said she told him to look to the turnaround of IBM ( IBM) in 1993 and Starbucks' ( SBUX) resurgence in 2008 as parallel tracks that HPQ could take. Those two both took similar paths: Fix the balance sheet first, then grow the company.

Cramer said at IBM, under Louis Gerstner's leadership in the 1990s, the company exited the retail desktop PC market, fixed the balance sheet and reinvented the company as a primarily software and service company. That's where Whitman finds herself with HPQ, Cramer said. The industry is moving so quickly to smaller, faster devices. Cramer doesn't know if this is transitioning too fast for Hewlett-Packard to transcend the riptides.

Unlike Howard Shultz, the CEO at Starbucks who expanded overseas and turned the stores into places that beckons customers inside, there's no new products coming from HPQ, and it's already huge internationally. HPQ can become a value-added software, service and printer company, Cramer says. Without economic growth worldwide, it can't make owning the stock a worthwhile proposition right now.

Bottom line: Cramer says HPQ needs a new product, worldwide growth and a lot of luck to spark another turn.

Lightning Round

In the Lightning Round, Cramer was bullish on Xerox ( XRX), Baxter ( BAX) and LinkedIn ( LNKD).

Cramer was bearish on Amarin ( AMRN), Baidu ( BD) and Interpublic Group ( IPG).

Cooking With Hain's

In today's installment of this week's "Cramer's Cookouts," Cramer took a look at Hain Celestial Group ( HAIN), which offers a defensive position in today's market.

On Monday, Cramer suggested buying Hain's ahead of its quarterly earnings announcement. On Wednesday, the company blew away fourth-quarter expectations, reporting 32.1% year-over-year revenue growth and posting earnings of 65 cents per share, besting estimates by 3 cents per share.

At the close Thursday, Hain was up 10.96% over the last two days, hitting an all-time high.

Cramer welcomed Irwin Simon, the founder, chairman and CEO of Hain Celestial, to his cookout. Simon joked that there was so much excitement about his company that HAIN froze the Nasdaq. He said he shared Cramer's disappointment in the Nasdaq, particularly on a day when his company reported such promising numbers.

Simon said that with childhood obesity on the rise, his organic and natural food products are selling more and more. He pointed to juices and personal care products as a key area of growth. At home and overseas, combined consumption of its products has increased 6.7% over the last 12 weeks, compared with 8% in the previous quarter. Conventional food business is flat, Simon said. The juicing category is soaring, and consumers are moving away toward organic, natural products.

Whole Foods ( WFM) is the biggest purchaser and retailer of Hain's products, followed by other retail giants Wal-Mart ( WMT), Costco ( COST) and Wegmans.

Eating healthy is not a fad, or a trend, Simon told Cramer. It's becoming a more important part of life.

No Huddle Offense

Cramer wanted to know: Could we be more in hostage to bonds? He sees an angry, mean bond market, bent on revenge. The Federal Reserve is fed up of shouldering the load. Where is Congress? Where is the president? Cramer wonders how many houses can Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke buy and sell? How many bridges, tunnels and exit ramps?

If this is what the bond market is like when the Fed is buying, who knows how high rates will shoot when it stops, Cramer said. If he was Bernanke, he'd stop talking about what he's doing -- can the transparency and start playing a little coy.

With 10-Year Treasury yields nearing 3%, where is the demand coming from? Even if homebuilders are optimistic, Cramer thinks the bond market has cooled off housing, the recovery's leadership sector. His best guess is that foreign governments are selling. Given that foreigners own nearly 50% of the U.S. $15 trillion debt, why shouldn't they be selling? They're hearing comments about tapering, they don't want to see their gains disappear, they want to ring the register and repatriate the money, Cramer said.

The trend of higher rates is here to stay, Cramer said. The economy can handle that if it can just catch its breath.

To watch replays of Cramer's video segments, visit the Mad Money page on CNBC.

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-- Written by Chris Sahl in Boston.
At the time of publication, Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS had a position in COST.

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