Jim Cramer's 'Mad Money' Recap: Who's Sorry About Apple Now?

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NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- You're only as good as your most recent quarter, Jim Cramer reminded "Mad Money" viewers Monday as he opined on the results from Apple ( AAPL), a stock he owns for his charitable trust, Action Alerts PLUS.

Cramer said that Wall Street has a notoriously short memory. Despite Apple making fortunes for investors in years past and having an ungodly large amount of cash on hand to prove it, when the company's gross margins turned south last year Wall Street abandoned the stock, sending its price plummeting to a low of $385. Back then, expectations were too high, so high that even a quality operator such as Apple was unable to achieve them.

Fast forward to today, when Apple was able to post $8.26 a share in earnings, a full 32 cents a share more than expectations. Revenue rose 4.2% and gross margins expanded to 37%. Apple's holiday lineup looks even better and the company raised its revenue estimates for the rest of the year.

Cramer said he'd still be a buyer of Apple, even at today's levels, given the strength of its balance sheet and its products for the holiday season. He was also bullish on the consumer staple stocks including Hershey ( HSY) and Clorox ( CLX), which are benefiting from a falling dollar and input costs.

Cramer's 10-Point Plan

The markets will always have an appetite for growth, Cramer told viewers, but how should investors choose which growth stock to add to their portfolio? Cramer unveiled his 10-point plan for choosing the best growth stocks.

His method is simple: 10 criteria, each with a possible 10 points, for a total score up to 100.

Cramer's candidates for this exercise are two specialty retailers that blew away the estimates, Tractor Supply ( TSCO) and Lumber Liquidators ( LL).

1. Multiyear growth. Cramer said while both companies have years of expansion, Liquidators has more room to expand. He gave seven points to Tractor Supply and 10 to Liquidators.

2. Total addressable market. Both companies have huge opportunities ahead. Eight points Tractor, nine points Liquidators.

3. Competitiveness. Cramer said both companies are incredibly competitive in their respective industries. Nine points a piece.

4. Shareholder capital return. Tractor Supply offers a small dividend and a buyback while Liquidators is reinvesting every penny it makes. In this case, that's OK, said Cramer, but for this scale it's three points to Tractor and zero for Liquidators.

5. International. Neither company has any plans for international expansion, but either could if they wanted. Five points each.

6. Balance sheet strength. Cramer said both stocks offer very strong balance sheets. Nine points and 10 points, as Liquidators has no debt.

7. Out-year valuation. Both stocks trade at deep discounts to their earnings potential in a few years, with Liquidators a little more so. Eight points and 10 points, respectively.

8. Management. Again, strong executives at both companies, but a little more tenure at Liquidators. Eight points to nine.

9. Cyclical? Cramer said Liquidators is more beholden to the housing market, giving Tractor Supply the win with eight points to six.

10. Gross margins. A strong finish for both companies, but with Liquidators edging a win once again. Eight points for Tractor Supply to 10 for Liquidators.

Add up all the scores and Cramer said both companies are terrific, but Lumber Liquidators edged out Tractor Supply 78 to 73, making it the more compelling name.

Who's Better?

Some managements simply do a better job than others, Cramer said. To show the perfect example of how much execution matters to a company's bottom line he compared Polaris Industries ( PII) to Arctic Cat ( ACAT), two makers of snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles and accessories there were both up big on the year going into earnings season.

Polaris was able to post a three-cents-a-share earnings beat on a stellar 25% rise in revenue, while Arctic Cat posted one of the worst quarters seen anywhere, a 26-cents-a-share earnings miss on lower-than-expected revenue that sent shares plunging 15%.

Looking into the results, Cramer said it was easy to see how Polaris was just eating Cat's lunch. While Polaris saw strength in every segment, Cat saw declines in parts, accessories and garments. Those areas that saw growth did so only with heavy promotional activity. Polaris saw gross margins expanding while Cat's were shrinking.

Furthermore, Polaris management called out Europe as a bright spot for the quarter, but Arctic Cat saw a "challenging" European environment.

Given that Polaris trades at 20 times earnings with a 16% growth rate, compared to Arctic Cat at 14 times earnings with a 20% growth rate, investors may be tempted to think Arctic Cat is the better value. But Cramer said after reviewing the quarters, it's clear to see Polaris deserves its higher multiple as the company's management is hitting it out of the park.

Lightning Round

In the Lightning Round, Cramer was bullish on Rite Aid ( RAD), Google ( GOOG), Automatic Data Processing ( ADP) and Paychex ( PAYX).

Cramer was bearish on Celldex Therapeutics ( CLDX) and Yandex ( YNDX).

Executive Decision: Debra Cafaro

In the "Executive Decision" segment, Cramer sat down with Debra Cafaro, chairman and CEO of Ventas ( VTR), the senior living real estate investment trust that's now yielding 4% thanks to an 18-point drop in its shares since May. Ventas just posted an earnings beat of 2 cents a share on an 11.5% rise in revenue.

Cafaro said Ventas aims to be a stable and consistent earner for its shareholders and has been delivering on that goal. She said the company just purchased another $1.3 billion worth of assets, borrowing for as little as 3% for the next 12.5 years.

When asked whether Ventas deserves to trade on the whims of the Affordable Care Act, Cafaro noted that 84% of Ventas' tenants are private payers of their services, making them largely unaffected by Obamacare. Additionally, she said what matters most is America's demographic trends, all of which point to years of growth, with a high demand for senior living services and medical office buildings.

Cramer called Ventas the best performer in its class.

No Huddle Offense

In his "No Huddle Offense" segment, Cramer said there's a new swing factor in company's earnings reports and it's called Europe.

Cramer explained that after getting hit big by a faltering Europe that accounted for a big chunk of their earnings, many industrial and tech companies have learned their lessons and have aggressively cut costs and right-sized their operations.

With expectations now set very low, he said these companies' earnings could pop big and the time to buy in is now, ahead of the strength that's expected in 2014.

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

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-- Written by Scott Rutt in Washington, D.C.

To email Scott about this article, click here: Scott Rutt

Follow Scott on Twitter @ScottRutt or get updates on Facebook, ScottRuttDC

At the time of publication, Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS had a position in AAPL.

Jim Cramer, host of the CNBC television program "Mad Money," is a Markets Commentator for TheStreet.com, Inc., and CNBC, and a director and co-founder of TheStreet.com. All opinions expressed by Mr. Cramer on "Mad Money" are his own and do not reflect the opinions of TheStreet.com or its affiliates, or CNBC, NBC Universal or their parent company or affiliates. Mr. Cramer's opinions are based upon information he considers to be reliable, but neither TheStreet.com, nor CNBC, nor either of their affiliates and/or subsidiaries warrant its completeness or accuracy, and it should not be relied upon as such. Mr. Cramer's statements are based on his opinions at the time statements are made, and are subject to change without notice. No part of Mr. Cramer's compensation from CNBC or TheStreet.com is related to the specific opinions expressed by him on "Mad Money."

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