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NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Four times a year the markets get earnings fever, Jim Cramer told his "Mad Money" TV show viewers Friday. But investors need to read beyond the headlines because it's the expectations, not the earnings, that really matter.
Cramer would be a buyer of Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), a stock he owns for his charitable trust, Action Alerts PLUS, on any weakness, but not IBM (IBM), which, despite its low expectations, needs to tell investors how bad things really are.
Wednesday brings earnings from Coach (COH), Norfolk Southern (NSC), United Technologies (UTX), Netflix (NFLX) and eBay (EBAY). Cramer said to be careful with Coach, Norfolk, eBay and Netflix but be a buyer of United Tech, which has already tempered the enthusiasm.
Then, on Thursday, it's Lockheed Martin (LMT), a stock that's been amazing, McDonald's (MCD), Microsoft (MSFT) and Starbucks (SBUX) reporting. Cramer said he prefers Wendy's (WEN) over McDonald's but likes Microsoft on the possibility of a new CEO from outside the company, and Starbucks for the long term.
Finally, on Friday, it's Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY), Stanley Black & Decker (SWK), Honeywell (HON) and Kimberly-Clark (KMB) reporting. Cramer is a fan of Bristol, Honeywell and Kimberly but suggested using call options as a way to test the waters with Stanley Black & Decker, a company that couldn't possibly have as bad a quarter as it did last quarter.
Executive Decision: Strauss Zelnick
For his "Executive Decision" segment, Cramer sat down with Strauss Zelnick, chairman and CEO of Take-Two Interactive (TTWO), the $1.5 billion video game maker with such titles as Grand Theft Auto, Bioshock and NBA 2K.
Zelnick said he's not overly worried about Take-Two's share price because the company has already bought $280 million worth of its own shares at what it believes to be a terrific price. "We're voting with our capital," he continued.