NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Jim Cramer fills his blog on RealMoney every day with his up-to-the-minute reactions to what's happening in the market and his legendary ahead-of-the-crowd ideas. This week he blogged on:
- how to sidestep the twin market problems of frothy sectors and cratering commodities, and
- why amusement park companies can be fun for investors too.
Click here for information on RealMoney, where you can see all the blogs, including Jim Cramer's -- and reader comments -- in real time.
Twin Worries in the Market
Posted at 1:01 p.m. EST on Wednesday, March 12, 2014
There are two worries in this market, not one, and I don't want to minimize one for the sake of the other. Recently I've talked about how the froth, the action in the alternative-energy fuel-cell stocks, as well as the common stocks of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, was deeply worrisome. You can't have a side-by-side market where there's immense froth in one subsection of the market and health in another. Just like in currency, the bad drives out the good, and froth can trump sanity in a heartbeat, as we know from 1999 to 2000. Of course, it can stay frothy for some time, so you can say, "Aha, there's froth, let's go." But you do have to be alert for it.
However, my colleague David Faber reminded me this morning of the other worrisome component, not in the stock market, where I am concerned about irrational trading, but in the real economy, where we need to keep an eye -- if not both eyes -- on the weakness in commodities.
The weakness in commodities stems directly from the slackening of demand from China. We never really know how well China is doing, and we have learned not to trust the various indicators and projections. But we do know that the price of copper, the most visible commodity, has been just crushed here, and that has been the thermometer for China for as long as China has been a growth country.
I follow the price of copper by using the iPath Dow Jones UBS Copper Total Return Sub-Index ETN (JJC), and it has fallen from $41 at year-end to $35 and change this morning. That's an extraordinary selloff. If China is the primary user of the material, then we know that something is very rotten in China.
Now we know that China is powerful, but it can't pull down the whole world. The U.S. has been strong of late, other than the weather-related pause. Europe has been coming back. However, today we saw some weakness in industrial production over in Europe. Don't forget that 25% of Chinese exports go to Europe, so weakness in China can signal weakness in Europe.
We can handle one of these two being weak, but not both. So we must be concerned that the economy around the world is slowing. That would mean that there could be a further rollback in the industrial stocks that led us higher last year but have really floundered of late.
It's not just copper.
It's oil. Today, oil is falling again, and when you see both oil and copper fall, you have to bet that the slowdown is for real.
Now the optimists would say, wait a second, that's West Texas Intermediate that's falling, not the world price, so don't write off oil just yet.
But it doesn't matter. Markets are about perception, and oil is adding to the perception that things are slowing.
Now layer on still one more barometer of economic slowdown: Treasuries. They are rallying, and that means rates are going down, and there's no way that rates can fall as they are if the economy is strengthening.
Now I am heartened that some of the speculative names are coming up. FuelCell Energy (FCEL) has reversed from a higher price. Same with Ballard Power Systems (BLDP). Plug Power (PLUG) is still up, but it was totally pole-axed this week. Fannie and Freddie are being killed again, although, alas, Tesla (TSLA) is being Tesla.
But we need to see the economic growth story brighten, even if it is at a slow pace, to keep the momentum of this market going -- momentum that seems to have gone lost.
Copper, oil, bonds: They all say the momentum is lost. So even though the froth is becoming, well, less frothy, the worldwide economic backdrop has turned more negative than it was not that long ago.
Amusement Parks Are Serious Business
Posted at 6:12 p.m. EST on Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Sometimes you have these quiet moves in stocks that aren't on anyone's radar screens. They aren't battlegrounds, they aren't sources of contention. They just methodically, year after year, generate excellent returns.
Such is the case with Cedar Fair (FUN) and Six Flags (SIX), two amusement park operators that exemplify one of my favorite themes in my new book Get Rich Carefully, what I call "the new frugality." The scars of the Great Recession run deep -- deeper, I believe, than many of us want to admit -- and people now seek bargains that are similar to what our parents or grandparents or even great-grandparents sought after the Great Depression.
The idea of amusement park stocks as big winners seems a little fanciful. They are unimportant equities to most. They are not Tesla Motors (TSLA), not Netflix (NFLX), major tugs-of-war with brilliant people on both sides of the stock. They don't make fuel cells like Ballard Power (BLDP) or Plug Power (PLUG). You won't find any 3D printers among this group. No hedge fund manager is going to get short them and then start a campaign against them to drive them down and profit from the destruction they may have wrought.
These companies simply manage properties that are relatively inexpensive destinations where you can have a real good time, perfect for newly frugal people who don't feel like going in hock over a vacation, after what they went through not that long ago.
Amusement parks such as Six Flags or Cedar Fair, which you may know as Dorney Park or Kings Dominion or WildWater kingdom, are the ideal family vacation destinations, and these two operators keep them fresh with new rides fairly regularly, taking advantage of the wonders of technology. Those new features keep people coming back over and over again, year after year.
While we focus intensely on how Disney's (DIS) theme parks do, how much Disney is charging and how big the gate is, the moves these smaller companies make mean absolutely nothing to most investors out there.
I have been a big fan of these stocks ever since the Great Recession, in part because these companies are so committed to their shareholders. They spew cash, and they return as much as prudently possible to those who own them. I think that's a chief reason why Cedar Fair has gone from $7 five years ago to $50 now, and yet even after that remarkable move, it still yields 5.3%. Six Flags is no slouch either, yielding 4.4% after a terrific run.
[Read: Best Investments for Retirement]
Six Flags is the largest regional theme park operator on earth, with 19 theme parks, water parks and zoological parks across the country. Cedar Fair is a close second with 11 amusement parks, seven water parks and five hotels.
These companies raise their dividends pretty much each time they open new rides. They have little competition, because it's so difficult for any new operator to cobble together the real estate needed and get the insurance that's necessary to open a new park.
I always preach diversification. I never want you in all cloud stocks, or all oils, or all biotechs. That's just too risky. Stocks such as Cedar Fair and Six Flags aren't roller coasters. Best of all, they leave the thrills and the excitement to their parks, not to your portfolio.
Random musings: Thanks to my colleague Matt Horween for first bringing Cedar Fair to my attention as a terrific company. Great call!
At the time of publication, Action Alerts PLUS, which Cramer co-manages as a charitable trust, held no positions in any of the stocks mentioned.