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NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Investors are getting nervous, Jim Cramer told his Mad Money viewers Thursday.
On the one hand, you have strong retail sales, he said, but investors are starting to worry about today's 2.9% decline in oil prices and close below $60 per barrel and the effect on U.S. energy stocks.
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However, the overwhelming benefit most Americans will receive from lower gasoline prices might be able to offset those energy sector issues. That’s why companies like Home Depot (HD) , Lowe’s (LOW) , Wal-Mart (WMT) and TJX Companies (TJX) all rallied. Another retailer, Restoration Hardware (RH) , just reported “stunning” earnings results and 22% same-store sales growth. Investors should be long this stock with its long-term growth story, Cramer said.
The bottom line: The 45% drop in crude prices will certainly cause some woes in the energy sector. But the 70% of the economy that is driven by consumer spending should be an enormous beneficiary of lower oil prices, which should ultimately offset the damage, Cramer said.
Why Exxon Can Still Profit
Cramer pointed out that while crude finished lower on Thursday, Exxon Mobil (XOM) actually climbed 0.6%. Perhaps investors are realizing that not all companies are created equal and not all companies are going to lose.
In fact, some companies are ultimately going to make a lot of money, Cramer said. With Exxon’s strong balance sheet, terrific management and long-term focus, it’s likely to be one of these winners. That’s why the stock closed higher, Cramer said.
The one knock against against Exxon is its stagnant production growth. But the company is in a financially flexible position where it can afford to acquire these beaten down, debt-loaded companies, refinance the debt, seize the assets and boost production growth.
The move won’t happen overnight, but large energy players could “pick off the losers” in the industry that have good prospects and generate its own production growth when the oil market eventually recovers, he said.
The bottom line: The drop in oil prices is severe and harmful to many companies in the energy space. But it doesn’t present the type of systemic risk to the economy that the collapse in the housing market did a few years ago, Cramer said.
Denny's ComebackPay attention to Denny’s ( DENN) , the small-cap, speculative diner comprised of 1,700 restaurants. Cramer said the stock is up 42% in the past five months, helped along by falling oil prices. Denny’s customer base is the perfect beneficiary of lower gasoline prices at a time the company is in the midst of a massive turnaround, which began in 2011 with new CEO John Miller.
The company converted many of its company-owned restaurants into franchise locations and then used the proceeds to pay down debt, a load that could have taken down the company, Cramer said. Denny’s is working on boosting its image to customers by expanding its menu to lunch and dinner options, while also adding healthy options like egg whites and turkey bacon.
Management expects 70% of the stores to be renovated in the next five years, something that has historically “provided a tremendous boost to same-store sales,” for other companies, Cramer said. So why can’t it work for Denny’s?
While the valuation may seem stretched at 25 times next year’s earnings, estimates may simply be too low, he reasoned. The company also has a strong buyback program.
The bottom line: The rapid decline in oil prices is creating a “perfect fit” for Denny’s as the company is still in the early stages of a comeback. The stock is headed higher and investors should consider initiating a long position on a pullback.
Executive Decision: Jayshree Ullal
On the show’s “Executive Decision” segment, Cramer sat down with Jayshree Ullal, CEO of Arista Networks (ANET) . The company provides cloud networking solutions and has large clients including Action Alerts PLUS holdings Microsoft (MSFT) and Facebook (FB) .
The company is a rare form of competition to Cisco Systems (CSCO) , she said, which has seen its market share dip from 80% to 70%. On the flip side, Arista Networks’ market share has gone from 0% to 8%.
Addressing the elephant in the room, Ullal says she was surprised to hear about Cisco's lawsuit, which alleges that her company infringed on 14 of Cisco's patents. Restricted by what she could say, she noted her company will analyze the lawsuit documents and aggressively defend its intellectual property.
Arista Networks’ cloud software network is more effective and does not take the whole systems down when one network goes out. It’s also much cheaper for clients and customers than traditional enterprise systems, she said.
The company has “incredible growth” with revenue up 53% year-over-year, Cramer said of the stock. Shares are have performed well since its June IPO price of $43.
Am I Diversified?
In the "Am I Diversified?" segment, Cramer spoke with callers and responded to tweets sent via Twitter to @JimCramer to see if investors' portfolios have what it takes for today's markets.
“I like this portfolio very much,” Cramer said. Pfizer is a “boring” but good pharmaceutical company, GE is a diversified industrial and Costco is one of the best retailers.
While the portfolio is well diversified, Cramer suggested that the investor not own Conn’s. He added that he likes General Motors (GM) over Ford.
Despite the appearance that some of these stocks may overlap -- Citigroup, Brookfield Asset Management and AIG -- they do not, Cramer reasoned. Halliburton will eventually rebound when it completes its acquisition of Baker Hughes (BHI) .
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-- Written by Bret Kenwell