NEW YORK (Real Money) -- In the National Football League they call it "Next Man Up." That's when you expect a player to go down from injury or wear and tear and you insert another player in the lineup and then he gets the mix going.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average is full of next-man-up situations and today's one of those days where you see it writ large.
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First man up? Walmart (WMT) . Here's a company that many had written off as a creature of bad habits, a dowdy store chain with a Montgomery-Ward feel to it, out of step with time and place. Now that may have been the case but this Doug McMillon-led Wal-Mart sure doesn't feel that way. We got a nice upside surprise for the first time in ages from a company that had begun to stand for lower prices, not in the stores but in the stock market. I liked everything that McMillon had to say and it's clear he has his pulse on the stores the way the legendary founder Sam Walton had.
Now I hear all of the catcalls here, that the company had repeatedly cut forecasts, so when it finally beats one, well, big deal. I think that's short-sighted and if you listen to the pre-recorded conference call, you will know that there is, to use McMillon's term, a "newness" to the old joint. What's different? First, there's a template that's really working -- the smaller neighborhood stores -- that gave you 5.5% comparable-store sales. Boy oh boy, we haven't seen anything like that for ages. I like this concept because those of us who shop at Wal-Mart have become a little intimidated by the raw size of the place. The neighborhood stores are downright quaint and I like the fact that Wal-Mart's got a chit located near the hottest game in town: the dollar store. Neighborhood Market isn't a dollar store per se, but it does have bargains and it's got a huge amount of expansion ahead of it.
What else? How about the fact that, unlike other retailers, it had a strong October as the month went on culminating in an excellent Halloween season. That's something I am used to hearing from Target (TGT) , not from Wal-Mart, as the holiday merchandise never seemed on point. The company also had a strong back-to-school season that didn't let up and it did well in apparel and home and traditional back-to-school supplies. Again, something unexpected. Wal-Mart had often been out of stock of so-called urgent items. That no longer seems to be the case. And, after stutter steps, it sounds like Wal-Mart truly has embraced natural and organic, a real coup for Hain Celestial (HAIN) , by the way. Quite a far cry from the day I went into a Wal-Mart with my daughter in Northampton, Mass. in 2009 and asked the greeter where in the natural and organic aisle were rice cakes and I was directed to the candy aisle to buy Rice Krispie bars.
I like what I hear, especially when you consider that a Wal-Mart shopper is precisely the kind of person who benefits the most from the continued freefall in oil, which quickly translates to lower gasoline prices and a return to better employment growth, again a win for this largest of all retailers.
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Next man up after Wal-Mart? How about Cisco (CSCO) ? Here's a controversial stock because it was trading higher after the quarter came out and then traded down with a downbeat forecast, only to rise phoenix-like during the interview Carl Quintanilla and I had with long-time CEO John Chambers. Remember, it is not unusual to see a stock go higher on a shaded-down forecast -- we saw it yesterday with Macy's (M) -- but this one hinged on a strictly conservative approach that has been a hallmark of Chambers. Boy, did I like what I heard from this Dow laggard, including excellent results in the United States and Europe, plus a triumphant game-over for the other guys as Chambers declared victory over his hobbled rivals.
Still, though emerging markets were weak and the service providers in this country, like AT&T (T) and Verizon (VZ) have dramatically -- John's word spoken multiple times -- cut back on broadband spending, in part because of the president's bizarre embrace of net neutrality. I say bizarre because that had hitherto been the bailiwick of the FCC and it had been pretty hands-off about the issue. That stance brought about a tremendous amount of spending by the major telco players and that meant excellent orders for Cisco. Chambers made it clear that if emerging markets come back -- and they are on a course to do so -- or the president backs down on his newfound stance, then the spending could come back and 2015 could be a great year for this company and its once-stellar stock. And, ooh la la, if the feds would ever change the corporate tax regime, as he has $52 billion in cash with all but about $3 billion overseas and he would love to repatriate that capital.
The stock's rally makes a ton of sense, and if anything breaks the way of Chambers you have could have a 3 handle on the company's equity, meaning $30.
Then there's Boeing (BA) . You know, I have been waiting for this stock to recover from the levels it fell to after the quarter that was widely interpreted as negative because of Dreamliner issues. I am not willing to get on the bandwagon yet because those problems must be resolved, but I think Boeing's coming back because, with the Republican majorities in the house and Senate, the defense budget will at last most likely increase and that's just plain good news for this contractor.
Finally, there's Disney (DIS) coming back to where it was after the so-called weakness in last quarter's report. I was adamant then and even more adamant now after I see the weird bid by Hasbro for Dreamworks of the value of the firm's tentpole studio business where hit after hit gets manufactured not unlike the Motown of old. Remember the stock went down on weak ad rates and an ennui about the movie slate. With Star Wars beckoning this time next year and better numbers for close-analogue- without- the sports Viacom this morning I am feeling good that this Next Man Up wasn't on injured reserve as so many claimed but was just resting for a couple of games before being inserted right back into the line-up.
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Action Alerts PLUS, which Cramer co-manages as a charitable trust, has no positions in the stocks mentioned.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published at 11:59 a.m. EST on Nov. 13.