Retail Sales Disappoint but Investors Are Buying Anyway

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- April retail sales came in below economists' expectations, the fourth consecutive miss, according to Jim Lebenthal, president of Lebenthal Asset Management. 

While a few months of missed results could be explained by saying consumers are going on vacation rather than buying new clothes, four misses simply cannot be explained in this manner, he said on CNBC's "Fast Money Halftime Report" Wednesday. Instead, consumers are saving more of their income and paying down debt, which is good for long-term growth. However, it will have a negative impact on 2015 GDP, Lebenthal said.

While the results are disappointing, it's not necessarily something to concern investors too much, said Pete Najarian, co-founder of optionmonster.com and trademonster.com. With the S&P 500 up nearly 2% for the year to date, investors are buying although the index is currently down by a fraction of a percentage point.

Investors should also remember that gasoline prices are rising and likely weighing on retail sales, added Jon Najarian, co-founder of optionmonster.com and trademonster.com. 

Ritholtz Wealth Management's CEO and co-founder Josh Brown agreed, adding the retail sales result is "not necessarily the bible" when it comes to consumer spending. More consumers are spending on Amazon (AMZN) and Netflix (NFLX), taking vacations and going out to dinner. 

Brown continued that electronics sales are "through the roof" while department store sales are underperforming. He also cited sporting events, pointing out consumers are willing to pay up to six times face value for tickets to attend the National Hockey League playoffs. Events, services and entertainment are more important than buying a new outfit for many people, he said. 

Consumers are saving the "windfall" from lower gasoline prices over the past year, said Russ Koesterich, the chief investment strategist at BlackRock (BLK) and iShares chief global investment strategist. 

As a result of saving more and reducing debt, household balance sheets are improving, Koesterich explained. Despite the lack of spending and slight drag on the economy, the stock market hasn't become too expensive. While investors have showed a willingness to pay a higher valuation than in the past, low interest rates and low inflation make stocks a suitable investment. 

However, Koesterich says investors should trim their U.S. positions slightly and look to diversify into international equities. Lower margins and a strong dollar will make U.S. stocks less attractive while lower valuations and growth catalysts make international equities more desirable.

Pete Najarian agreed that investors should trim their U.S. exposure but still likes select sectors such as technology and financials. 

The U.S. dollar has continued to trade terribly for the past two months, Brown pointed out. However, instead of rushing back into U.S. multinational stocks, investors should look to diversify into other assets. For instance, the four largest economies in Europe -- Germany, France, Italy and Spain -- all posted positive GDP growth in the same quarter for the first time in five years. A diversified portfolio will allow investors to take advantage of different regions, he explained. 

As for Cisco Systems (CSCO), which reports earnings after the market close, investors who are long can stay long, Lebenthal said. He finds the stock attractive based on valuation and also likes Qualcomm (QCOM) and IBM (IBM). 

Pete Najarian agrees that "old tech" stocks look attractive such as Intel (INTC) and Microsoft (MSFT). He also likes Cisco but is not long headed into the report due to the recent rally. Investors are pricing in a 5% move between now and week's end, Jon Najarian added.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.

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