There's a new and different narrative in the market that might make it tougher to find profits, Jim Cramer cautioned his Mad Money viewers Thursday. That narrative? Our inconsistent government.
Just last week, President Trump riled the markets with new tariffs on steel and aluminum. Yesterday, he delighted them with the appointment of Larry Kudlow as chief economic adviser. Kudlow is a good thing for the markets, Cramer said, as he believes in pro-growth and lower taxes, especially on capital gains and dividends. But Kudlow is also in favor of a strong dollar, which may hurt international companies.
Meanwhile, Congress today rolled back key portions of the Dodd-Frank banking reforms that were put in place after the financial crisis. That will be a big win for the banks, Cramer noted, but then the Federal Regulatory Energy Commission, or FERC, handed a blow to the oil pipeline companies -- the same companies that had been benefiting from Trump's deregulation.
Cramer maintained that he's still bullish on stocks overall, but conceded that all of this inconsistency and mixed messages will make it harder to make a profit going forward.
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Demise of Toys R Us Was a Long Time Coming
Are you mourning the news that Toys R Us is about to liquidate and close all of its stores? Well don't, Cramer said, in a scathing obituary of what went wrong at the beloved retailer "where a kid could be a kid."
Cramer declared that Toys R Us deserved to fail, as it had nothing special to offer. It did not have the best selection, nor the best prices, nor the best service nor the best locations. Unlike Burlington Stores (BURL) and Dollar General (DG) , which smartly used their time shepherded by private equity to clean up their stores and turn themselves around, Toys R Us did nothing to save itself from the likes of Walmart (WMT) , Target (TGT) and Amazon (AMZN) .
Toys R Us used to be a category killer, having outcompeted thousands of smaller chains and retailers until it became the king of the hill. But then Walmart and Target turned the tables, undercutting Toys R Us on price, while Amazon bested the company on selection and ultimately on service.
Some have placed the blame for the downfall of Toys R Us on private equity, which loaded the company with debt. But Cramer said less debt would have only prolonged the decline. The writing was on the wall in 1999, when Toys R Us reported a 2% decline in same-store sales during the holiday season. Customers had already begun shopping elsewhere, a trend that's continued every year since.
On Real Money, Cramer says that Toys R Us got killed by smarter, better operators. Get more of Cramer's insights with a free trial subscription to Real Money.
Executive Decision: Intel
For his "Executive Decision" segment, Cramer again sat down with Brian Krzanich, CEO of Intel (INTC) , the company Cramer called the most under-appreciated in all of technology. Shares of Intel are up 38% over the past six months.
Krzanich said that it's taken investors a long time to understand that Intel is no longer tied to just the PC market, but Wall Street is beginning to believe in their "data first" strategy. PCs still remain a great business, he said, but areas like the data center and the Internet of things continue to grow in double digits and account for 50% of revenues.
When asked about possible acquisitions, Krzanich said they are still heads down, focused on their two biggest deals, Mobileye and Altera. He said the $15 billion deal for Mobileye gave them the smartest people in the business and Intel's self-driving platform will be game changing.
Turning to the issue of security and the recently discovered security flaws, "meltdown" and "specter", Krzanich noted that all chips made in the past five years have mitigations available in software, and beginning in the second half of this year, mitigations will be part of all new hardware. Security is an on-going concern, he said, and will always be their primary focus.
Krzanich also commented on his recent stock sales, saying the sales were preplanned and he had no insider information at the time they were made.
Finally, when asked about trade and President Trump, Krzanich noted that we need free trade but also fair trade and there has to be a balance between the two. Nearly 70% of Intel's products are made inside the U.S. and 70% of them are sold outside the U.S.
Executive Decision: HP
In his second "Executive Decision" segment, Cramer also sat down with Dion Weisler, president and CEO of HP (HPQ) , to find out what's so exciting about the PC market these days.
Weisler noted that HP just posted their fifth consecutive quarter of double-digit growth in both PCs and printing, with 14% growth in printing this quarter and 15% in PCs. Those gains come from from tremendous innovation in the industry, he said, and making PCs cool again.
Weisler was also upbeat about 3D printing, which is still a small business but could be a huge part of the $12 trillion manufacturing sector. 3D promises lower inventory costs, less shipping and faster time to market, all huge wins for the manufacturing sector. HP's 3D printing technology prints 10 times faster at a fraction of the cost and is not just for prototyping, it's for real manufacturing.
When asked about their incredible innovation, Weisler explained that much of it stems from customer insights. Who wouldn't want a personalized product or a personalized magazine, the kinds of products that HP's digital printing platforms can provide? HP is giving its customers a reason to buy their products.
Finally, Weisler said that while there will be some cost headwinds this year, currency and cost cutting will largely offset those.
Executive Decision: Clorox
For his final "Executive Decision" segment, Cramer checked in with Benno Dorer, chairman and CEO of Clorox (CLX) , the consumer packaged goods maker know for its innovation.
Dorer said that Clorox just completed the acquisition of NutraNext for $700 million, a deal which gives his company access to the huge market for dietary supplements. He said it's not only older people taking supplements these days, millennials are also looking for a healthier lifestyle. NutraNext has the No. 1 and No. 2 brands in several categories, including vitamins and supplements to reduce stress and help people sleep better.
Dorer noted that this deal was not done because of tax reforms, but because it made sense to invest in this growth area. Tax reforms will be a big benefit for Clorox shareholders, however, as it will allow the company to invest in their business both organically and inorganically.
In addition to NutraNext, Dorer also noted his company's other healthy products, like probiotics and even Hidden Valley Ranch salad dressings, which are a key ingredient to getting kids to eat, and more importantly, enjoy, fruits and vegetables.
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