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What Is Cramer Watching as Earnings Season Begins?

Friday, 4 Jan 2013 | 6:02 PM ET
Cramer's Game Plan for the Week
Mad Money host Jim Cramer shares his game plan for next week.

"First quarter earnings season may be the single most difficult period of the year to make money," said Cramer.

That's because the cross currents created by the need for CEOs to temper enthusiasm and the possibility that the seasonably strong fourth quarter, which we typically get from technology and bank stocks, could mark a peak.

And Cramer thinks Q1 in 2013 could be particularly problematic with the debt ceiling overhang giving CEOs an opportunity to be especially downbeat in order to reset the bar.

Considering these factors, Cramer thinks this earnings season could be the most difficult one in years.

"With that said, I am going to be listening for a lot more than just quarterly reports," revealed the Mad Money host. Here's what's on his radar.

MONDAY JANUARY 7TH

"Monday we'll try to get a read on one of my favorite groups, biotech and pharma, as JP Morgan kicks off its most important conference of the year, the Health Care Confab," said Cramer.

"You know what I want to hear?

Celgene speaks at 11am and I expect them to they tell a miraculous story of upcoming approvals. I've stuck with this one and I don't expect to hear any reason to sell."

"Then at 2:30pm I look forward to hearing from another one of my favorites, Biogen Idec, which defied all expectations when it had to withdraw its once promising anti-ALS drug due to lack of efficacy. Yet the stock barely dropped. I think that's because there's so much else here to like," said Cramer.

Alan Copson | Photographer's Choice RF | Getty Images

TUESDAY JANUARY 8th

Tuesday the market hears from two important companies.

"First is Monsanto in the morning. I think of Monsanto as basically a biotech company for seeds -- and a darned good one. It's helping to feed the world and it's got all sorts of drought resistant and bug resistant seeds that give farmers a much better result. But the stock has rallied huge and I fear a pullback no matter what they say," said Cramer.

Also, Alcoa reports.

On the positive side, "Alcoa stock has performed so poorly that it's almost hard to imagine a scenario where it could go down more. Also, Alcoa's got a lot going for it in its major business lines."

However on the negative side, "it also has to contend with a glut of its raw product, aluminum, and that could constrain margins."

"All told, I wouldn't bet against Alcoa this year," said Cramer.

WEDNESDAY JANUARY 9TH

On Wednesday Cramer intends to take a break from earnings and instead focus on one thing - Walgreen's analyst day.

"The drug store stocks have been magnificent performers of late and I have been waiting for Walgreen to unveil its multi-year, multi-country initiative now that it's put their tiff with Express Scripts in the rear-view mirror."

"This might be the moment it will do so. Given the strength of global markets, it's international strategy might be just what investors want to hear. I like this story."

THURSDAY JANUARY 10TH

Another analyst meeting is sure to grab headlines on Thursday – this one is with Herbalife.

"I expect they will go on the offensive, telling us why Bill Ackman's dead wrong for shorting this distributor of nutritional supplements that has, to be fair, put up great number after great number for years now," said Cramer.

"The CEO, Michael Johnson, may be the most combative and articulate and passionate of any exec I know, and I bet he takes the offensive against those motivated to destroy his company."

"Where do I come out on Herbalife? As I've said many times, I do not participate in battlegrounds, and this is perhaps the biggest battleground I've ever seen," said Cramer.

Read More: Cramer's Battleground Stocks: Runaway from These Names

In addition Cramer will have an ear perked toward Chevron.

"This terrific international oil company was one of the worst performers in the Dow," explained Cramer. "It just never came together for them, even though they generated a huge amount of cash."

"My trust owns the stock because of the yield and because of its production growth, but the smart move has been to wait until the company talks and then buy the stock after it gets hammered from the outlook, which seemingly has been the case forever as these updates always appear to sound more bearish than they actually are."

FRIDAY JANUARY 11TH

On Friday Cramer intends to sift through the quarterly report from Wells Fargo very carefully.

"Wells has become a hated bank, with critics talking about runaway expenses, shrinking net interest margins and severe overvaluation," said Cramer.

"Let me say this, if interest rates are indeed going higher in this country, Wells Fargo might well be the greatest investor ATM of the era. Its reach is magnificent. And its management is superb, which is why I continue to pour money into it for my charitable trust."

However Cramer doesn't expect the market to share his view. He thinks the Street will be disappointed with the quarter.

"Therefore, I would wait and buy Wells Fargo after it gets hammered," he said.

Read More: You'll find extensive coverage of quarterly results in the Earnings Central section of CNBC.com.

Call Cramer: 1-800-743-CNBC


Questions for Cramer? madmoney@cnbc.com

Questions, comments, suggestions for the "Mad Money" website? madcap@cnbc.com

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