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Hardly bearish, Cramer grows less bullish

(Click for video linked to a searchable transcript of this Mad Money segment)

Something just happened in the market that makes Cramer takes pause.

"On Wednesday, for the first time in four years, Macy's reported sales and earnings that were disappointing and the company's too good, too well run, and with too big a breadth of merchandise for me not to worry about the implications of this shortfall," Cramer said.

The Mad Money host believes these results call the health of the consumer into question.

"I think we have to recognize that there are real headwinds out there," he said. "There was the sequester. Some people lost jobs others found their benefits were cut back.

Also, the payroll tax holiday expired, which effectively acted as a tax increase for all Americans.

Neil Lukas | Dorling Kindersley | Getty Images

On top of that, consumers now face rising interest rates on mortgages and loans, as well as higher prices at the pump.

"And there are scary headlines about potentially higher health insurance premiums," Cramer said. All told, "it's almost shocking that the consumer's spending at all."

Because the US is a consumer driven economy, Cramer worries that weakness could ripple across many areas of the market, from restaurant stocks and travel stocks to the automakers and more. That bodes poorly for bulls.

It gets even worse.

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Combine these developments with the weakness in housing and the negative spiral could be significant.

Not only does Cramer expect housing related plays to face headwinds, he says, "Declines in housing will likely translate into declines in some bank earnings, and financials are the largest group in the S&P 500."

All told, Cramer is cautious.

Although he believes in the recovery long-term he's not certain the market can sustain it's current levels in the near-term.

"We can't afford to lose the consumer. We just can't," he said. There aren't other catalysts in the market that are strong enough to off-set that kind of weakness.

"Therefore, when Macy's disappoints we have to be concerned, because Macy's is a nationwide barometer of the American consumer. I simply can't be as bullish as I was before I heard this news."

Cramer advocates caution for the time being, "until we either get some better macro and corporate numbers, or we get lower stock prices. However, I would use this opportunity to prepare for both."


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