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The X-factor in the market

There's a catalyst in the market that's somewhat unpredictable. And when it pops up, it can play havoc with stocks.

The X-factor is perceived weakness in China.

"It has become so all-encompassing, it distorts almost every conference call of every international company that I follow," Cramer noted.

For example, Cramer said that last Friday when MasterCard reported earnings the market almost ignored all the good news. And despite a lower than expected headline number, Cramer says there was good news in the report.

Raj Kamal | Photodisc | Getty Images

For example, MasterCard said worldwide purchase volume increased 11 percent to $805 billion from a year earlier, while annual growth in its U.S. purchase volumes rose 7.4 percent to $275 billion.

"It didn't seem to matter that the ascension of the U.S. economy and the stabilization of Europe plus the great secular trend from paper to plastic will remain a tailwind for this stock," Cramer said.

Instead, Cramer said all that mattered were comments made during the conference call, in which the management suggested that China was facing an economic slowdown. Investors sold shares, as much as 10%, on the news.

"I feel sure that if China hadn't downticked it would have been a totally different story," Cramer said.

Cramer sees the same phenomenon playing out in other corners of the market, too. For example, he says that Diageo - the world's biggest spirits producer – talked about slowing demand in China on January 30th. Immediately, investors sold.

Conversely, Cramer added that companies which are doing well in China are being rewarded. "On January 30th, Wynn said that Macau was performing terrifically ," Cramer added. "The stock took off."

From Mattel to Weyerhaeuser to IBM and more, the Mad Money host believes China has been a kind of X-factor behind many other stocks, too. That is, if a company has relatively good things to say about its business but is negative on China, shares go down. However, if a company can win in China, then shares rally.

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Of course, if the market sells off more broadly as much as 70% of all stocks will trade in tandem with the S&P 500. But eventually the sell-off will subside.

And when it does, we can't help but wonder if a company's ability to execute in China is a new and powerful theme that could wield considerable influence in the days ahead.

Call Cramer: 1-800-743-CNBC

Questions for Cramer? madmoney@cnbc.com

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