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Is market reward still worth the risk?

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

Bulls claimed another victory on Tuesday with both the Dow Jones industrial average and the S&P 500 hitting record intra-day highs during the session. It was the first time the S&P traded above 1,900, ever.

Although new highs are typically viewed as a bullish event, the Street doesn't seem ready to celebrate.

In part that's because investors aren't sure which catalysts will ultimately dominate over the long run. Because the market can always turn on a dime, Jim Cramer thinks the milestone moment provides a much needed opportunity to examine the bullish catalysts driving gains and the bearish catalysts that threaten to trigger a selloff at any moment.

"After all, by definition, the market's more expensive than it was," Cramer said. Is the reward still worth the risk?

Adam Jeffery | CNBC

Bull catalysts

"Better economic conditions have given business people more confidence," Cramer said. In turn, the "Mad Money" host believes the string of recent M&A, including Hillshire's bid for Pinnacle Foods, is only the beginning.

"I think there are many more deals coming in the food, drug, cosmetics, telecommunications and oil industries. I'm reluctant to recommend that you sell anything in those categories because of this surge in takeover activity that I'm expecting. I bet T-Mobile and Sprint tie the knot by the end of the month. I check options activity on a half-dozen large independent oils because I suspect that a deal is in the works at this very moment in the oil patch," he said.

Also, Cramer said, large swaths of the market are still relatively cheap.

"The big industrials, even after these runs, are still quite reasonably valued versus historical levels. The banks are ridiculously cheap if we're about to get any improvement in the economy. Same goes for the retailers and the autos. Even old tech companies such as Microsoft, Intel, Oracle and Hewlett-Packard are trading at price-to-earnings multiples that are well below their historical norms."

In addition, Cramer said companies are boosting dividends and breaking up to generate value.

Those are all good reasons to own stocks and put money to work in the market.

Bear catalysts

Despite the string of positives outlined above, Cramer says the market is not without serious headwinds.

"There are stocks that sell at nosebleed valuations. If the market is only willing to value companies on earnings and not growth, these stocks remain challenged."

Cramer also worries that the IPO market may again churn out new offerings and flood the market with stocks for which there's little appetite. "There are cheerleaders who want to see more IPOs no matter how awful the merchandise might be. And trust me, it's awful," Cramer said.

Also, Cramer said he's not confident that geopolitical events have been quelled. "I don't like the fact that, after weeks of fretting, we've decided everything's fine over in Russia and Ukraine. Did someone say there would be no sanctions? Is Putin satisfied? What if a nasty incident occurs? You think we'll be at these levels if that happens? No way."

Cramer is also concerned about housing and mortgage originations. And he says retail sales are hardly anything to shout about while food inflation has soared and gasoline remains expensive.

These are all good reasons to run for the exits.

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Looking at the rewards versus the risks, Cramer believes there are too many opportunities not to stay in stocks. However, he also recognizes that there are serious catalysts that could trigger the next round of selling in a moment's notice.

Therefore, he advocates making your next move strategically.

"The risk-reward for the lower valued stocks, especially ones that can raise their dividends, break up, or be acquired, makes that part of the market a compelling buy. However, I reiterate that high-fliers valued on anything but earnings remain a source of funds, not a source of opportunities."



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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