Obama’s Thousand-Yard Stare
President Obama’s new budget has Cramer wondering if stocks – any of them – are safe. Just look at what the White House’s spending plan does to health-care companies:
Medicare changes are turning Humana and UnitedHealth into charities. Cigna and Aetna’s margins will shrink. Reimbursement cuts might extend to drug and biotech companies like Eli Lilly and Genzyme. These used to be classic recession-resistant stocks, but not anymore.
This kind of move makes Obama, well, an enemy, Cramer said. There’s no telling which sector will be next. Maybe he’ll cut defense spending. Maybe he’ll institute a windfall profits tax on the oil companies. So now, on top of their economic woes, investors have to worry about the president’s next potential victim.
Cramer, of course, has a survival plan. Remember his suggestion to raise enough cash to pay for any big costs expected over the next four and a half years. Make sure that money’s in CDs rather than stocks, too, because at least the FDIC guarantees the former. And stay diversified. Virtually no one can escape the downturn’s reach, but spreading out the risk will reduce the chance for big losses.
Investors should also look for companies that are able to raise their dividends, such as Coca-Cola and Colgate-Palmolive. Also, buy gold, whether bullion or the SPDR Gold Shares ETF. Oil should work, too, because the U.S. government isn’t in control of crude prices. And don’t lose faith in soft-goods stocks. Their share prices may be low, but the companies are delivering despite the recession.
There is a caveat, though. Even these traditional defensive plays have their weaknesses. The strong dollar has reduced soft-goods companies’ European earnings, as the euro’s gone lower, and many of them hedged their commodity costs at much higher prices. But Cramer expects the currency situation to change. Just a year ago, people were pretty sure of the euro’s continued strength, and now look at it. And those hedges will end, giving companies a chance to reduce costs. So the second half of 2009 should be much better than the first.
Granted, these soft-goods stocks are the only group capable of raising money for investors, so they’re being sold constantly. But Cramer’s OK with that. Coke and Colgate types get cheaper the lower they go, and he sees reason to be more and more confident in them as the year progresses.
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