Like two opposing teams on the football field, the bulls and bears fought it out on Wall Street Wednesday.
Speaking on CNBC’s “Mad Money,” Jim Cramer ran through the litany of earnings reports and pieces of economic data from both sides, which eventually led stocks to close sharply lower.
To start, the bulls were helped by news from Yum Brands, which edged past expectations and raised its full-year earnings growth forecast. Yum, the parent company of Pizza Hut and KFC, indicated a few positives. It suggested that China’s economy didn’t slow as much as some had feared and U.S. economy seems to be improving, Cramer said.
Then, Chevron reported in its interim report that third-quarter earnings are expected "substantially lower" than in the previous quarter. The company is scheduled to post results on November 2.
“The giant oil company totally imploded on a headline basis with a real ‘substantially worse-than-expected’ screamer, even as I thought that the story’s pretty much expected by those who follow the company closely,” Cramer said. “[Yet] somehow the facts that a hurricane and a refinery outage hurt the quarter were regarded as new news.”
Meanwhile, Costco topped earnings and revenue expectations and announced same-store sales rose by 5 percent from a year earlier.
From its headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., Wal-Mart executives had positive commentary. The good news from the world’s largest retailer helped push stocks higher, Cramer said.
Cramer said there were, however, some earnings reports and economic data that favored the bears.
Engine maker Cummins, for example, lowered its 2012 forecast for a second time this year, citing weakness in China.
“Given that Cummins had already said negative things over the summer, this preannouncement really hurt,” Cramer said. “It meant that the decline’s cascading.”
Meanwhile, Dow component Alcoa posted earnings and revenue that beat expectations, but shares dropped after the aluminum producer's CEO said he sees a slight slowdown in demand growth due to weakening in China and Europe. Klaus Kleinfeld did, however, note he sees a very strong rebound in China. Nevertheless, Cramer said investors “chose not to hear the positives” and focused on the negatives instead.
Then, Cramer said Avnet “knocked the bulls’ socks off” with its less than favorable earnings pre-announcement. The technology company’s business is “so broad and so global” that its gloomy outlook pulled on the S&P 500, Cramer said.
So how does it all add up?
Cramer noted that the great numbers from Costco, Wal-Mart and Yum came from the retail sector, only reinforcing what most of Wall Street already knew — “the consumer’s still spending courtesy of the wealth of effect from a stronger stock portfolio and a higher house price.”
On the other hand, Cramer said the news from Alcoa, Avnet, Chevron and Cummins pulled on the industrials, construction, technology and oil sectors.
So while the market received many positives, Cramer said the bears ultimately came out on top.
“But here’s the great thing about this game. On any given weekday the score can change dramatically, and the same bear squad that took it to the bulls could get its face ripped off tomorrow,” Cramer said. “Alas, though, that’s 24 hours and a lot of pain away from now.”
—CNBC.com and Reuters contributed to this report
When this story was published, Cramer's charitable trust owned Chevron.
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