"I don't know who will win day to day in this trench warfare, but I do know it's growing increasingly vicious, " said Jim Cramer referring to the nasty battle underway in the market between bulls and bears.Just look at Thursday's market as an example - up in the morning and down by the close.Considering the landscape is unpredictable at best and treacherous at worst, Cramer identified 6 hot spots that he thinks every investor should watch closely in the ongoing battle between buyers and sellers.
Developments in these 6 areas - whether bullish or bearish - could influence sentiment and therefore what happens in the stock market broadly.
"I could care less about the politics, " said Cramer, "but I do think the improvement in hiring explains the incredible move in retail of all shapes and sizes, whether it be Wal-Mart and Costco or Macy's and Nordstrom . It also helps to explain the flood of interest in the IPO of Realogy, the largest real estate agency in the country."
However Cramer added there's a bearish case to be made too.
Bears argue, "same store sales numbers are pumped up by short-term considerations like the Federal Reserve's accommodative actions, or the money that the Fed's printing is ending up in the coffers of retailers and that's artificial, not long-lasting."
"The bulls say, wait a second, upon further review, it's not a cliff, it's more of a hill, and it will be a gentle and negotiated descent if it even happens at all, " Cramer explained.
"But to the bears it's one of those 2000 foot crevasses, Everest style, made worse by the fact that the race for the Presidency is so polarizing and long lasting that if you think compromise is difficult to come by now, you just wait until after the election."
Cramer said earnings from FedEx are perhaps the best example of the ongoing bull v. bear battle in the market right now.
"The bears point out that FedEx, arguably the most important worldwide transport, guided down not once but twice within a fortnight, and painted a picture of a world that's in steep decline from the stem of Europe to the stern of Asia, " he explained.
However, bulls cite the two-day FedEx analyst meeting, where the company talked about next year being a good one, and the year after that a great one.
- Cramer's Top Dividend Stocks 2012
- Cramer's Ultimate Growth Stocks for 2012
- Cramer's Plays on a Potential Housing Rebound
"We need China back on line to give the bulls the upper hand, " explained Cramer.
And the market was looking to earnings from Alcoa for insights. So what happens?
"Alcoa said this quarter will be the bottom for China, and the stimulus will kick in huge next year. … but Alcoa also guided down for 2012 because of China."
In other words, you can make either a bull case or a bear case from the Alcoa report.
"Last week we had one of the worst weeks for IPOs I can recall, with deal after deal breaking price or going below where it was issues, " said Cramer.
By contrast, this week has been hot.
"Then today we have every IPO, not just Realogy, going to an instant premium, and tonight Workday comes public in what might be the hottest deal since Linked-In, as this software as a service company's showing 100% revenue growth."
"What could be more bullish forApple than three now well capitalized players wanting to shower the public with iPhones - that is, Verizon , AT&T and a possibly reconfigured Sprint, as well as a fourth player trying to get back in the game, T-Mobile."
However, Cramer added, "bears are underneath, tearing at the whole bullish psyche behind the Apple move, questioning, questioning, whether Steve Jobs would approve of the direction of the company or even if there is a direction anymore."
What's the bottom line here?
"Whether it be the trajectory of the employment numbers, the steepness of the 2013 fiscal terrain, the magnitude of the earnings shortfalls or upside surprises, the state of China's fortunes and how that cookie crumbles, the heady or lethargic status of the market's animal spirits, and the bipolar mine and mind field that is Apple, everything seems to be on the line every day, " said Cramer.
And that is why this particular moment in the market is more confused by what Cramer calls "the fog of war" than any other monent, for a very long time."
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