Wondering why the market can't really break out? Jim Cramer is, too.
"The vast majority of earnings have been very strong and our economy is improving," he said, so you'd think it would be smooth sailing for stock investors.
But it hasn't been.
"Even on Monday, stocks spent significant time in the red before ultimately closing higher," Cramer said.
To find out what's holding the S&P back, Cramer ventured deep into the far corners of the market. And when he returned, he found that some headwinds aren't only blowing, the gusts are getting worse.
"For much of last year, we could count on at least one part of the world, besides the U.S., to be doing well," but not now, Cramer said. He noted that although Europe has stabilized, its various economies appear to be stalling. "We're seeing growth get revised down across the continent."
China is no better. "This once-double-digit growth economy will be lucky if it can mount a 6 percent advance this year, with last night's Purchasing Managers report still one more total downer," the "Mad Money" host said.
Meanwhile, Japan has failed to get its economy in gear while Brazil's economy appears to be in a nasty spiral lower.
And then there's Russia. Cramer says Russian President Vladimir Putin has introduced real fear into the market. "There's a growing belief that Putin is willing to risk a war to teach Western Europe and our president that Russia is not to be taken lightly."
"The problem is that the financials are a huge part of the S&P 500, and when they're bad, they can shoot down any market," Cramer said.
And right now, Cramer says at least two big banks are in bearish crosshairs.
"Last week Bank of America suspended its buyback and its planned dividend boost because it turned out the company had overstated its regulatory capital by $4 billion. Yep, a $4 billion error," he said. Shares dropped about 10 percent on the news.
"Then JPMorgan announced in a filing on Friday night—Friday night!!—that its business is off huge, with its trading revenues declining as much as 20% for the quarter." With these and other developments, shares of JPMorgan have slipped 9 percent for the month.
Cramer says housing, once a tailwind, has become a real problem for this market.
"This morning, Realogy, the giant real estate brokerage company, reported extremely disappointing numbers and gave an outlook of doom, saying that tough credit standards coupled with rapid home price appreciation and low inventories will make this a difficult year."
Because housing feeds so many other areas of the economy, weakness in this sector is a particularly difficult challenge for stocks.
Cramer believes the is about more than just the security breach.
"This morning Target canned Gregg Steinhafel, the CEO who saw his customers hacked by the millions. Why does this matter? Because, believe me, if Target's business had turned, Steinhafel would still have a job."
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All told, without retail, housing, banks or global growth, Cramer thinks stocks may be challenged broadly for quite some time.
"Now, I don't want to be a downer," he said. "There will always be individual stock opportunities in any market and right now some stocks have gotten oversold. But broadly, we have some huge headwinds, and unfortunately they look to be getting worse, not better."
Disclosure: On Monday May 5, Jim Cramer owned shares of Bank of America on behalf of his charitable trust
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