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On Friday morning, Jim Cramer heard the disturbing news from Hershey that chocolate sales were down because of a change in shopping trends in China. This led him to wonder, what is going on over in China that people are cutting back on chocolate just to make ends meet?
This news followed a note from the Wells Fargo research department that indicated that Macau gambling is nearing a four-year low, with June numbers off as much as 20 percent from the average of the first five months of the year. Expect trouble for MGM, Wynn and Las Vegas Sands.
Cramer also learned that Diageo confirmed that its best liquor brands have not been doing well in China. Additionally, sales for expensive clothing and accessories are down as well.
What could chocolate, booze, gambling and expensive clothing all have in common? One word—the government.
It is clear to Cramer that the Communist Party is cutting down on conspicuous consumption. Thus, the big casino trips to Macau are now a thing of the past. In his perspective, that kind of a dropoff doesn't happen unless it is mandated.
The slide in jewelry, liquor and chocolate sales could all stem from the government in China, too, as Cramer thinks this could all be related to a crackdown on government corruption. For instance, if someone wanted to bribe an official, what better way to do so than with a nice bottle of Johnnie Walker Black or an expensive Richemont watch?
"This all seems government led to me, not consumer led," Cramer said. (Tweet This)
In the end, Cramer thinks that the Chinese Communist Party's anti-corruption and anti-conspicuous reforms are starting to have an impact, and that is the problem. For the first time in decades they have stopped acting like capitalists and started embracing communism.
This concept left many questions in Cramer's head. Did Alibaba know this crackdown was coming and strategically choose a good time to come public? Could the spending slowdown also impact other parts of the economy that the U.S. sells to?
That's a tough question for Cramer, because Apple is still doing very well in China, and Starbucks just confirmed that business is strong there, as well. Plus, there are conflicting numbers coming out on Chinese trade, such as commodity companies seeing a slow down but the Baltic Freight index is up 40 percent.
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This makes China the biggest conundrum in the world right now. It's impossible to figure out.
It is clear to Cramer that there is a larger, fluid story developing in China. He suspects that the next leg of growth—or slowdown—for the world will stem from the Chinese economy.
"After this week's downbeat news, I'm nervous about a turn. We have to stay tuned, but when chocolate sales turn down, I say you can't afford to be too bullish about this former juggernaut of an economy," Cramer added.