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The market turned ugly this week, as Jim Cramer saw the same elements that wreaked havoc in the past return. Once again, the strong dollar and lower oil have managed to sink stocks.
"Perception always trumps reality, at least initially. Sooner or later, though, we will settle into a fact-based situation where we can try to make money off of what is actually happening, not the bogus nightmare scenarios that are so easily traced out," the "Mad Money " host said.
Crude has now declined more than 20 percent from its recent highs. Cramer found it remarkable how much investors didn't care when oil plunged to $40 a barrel from $50. The entire market still moved higher as it happened.
However, when oil dipped below $40 a barrel last Friday, black gold once again coupled with the averages and took stocks down. This is because of a growing belief that auto companies, which reported weak sales on Tuesday, are signaling a slowdown and the weak oil market signals the same thing, Cramer said.
"This is the demand story I keep talking about, that there just isn't enough demand out there or oil would be going up, not down," Cramer said.
Bearish investors believe oil is falling because not enough of it is being used. This was evident when Cramer reviewed both cruise and airline stocks.
However, he refused to conclude that these two data points mean it's time to sell.
First, the flow of crude from the Canadian oil sands — previously hurt by wildfires — has returned, according to RBN Energy. RBN estimated that 1 million barrels a day were taken offline during the wildfires, and as of this month they have all come back.
Thus, oil prices were artificially elevated due to lack of supply, not by increased demand, Cramer said. The addition of 1 million barrels a day has overwhelmed the market.
Then there was the curious case of Royal Caribbean, which was hammered on Tuesday after reporting a strong quarter. And while the company said it has seen no cancellations or other effects from the Zika virus, Cramer still thinks it could be hurting the stock.
"The zeitgeist around the stock is all about Zika. In fact, I would add that the entire decline in the airlines is related to a belief that with the spread of Zika and the apparent inability to control it, bookings will be canceled," Cramer said.
During the Ebola scare two years ago, Cramer saw the same decline in airline stocks, though nothing changed in their fundamentals. So, while analysts for Royal Caribbean weren't interested in Zika effects, Cramer thinks journalists were right to be concerned about it.
Where does that leave stocks? If the market is once again tied to the price of oil, Cramer expects the banks to fall next if oil continues to plummet. While he doesn't think this is a real concern, he still wants investors to be prepared if it happens.
"Brace yourselves for these continued worries about declining demand, even as I suspect that it is really the supply side and Zika virus fears that are driving things," Cramer said.