On occasion, stock market rallies can be reaffirmed when buyers turn to downtrodden sectors for trades or investments, and Jim Cramer witnessed that on Thursday.
"You can always tell you have a decent market when, after a big run, investors take a breather from buying the stocks people love and instead decide to scrutinize and snap up the stocks that have been left behind," the "Mad Money" host said.
The first example of these left-behind stocks was the retail sector. A positive forecast from Target spurred buying throughout the group, which was still getting back on its feet after a very strong Amazon Prime Day.
Home Depot's defense against the e-commerce giant is its unique offering. Its business is levered to increasing homes' values, a driver that Amazon would be hard-pressed to challenge.
Cramer touted Wal-Mart's management as its guard against Amazon. From the acquisition of Jet.com to the structural changes CEO Doug McMillon has made, the new Wal-Mart seems to have successfully differentiated itself from the rest of the flock, the "Mad Money" host said.
As for TJX, its wheelhouse is the leftover merchandise stores leave behind when they close. With the industry-wide shuttering of underperforming stores well underway, TJX stands to gain from the closures, Cramer said.
The oils are also getting a boost from a "short-covering rally" in the oil market, as the bears struggle to get oil to break down through the $42 level, Cramer said.
Cramer's top oil stock is Apache, an unwanted name that, despite low crude prices, still makes a profitable $13 per barrel and just made a promising discovery in the Permian Basin.
"My argument here is that in the last two days, a group of people have decided that not everything in oil is worthless," Cramer said. "And if you want to know one that's not worthless, it is Apache."
Then came the autos, ignited by an earnings pre-announcement from Lithia Motors, a used vehicle retailer that said it would deliver a better-than-expected quarter.
But Cramer warned to consider all of these upticks not as investments, but as trades. Based on his experience, bullish analysts will probably emerge on Friday hollering "buy" on these sectors. Those hollers should be taken with a grain of salt, the "Mad Money" host said.
"I say enjoy the trades. Remember, though, this is a market that loves technology, worships at the altar of health care, and thinks the industrials are about to have a renaissance," Cramer said. "I like a market that rotates into the down-and-outers and embraces value even without mergers and acquisitions. I didn't think it could happen. It makes you want to trust the rally more. I trust it already, but evidence of reform among the penalized is always welcome. Still, don't count on retail or the oils or the autos to remain this market's leaders for long, because eventually this market's real generals will take back the baton and start sprinting again."