Cramer Remix: This is the earnings call to listen to

  • CNBC's Jim Cramer tells investors why Cisco's earnings report is the one to watch next week.
  • Cramer also points out the group of stocks that can signal an oncoming sell-off.
  • The "Mad Money" host also tells investors where to look for bargain buys when the market's down.

Mid-to-late August tends to be the time of year when earnings season "goes out with a whimper, not a bang," CNBC's Jim Cramer said on Friday.

But that doesn't mean there's no opportunity in the stock market, the "Mad Money" host said.

Cramer argued that the lack of earnings reports will actually give investors time to do their homework and make informed investing decisions amid the market-moving trade war and other unforeseen corporate news.

"There's plenty of time to study and critique and calibrate and make considered judgments because, at last, the number of earnings reports that happen each day ... slow[s] to a trickle," he told investors.

With that in mind, Cramer turned to his weekly game plan, complete with earnings reports from Home Depot, Macy's and Canopy Growth Corp.

But for Cramer, Cisco's earnings report will be the most important one of the week as Wall Street keeps a close eye on CEO Chuck Robbins' push to make Cisco more of a security-focused software subscription enterprise.

Praising Robbins and his team for "moving mountains" to build Cisco's recurring revenue stream, Cramer acknowledged that other companies that have made the transition to selling software have had "some growing pains."

"I expect Cisco will deliver a good quarter," he said. "Maybe it won't be the monster grower that some want, but I believe the re-positioning of Cisco into high-growth mode will take a little time. Be patient."

For Cramer's full weekly game plan, click here.

The problem with rotations

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Paul Hanna | Reuters

Sometimes, all it takes is a scary stock rotation to fuel a rally, Cramer says.

"When money is flowing into stocks, with the mutual funds buying in endless waves and the hedge funds desperate to own stocks rather than shorting them, then you're in the land of the thousand bull dances and you don't have to worry about where the fuel for a rally is going to come from," Cramer said.

When no money is entering the market, that is when powerful moves in stocks and sectors can occur, Cramer said. This happens when investors are reluctant to invest and money is pulled out of the least-exciting groups of stocks, then rotated into sexier names with more lift.

But here is the problem with rotations: without new money flowing in, gains often become zero-sum and can run out of fuel. The leaders will run out of steam with nothing to drive them higher. That is when the worst possible rally can occur — a rally in the wrong stocks.

In Cramer's experience, "wrong stocks" are those that signal a slowdown or recession. Areas like food and pharmaceuticals become the new market leaders.

"You never really want to see any of the consumer staples roaring higher in a sustained advance because it means people think the economy's going to either get worse or simply stay in awful shape for a long time to come," Cramer said.

Cramer considers seeing stocks like Altria, PepsiCo or General Mills spark a powerful rally one of the most horrifying things for the stock market. More often than not, it can cause an immense amount of damage, unless there are vast sums of money coming in from the sidelines.

Don't trust all buybacks

A man has his photo taken hanging from a bull sculpture outside Las Ventas bullring during San Isidro's bullfighting fair in Madrid, Spain.
Susana Vera | Reuters
A man has his photo taken hanging from a bull sculpture outside Las Ventas bullring during San Isidro's bullfighting fair in Madrid, Spain.

One of the most important lessons that Cramer has learned over the years is not to trust all stock buybacks.

"They aren't created equally and they aren't all a place to run to in a selloff. In fact, many buybacks disappear when times get tough and can't be relied upon, as we saw when [oil stocks] came crashing down when oil plunged in 2014," the "Mad Money" host said.

Buybacks are when companies repurchase their own shares in the open market in order to take them out of the equation, thus reducing the number of shares outstanding and boosting the earnings per share.

Often times, buybacks are a way for companies to reward their shareholders with their cash. However, Cramer likes dividends more because of the downside protection and preferred federal taxation status.

Over the years, buybacks have become very popular. Companies spent about $1 trillion more on buying back stock than on paying dividends in the past decade. Unfortunately, Cramer has seen that these buybacks have not given shareholders the value that they expected.

"So, when you see a company with large buybacks and a puny dividend, you should be suspicious rather than bullish," Cramer said.

Cramer's sell-off motto

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Izabela Habur | Getty Images

Cramer's motto in a downturn is to buy broken stocks, not broken companies. When the market undertakes huge losses, investors have an opportunity to buy good companies with stocks that have taken an unfair beating because of the market, he said.

There is a huge difference between a broken company and a broken stock, and being able to thrive in a sell-off requires knowing the difference.

That is why Cramer said the first thing to do amid a market-wide sell-off is look at the companies that caused it.

"If you're looking at a company that is part of the reason for a correction, you're looking at a broken company. Those are directly in the blast zone and certain to be obliterated," the "Mad Money" host said.

Finding money magnets during pullbacks

Alex Bartel | Science Photo Library | Getty Images

His first approach is to look for stocks that have pulled back from their highs during the sell-off. The new-high list is always a great place to start looking. Stocks on that list also tend to be expensive, which is why a big decline may present an opportunity.

Specifically, Cramer looks for stocks that were knocked off the new-high list and are trading a couple of percentage points down from their 52-week high. Those will be the "money magnets" of the market.

However, the "Mad Money" host warned that not all of them will be worth buying. Some may come off the list because they are damaged goods, so doing your homework is still important.

The second kind of stock that Cramer looks for during a major sell-off is the type with dividends that become more attractive as their share prices go lower. Just like the 52-week high list is useful for spotting potential buys, a shopping list of stocks to buy if only their dividends were a little higher can also come in handy during a downturn.

But what does a market correction have to do with a dividend or yield?

When a market correction occurs, the price of the stock goes down and the yield goes up. Cramer loves it when a sell-off is so severe that an "accidental high-yielder" is created.

Disclosure: Cramer's charitable trust owns shares in PepsiCo.

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