- "Mad Money" host Jim Cramer finds bull and bear cases in the Dow Jones industrial average's biggest losers from the week's sell-off.
- Cramer uses the exercise to understand the moves of the broader market and to find buys.
Even in a gyrating market like this one, sometimes the bargains are right in front of you, CNBC's Jim Cramer said on Friday as the major averages lifted from their lows.
"I don't want to say that the pain is over, but you should certainly prepare for more days like today. Remember, we've seen this movie before. The last time the market got crushed like we've seen over the last week was in January of 2016," the "Mad Money" host said. "It turned out to be an epic buying opportunity, as the market rallied 10,000 points over the next two years."
As focused as Cramer was on finding good buys, he also wanted to get a better sense of the market layout.
"You need to be systematic with your bargain hunting, so ... I want to go over the 10 biggest recent decliners in the Dow Jones Industrial average."
The stock of General Electric, the Dow's biggest loser, fell under pressure weeks before the stock market's most recent sell-off.
With a new CEO, John Flannery, trying to steady what many on Wall Street have long seen as a sinking ship rife with debt and discombobulated businesses, the negativity around General Electric has only grown in recent days.
"I don't blame anyone for despising the stock of GE," Cramer said.
But the "Mad Money" host noted one key factor that could bring General Electric back into favor with investors: rising oil prices.
"The new GE is heavily levered to oil. Not only does it own Baker Hughes, [but] its locomotives, turbines and airplane engines all sell better when energy is much higher," he said. "But I'm not that sanguine about oil, so for now, I say you've got to stay away from GE. You don't need the agita."
While higher oil prices could help General Electric, Cramer said they could've actually hurt the stock of Chevron.
"This stock made no sense to me when it was trading at $133 just a couple of weeks ago, challenging its all-time highs from 2014 when oil was $50 higher," he said. "Then the sell-off happened and we realized that those prices were indeed wrong."
"But even with Chevron down 15 percent from its recent highs, it's still not attractive," Cramer said. "I want the share price lower and the yield, currently at 4 percent, higher. You just don't want to own a big integrated oil when many money managers have turned on the entire cohort and oil's plummeting. Hard pass."
The Dow's third-biggest loser was the stock of Intel. This one worried Cramer, not only because Intel has a number of positive drivers, but because its decline could mean there's something amiss with the semiconductor stocks.
"In short, Intel's a buy. That said, Nvidia's been my favorite in the group, and while it's nowhere near as cheap as Intel, if it gets hammered again by this volatile market after that amazing quarter, it'll be worth buying," he said. "Nvidia is king; Intel's bishop."
The improving global economy has transformed Caterpillar's stock into a momentum play, but Cramer was concerned that shares of the industrial machinery giant have run too far too fast.
"The stock was at $60 just two years ago. Now it's at $149 — it's been higher — yet it sells for only 16 times earnings and it's down $24 from its highs," he said. "Sounds like no man's land."
Unlike rival Chevron, Cramer noticed that shares of fifth-biggest Dow loser Exxon Mobil did not get ridiculously inflated during crude's comeback.
"But I'm on the fence for the same reason: I can't see oil going back to $65, but I could easily imagine it falling back to the mid-$50s. I think you have to be disciplined on this one; if [you have] any suspicions in this market, you've got to just say no," he said.
Coming in sixth on the Dow's biggest loser list was the stock of pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson, one that Cramer actually blessed as a good buy into weakness.
"Is it the classic portfolio manager's choice? Nah, I think it's the second best after AbbVie," he said. "But on the other hand, it's much better than Pfizer, another Dow stock that's the seventh-biggest decliner in the index, which, to me, has nothing enticing about it."
Until Pfizer is able to develop promising new drugs or boost its growth rate by making a game-changing acquisition, Cramer warned investors to stay away.
Cramer was equally unenthusiastic about the eight-biggest loser, Merck, which he said suffered from sub-par growth and a 3.5 percent yield that wasn't enough to stave off sellers.
The ninth-biggest loser was manufacturing giant 3M. Cramer liked the company's strategy, which puts a heavy focus on research and development of never-before-seen products.
"I think the world of the company, but the stock had gotten a little too high versus where I'd like to buy it for my charitable trust," he said. "I bless a starting position at these levels. Maybe get more as it goes lower."
"My take? It's counter-intuitive," Cramer said. "I say buy some Apple here and then wait to see if the futures can crush it down to $140 where you can buy more. Will it get there? Hey, I don't know. In this tape, anything's possible."
Even in this wild market, among the worst stocks of the hardest-hit index, Cramer was still able to uncover some promising stories.
"Bottom line: Let's see, of the 10 biggest decliners ... in the Dow, we like Intel, JNJ, 3M and Apple. They're all attractive. And they'll only get more attractive as the hedge funds gone wild continue to blow out of their stocks in order to raise capital so they can meet their ever-burgeoning, by-the-hour obligations," the "Mad Money" host said.
"Once the forced selling ends, even for the moment like we saw during the afternoon's comeback, the names I just gave you will roar. Remember, there's nothing 'wrong' with these stocks other than that they went too high. That's the chief ailment, and guess what? It's being cured every time they tick lower."
Disclosure: Cramer's charitable trust owns shares of General Electric, Nvidia and Apple.