Cramer's game plan: Navigating 2018's new market challenges

  • "Mad Money" host Jim Cramer shares his weekly game plan with investors and tells them to stay on their toes in case of upside surprises.
  • Cramer offers his foresight on upcoming earnings reports from Oracle, Children's Place, FedEx and more.

If CNBC's Jim Cramer had to choose one word to define this stock market, it would be "challenging."

"Challenging, as in stocks can be up right from the get-go, then we give up the ghost, then the averages come roaring back, except we do it with fewer stocks rallying and many names left behind," the "Mad Money" host said on Friday.

"Welcome to the post-highs market where there are simply too many headwinds swirling, from rising raw costs ... to the West Wing revolving door to failed takeovers and suddenly unhelpful government intervention," he continued.

But even with all of the negatives, Cramer knew one thing for certain: the earnings are strong and full of upside surprises, and that's what's keeping the market from tanking.

With that in mind, the "Mad Money" host turned to his weekly game plan:

Monday: Oracle

With a strong software segment and a strengthening cloud business, Oracle will report earnings after Monday's closing bell. Cramer had good things to say about the technology play.

"I think if Oracle can boost its growth rate by even a couple percentage points, the stock can take off. In the meantime, the risk-reward is pretty good," he said, noting that Oracle's stock was "incredibly cheap."

"If we get an upside surprise, Oracle could have the kind of run that drove Cisco from the low $30s to the mid-$40s in no time flat," he added.

Tuesday: Children's Place, FedEx

Children's Place: This children's clothing retailer will report earnings on Tuesday, and Cramer attributed its "terrific" growth story to CEO Jane Elfers.

"She's defying the moribund mall with products that need to be tried on. At the same time, she's covered the firm's flank with a buy online, pick up in the store or free shipping policy," he said.

"Children's Place is perennially expensive — the stock, not the store — so I think that being down 5 percent this year could be a bargain," the "Mad Money" host added.

FedEx: Another great growth story by Cramer's standards, FedEx will also issue its quarterly results on Tuesday.

"These guys have been crushing the competition at United Parcel, but skittish sellers are more worried the phantom of Amazon," Cramer said. "We know this stock can be highly erratic and often trades lower in response to what, upon further review, turn out to be positive numbers. So I recommend buying half before and half after, but by all means, do some buying."

Wednesday: General Mills, Five Below

General Mills: Cramer was one of the few fans of General Mills' acquisition of pet food maker Blue Buffalo, and he reiterated his support ahead of the consumer food giant's earnings report.

"Buying Blue Buffalo helps diversify General Mills away from some mighty stale supermarket aisles," he said. "We like the humanization of pets story here in Cramerica, whether we're talking about Zoetis ... or the red-hot Idexx Labs ... and that narrative now encompasses General Mills."

Five Below: After the liquidation of Toys R Us, Cramer admitted that the state of retail is up in the air. Still, the "Mad Money" host expected good news from Five Below's quarterly report.

"Five Below sells toys for kids among a host of other goodies like candy, blankets [and] stylish, inexpensive clothing. It's a winning formula. Might be worth a pick-up," he said.

Thursday: Accenture, Nike, Micron, KB Home

Accenture: Cramer bet that Wall Street would be rattled by what he anticipated would be a "great" earnings report from this information technology play.

"The only thing surprising to me is how people don't see this coming," he said. "Accenture helps companies get digitized and it has an amazing track record. I bet this time will be no different."

Nike: Even though the "Mad Money" host expected Nike to deliver a fine quarter, he acknowledged the controversy around the departures of some of the company's executives.

Micron: After spending a week in San Francisco with major players in tech, Cramer expected a blowout quarter from semiconductor maker Micron given the steady pricing for its chips.

"The stock's had a fantastic run of late, but that's usually how Micron works before a terrific quarter," he said.

KB Home: Cramer remembers loving the stock of this homebuilder when it was in the low teens and hated by the rest of Wall Street.

"Since then, the stock has doubled and now the analysts adore it. That makes me nervous about this national homebuilder with the best properties in the hottest state in the union, California," the "Mad Money" host admitted.

Friday: Durable goods, new home sales

On Friday, the market will receive two key reports that could finally put a damper on the 10-year Treasury yield, Cramer said.

"I'm talking about the durable goods and the new home sales," he said. "I think durable goods could be OK given the strength in the materials stocks, but I bet new home sales will be weaker ... than some expected, something that could cause rates to tick down closer to 2.7 [percent]. If that happens, the market will breath a sigh of relief."

Final thoughts

Heading into next week, Cramer asked investors to keep an eye on Washington as the White House news flow becomes a drag on the stock market.

"Here's the bottom line: we've got some terrific trading opportunities next week, all with a bias to the upside. But don't forget that the thicket of national news, mostly emanating from the White House, has not been good for stocks lately," Cramer said. "We can no longer rely on Washington to give us a positive backdrop, which is precisely what makes this market so challenging compared to last year."

WATCH: Cramer's game plan for a new kind of market

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