The Trump administration's trade dispute with China may have quieted down, but CNBC's Jim Cramer argued on Thursday that it is far from over.
"We've opened up a new front in the trade war, and while it's quieter than all of the bombast about tariffs that had people freaking out, there are still a ton of companies that can get hurt here," the "Mad Money" host said. "The new front in the trade war? Technology."
The U.S. Commerce Department's Monday ban on selling U.S. products to Chinese smartphone maker ZTE was "just the tip of the iceberg," Cramer said. Early on Thursday, China hit back, citing antitrust concerns in Qualcomm's proposed acquisition of NXP Semiconductors.
But in addition to negative merger reviews, telecom tensions, and restrictions on exports, China had one key strategy that Cramer was particularly concerned about.
As stocks sank on Thursday, Cramer inspected the market for the various triggers that sparked the decline.
"Thanks to a nasty combination of the yield on the 10-year Treasury approaching 3 percent, a series of disappointments in the consumer products space, some amazingly fast growth in personal and corporate spending, a rally in commodities and a pickup in the trade war with China, we got hit with a flash flood of selling in a number of key groups," Cramer said.
Of all the woes, Cramer was particularly worried about the breadth of the United States' trade dispute with China.
This week, the tit-for-tat battle spread to a group that Cramer saw as integral to the success of the stock market: the semiconductor sector.
"The semis are a leadership group, no doubt about it, so the tone was just plain jarring," the "Mad Money" host said. "The problem is, in a trade war with China, there simply aren't enough publicly-traded winners."
The race to a $1 trillion market cap is underway, and to Cramer, it's looking "very close."
Tipping his hat to Morgan Stanley analyst Keith Weiss, who came up with the concept of the race to $1 trillion in a recent research note on Microsoft, Cramer decided to look at all four contenders and speculate on which one might cross the "finish line" first.
"It'd be extremely disappointing" if Trump didn't follow through on the tariffs, Ferriola told Cramer on Thursday. "We need the president to fulfill his commitment. We must not let the date of May 1 slip any further. Frankly, his credibility and the credibility of America is on the line here."
But even if the administration failed to uphold its commitment, Ferriola wasn't worried about Nucor's business, pointing to the company's year-over-year results on the heels of its first-quarter earnings report.
"Can Nucor do well despite what happens with 232?" he asked rhetorically. "The answer is absolutely, yes. All you need to do is to look back at our performance last year, but particularly in the first quarter, when we were operating in an environment in which imports still took 25 percent of the market."
"We operated at 92 percent capacity utilization," the CEO continued. "We had a very solid quarter. Just about all of our cylinders of our great company are running, full steam."
After touting the benefits of investing in technology, Cramer sat down with United Rentals CEO Mike Kneeland, whose construction equipment rental company is doing just that to stay ahead of the curve.
"We started out with telematics. We had to put telematics on our total fleet," Kneeland told Cramer on Thursday, referring to a type of telecommunication technology that provides location information in various applications.
"It does a lot of different things," Kneeland said. "It eliminates any kind of waste trying to locate a piece of equipment. It identifies whether it's low on fuel, whether it needs service. So it helps us, but it also helps our customers, more importantly."
Investing in tech was one of many factors that boosted business at United Rentals, Kneeland said after the company's first-quarter earnings beat.
"If you look at all the leading indicators, all of them, they're either at record-highs or damn close to it," he told Cramer. "Everything I see is going to point to a solid year. And you don't have to listen to me. Listen to my competitors. They're saying the same thing."
In Cramer's lightning round, he zoomed through his take on callers' favorite stocks:
Disclosure: Cramer's charitable trust owns shares of Apple, Alphabet, Amazon, Microsoft and Nucor.