Cramer's game plan: Keep an eye on consumer data amid earnings windfall

  • CNBC's Jim Cramer picks through the earnings confusion in the week ahead and advises investors on how to play the action.
  • Above all, investors should watch Friday's consumer price index results, the "Mad Money" host says.

It's the most confusing part of earnings season — complicated more by tech volatility, Apple adoration and trade tensions — and CNBC's Jim Cramer knows investors have a lot to process.

"But we have to stick to our knitting here, and that's why every Friday I give you my game plan where I help you figure out what could happen next week to individual stocks and some macro news," the "Mad Money" host said.

Without further ado, he turned to next week's slate:

Monday: Marriott International, Zillow Group, Etsy, Andeavor

Marriott: Shares of the massive hotel operator are down for the year, but Cramer thinks Marriott could surprise with its earnings report, despite the stock price's recent movement.

"This is the premier operator. It could put up some really good numbers," he said. "I like it ahead of the quarter."

Zillow: This online real estate player will also report on Monday, and Cramer is impressed by the company's prospects despite the pressures facing its industry.

"Every other stock that's connected to housing has been bruised badly here thanks to a lack of inventory and, of course, rising mortgage rates," Cramer said. "But I think Zillow may have enough differentiated new product out there that it can triumph over these constraining issues."

Etsy: Etsy, the e-commerce kingpin for handmade goods, will also issue its earnings report on Monday.

"I know Etsy's had quite a run, but its market cap is only $5 billion and that might be too small for the opportunity and for the total addressable market," Cramer said. "Etsy just might be the anti-Amazon: the company that unites crafts people worldwide as a curated place to sell their wares. I'd buy some both before the quarter and after if it pulls back."

Andeavor: This under-the-radar oil refining play could deliver "the biggest upside surprise of the week" with its earnings report, Cramer said.

On a path to merge with Cramer-fave Marathon Petroleum, Andeavor will help the combined company win on cost vis-a-vis its competitors, the "Mad Money" host explained.

"This new company sits in the middle of the most lucrative part of the entire oil patch, buying crude at low prices in places that are landlocked without enough pipeline infrastructure, and then refining it and marking it up for the same prices that other refiners get, when … these guys have the lowest input costs," he said. "This is the best of the bunch."

Tuesday: Emerson Electric, The Walt Disney Company

Emerson Electric: Cramer said the electrical equipment maker also deliver an upside surprise in its earnings release.

"It's a shame; Emerson's incredibly well-run here, yet it's all mucked up by the trade war," he said. "But it's now firing on all cylinders, people, and if we don't hear much about trade next week, Emerson could rally to a new all-time high, just a few points from here."

Disney: While Cramer knows that ESPN is a key part of Disney's business, he was looking forward to it not dominating the entertainment giant's earnings report.

"Remember, the main reason to own Disney is that the company is a cash machine," he said.

"Now, I don't know how much time Disney will devote to the positives from its deal with Fox, which, coincidentally, reports on Wednesday," he said. "I think Disney's gone from being a problematic entertainment company, hobbled by cord cutting, to a growth business filled with synergies among its movies, television shows and theme parks once this acquisition closes."

Wednesday: Keurig Dr. Pepper, CVS, Occidental Petroleum

Keurig Dr. Pepper: The newly merged soda and coffee giant "could rock the house" if the company can execute well, Cramer said.

"That's exactly what [CEO Bob] Gamgort has done best and it's also what the stock has done best since it closed on the deal," he continued. "Still, let's see what the newly minted financials look like on Wednesday morning."

CVS: CVS' pending merger with Aetna will spell good things for the pharmacy operator, the "Mad Money" host said ahead of CVS' Wednesday earnings report.

"I like the combination very much," Cramer said. "In fact, I like all the health insurers, and if Aetna's allowed to merge with CVS you could do a heck of a lot worse than owning this company. That said, I don't know if you're being paid enough [to wait] for the deal to close, even with that 3 percent dividend. In the meantime, you are at Amazon's headline mercy."

Occidental Petroleum: This oil and gas play's spending discipline and infrastructure have placed it above its competition in oil investors' books, Cramer said.

"I think it's now regarded as the blue chip of Texas," he said. "As far as I'm concerned, Occidental's one of the best oils to own. No need to get ahead of it, though, because if crude keeps going down, I'm telling you you'll get a better chance to buy."

Thursday: Dropbox, Viacom

Dropbox: As a believer in the subscription economy, Cramer liked Dropbox's prospects ahead of its earnings report.

"This stock has almost round-tripped since its red-hot IPO and I think it makes a ton of sense to buy some Dropbox now and then grab some after it reports," he advised.

Viacom: Cramer is tired of Wall Street's negativity around Viacom's business and wanted to put an end to it before the company's earnings report.

"It's got some incredible assets, my favorite being the movie studio Paramount, a premier asset – yes, of Mission Impossible fame – and its brand new management team is cutting the fat, putting out superior entertainment product but nobody's paying attention," he said. "I think that a Viacom-CBS merger would be fantastic for shareholders, but even an independent Viacom is worth buying ahead of this quarter."

Friday: Consumer price index

The U.S. Department of Labor will release July's consumer price index on Friday, and for Cramer, that means one thing: "Trouble."

"This is the one number that worries me the most," he said. "We've had so many price increases at the wholesale level that still haven't hit the retail level. Will this be the moment inflation starts to pick up noticeably?"

If it does, the Federal Reserve will likely feel compelled to raise interest rates two more times this year, giving the bears something to fret about besides China — good news for the banks, perhaps, but bad news for stocks, Cramer warned.

Final thoughts

"Bottom line? There are a bunch of great companies reporting next week, but above all, you've got to keep your eye on that Friday CPI," Cramer concluded. "Hey, I'm a poet and I didn't even know it."

WATCH: Cramer looks to a busy week with a data-driven kicker

Disclosure: Cramer's charitable trust owns shares of Apple, Emerson Electric and Amazon.

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