Cramer's game plan: A busy week ahead of a make-or-break report

  • CNBC's Jim Cramer flags key stocks and events in the week ahead, including a Labor Department report that could prompt a sell-off.
  • The "Mad Money" host will keep an eye on upcoming earnings reports from PepsiCo, Costco and more.

The third quarter is wrapping up, September is coming to a close, and CNBC's Jim Cramer can finally breathe.

"The third quarter's in the bag and it's been a good one — best in five years. Even September was good, and historically, that tends to be a rough month," the "Mad Money" host said on Friday. "In fact, the market's been so robust that you have to think long and hard about stocks that have lagged behind here."

The two that stood out to Cramer were Tesla and Facebook, both of which dropped on Friday on "self-inflicted wounds," he said.

At Tesla, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission charged CEO Elon Musk with fraud, sending shares of the automaker into a nosedive.

On the other side of the tech arena, Facebook's stock plunged nearly 3 percent on news that the social media colossus discovered a "security issue" that spread to nearly 50 million user accounts.

But barring those two instances, Cramer was pleased with how the quarter turned out. With that in mind, he turned to his weekly game plan, which includes a market-critical report on Friday:

Monday: Stitch Fix

Online shopping service Stitch Fix, a new Cramer-fave, will report earnings on Monday. The company is already profitable and rapidly growing its revenues, so Cramer expected a good result.

"One look at their website tells you exactly how powerful this story is," he said. "Stitch Fix has that rare ability to convert users of the service into buyers of the stock — like Tesla, except it's making money."

While shares of Stitch Fix have fallen in the last several weeks on worries about competition from Amazon, Cramer saw the decline as an opportunity.

"You have my blessing to buy some Stitch Fix both before and after the quarter," he told investors.

Tuesday: PepsiCo, Paychex

PepsiCo: Snack and beverage giant PepsiCo's Tuesday earnings report will be a "bittersweet moment" for Cramer as longtime CEO Indra Nooyi prepares to step down from her post the following day.

"Indra reinvented the company, transforming it from a carbonated soda and salty snacks business into a more diversified operation with many healthy offerings. I've come to respect her not only for her business acumen, but, perhaps more important, for her leadership role as an executive focused on doing good works worldwide," the "Mad Money" host said.

"Indra was well ahead of the curve on important issues like diversity, equality and sustainability," he continued. "I'm hoping she stays on as a highly visible role model for everybody, especially billions of women, around the globe."

As for the actual report, Cramer expected a good quarter that would send the stock higher, but warned that "the sector remains extremely out of favor" on Wall Street.

Paychex: The Federal Reserve's latest interest rate hike is "basically free money" for payroll processors like Paychex, but this quarter, the old-line administrative giant may have run into a problem, Cramer said.

"The competition among companies that advise on business services like retirement savings — one of their smaller divisions — has gotten very fierce," he said ahead of the company's Tuesday earnings report.

"More important, we know that Square, the ambitious point-of-sale kingpin that we like so much, has decided to get into the payroll processing business itself. Square's a big-time disruptor and they're all about small- and medium-sized business, which is very much Paychex's wheelhouse," Cramer continued. "Call me conflicted."

Wednesday: Lennar Corp.

On Wednesday, investors will get an update on what Cramer called "one of the most despised sectors in the market: housing."

While the Fed's rate hikes may benefit the financial sector, they tend to hurt housing stocks because they signal mortgage rates could rise, so Cramer was worried about homebuilder Lennar's earnings report on Wednesday.

"What can I say? I've rarely ever seen the housing stocks go up during this phase of the Fed tightening cycle regardless of how well the companies are actually doing," he said. "I say you've got to be careful with Lennar."

Thursday: Constellation Brands, Costco Wholesale

Constellation Brands: The alcohol distributor will report on Thursday, and Cramer expects Wall Street to create some conflict even if the quarter is strong.

"If you want to see what happens when a visionary company tries to deal with a skeptical analyst community, then watch how one trades," he said. "I expect Constellation's beer sales — we're talking Modelo and Corona — are better than the rest of the industry, but that still might not be enough to boost the stock."

Cramer referenced Constellation's investment in cannabis producer Canopy Growth, which some investors interpreted as Constellation's leaders having a lack of confidence in their core business.

"Without a re-acceleration of both wine and beer sales, I bet the stock would get punished. If that happens, I would want to be a buyer of Constellation's stock," he said. "Why? Well, [besides] the fact that it [has] great management, I think the weed strategy makes a ton of sense."

Costco: Retailer Costco will report its quarterly results after Thursday's closing bell, and Cramer expects "numbers that are superior to most of the industry."

"The stock's up 26 percent for the year, so it is priced for perfection, but that's precisely what Costco's been giving us," he said. "One new wrinkle, though: worries about tariffs and whether Costco eats the new costs rather than passes them on to club members. They could be enough of an overhang to mute the terrific numbers I'm anticipating."

Friday: Non-farm payroll report

On Friday, the U.S. Labor Department will release its non-farm payroll report, which Cramer has long dubbed an extremely critical piece of data when it comes to the welfare of the stock market.

This time, however, "things are tricky" with the jobs report, he said: if it's weaker than expected, concerns will arise that the Fed is raising rates in an already-cooling economy. If it's stronger than anticipated, there will be calls for more rate hikes.

"It's the most worrisome part of every tightening cycle," the "Mad Money" host said. "I think the Fed's doing a great job and I think we're going to get a Goldilocks number, one that's strong enough to refute the slowdown story but weak enough in terms of higher wages to withstand the inflation narrative."

Final thoughts

All things considered, Friday's report will really be the make-or-break number for the market next week, Cramer said.

"As we enter the first week of the fourth quarter, Friday's labor report is by far the most important number, and if it doesn't come in just right — like it's been for ages — then you've got to be ready for a bit of a sell-off, because after this strong quarter, we might as well be set up for one," he told investors.

WATCH: Cramer's game plan for the first week of Q4

Disclosure: Cramer's charitable trust owns shares of Facebook and Amazon.

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