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As the stock market tried and failed to regain its bull status on Monday, with the tech sector driving the major averages lower into the close, what really worried CNBC's Jim Cramer were the stocks going up.
"My No. 1 fear when I looked at today's action? It's the rally in the stock of Clorox, " the "Mad Money" host said. "The best performers were the kind[s] of names you buy if you believe we are indeed headed into a downturn."
The stock of Clorox, a household products manufacturer, is widely considered to be a traditionally "safe" stock that produces steady growth and a high dividend. Shares of Clorox rose 1.22 percent in Monday's trading session.
Investors tend to flock to defensive names like Clorox and its fellow consumer products plays when the market looks to be facing long-term decline because of their typically bond-competitive yields.
"Don't get me wrong. You know I like Clorox a lot — management is doing a terrific job — but when these kinds of consumer packaged good ... stocks start roaring, that's the market telling you, 'Look out, the Fed's going to cause a slowdown,'" Cramer warned.
Since the Federal Reserve's most recent interest rate hike, after which the central bank said it would raise rates one more time this year and three times in 2019, Cramer has been cautioning investors that this aggressive approach could spur an economic slowdown.
To his dismay, Monday's market action confirmed that a Fed-led deceleration could be in the works.
"It's not just Clorox. Procter and Gamble's been giving you anemic growth, yet it rallied more than a buck. Kimberly-Clark, which I think could miss the quarter, was up a buck and change. Will the Fed notice any of these patterns? " he wondered.
The situation reminded Cramer of 1998 and 2007, two times when the Fed consciously decided not to pay attention to the stock market. In 1998, the Fed begun a tightening cycle just as the internet bubble was getting euphoric. The result was a two-month-long crash. After 2007, the Fed's neglect led, in part, to the 2008 financial crisis.
"Look, no one, least of all me, is saying that the Fed's job is to put a bid underneath or make stocks go higher," Cramer said. "But if the Fed would just listen to what the stock market's saying — or, I should say, screaming — merely as a way of gathering data, ... they might realize that business is already slowing."
Even so, these warning signs don't mean investors need to take immediate action, Cramer said.
"Why not sell everything now and wait for the Fed to admit that it's wrong? Because the bottom line is that people have already been selling for weeks. You aren't early if you sell here," the "Mad Money" host explained. "The moment the Fed changes its view or simply sends someone out to clarify Powell's comments, you'll be scrambling to buy stocks at prices much higher than they [are] right now."
"I'm counseling patience here," he continued. "Sure, if you want to raise cash, that's fine. Take some gains. But I am recommending that members of the ActionAlertsPlus.com club do some buying into weakness, as the trust did today."