- CNBC's Jim Cramer pinpoints the 10 drivers of the stock market's sell-off.
- The "Mad Money" host explains what it'll take for stocks to recover.
- The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 500 points on Monday.
"When does this rout end? When do the buyers come in? When do the sellers finish?" he wondered aloud on "Mad Money." "Frankly, we don't know, and that uncertainty is what allows this roving bear market to keep tearing us to pieces."
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Here are the various reasons that stocks are falling and what it would take for them to turn, according to Cramer:
Stories of Apple's alleged sales slowdowns, like Monday's report from the Wall Street Journal, are getting "repetitive" even as many investors treat them as new and crippling revelations, Cramer said.
"This market can't stabilize until Apple stabilizes," said "Mad Money" host, whose charitable trust owns Apple shares. He added that chart specialists have been saying that "it's all over but the crying" for the iPhone maker's stock.
"My view? Apple is a long-term hold, with its huge installed base giving the company's service revenue stream a lot of room to grow, which is why you own it [and] don't trade it," he said. "However, I can't blame any big accounts for dumping it and, at least short term, I wouldn't expect the stock to bottom until some of the analysts start downgrading it."
Following up on his earlier comments that Facebook's stock would pop if Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg left the company, Cramer said that management has turned the social media giant's situation into "an unmitigated disaster."
"Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO, is now making Elon Musk look like the Dalai Lama," Cramer quipped. "I've been calling for some sort of elder statesman to come in, ... like when Eric Schmidt took the reins at Google in 2001, giving the founders some adult supervision and putting the company on better footing. That's what Facebook desperately needs right now."
Even though Cramer, whose charitable trust owns shares of Facebook, wanted to recommend the stock at its current levels, he just couldn't "find a reason to jump in front of a speeding freight train."
Cramer sensed that the declines across the software sector were based on "nothing, other than perhaps a sense that the global economy's slowing and slowing rapidly." The weakness reminded him of late 2016, when shares of Salesforce.com slid from $81 to $54 on "pretty much nothing."
These days, exchange-traded funds that group related stocks together can pressure shares of high-quality companies when lower-quality competitors' shares start falling, he explained.
"The incredible thing is there's no concrete evidence whatsoever that anything is really wrong. Nobody's seen a real slowdown in the web," he said. "How does it end? These brutal declines in tech typically end when the longs are finished selling and the valuations can be sustained. We're not there yet."
"For the first time since the financial crisis, dip buying has failed," the "Mad Money" host warned, referring to his tried and true strategy of buying great stocks during their downturns.
"The Nasdaq is littered with these breakdowns," he said. "The presumption is that 2019 will be a down year. How can you rebut it? I have no real comeback to the theory that dip buying is dead because we've had no clarity on 2019."
After Vice President Mike Pence's speech at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit on Saturday, Cramer worried that Washington's increasingly stark hard line against China could weigh on the market indefinitely.
"If this administration views trade with the People's Republic as simply providing fuel for their attempts to become a superpower, ... you could easily imagine them cutting off that trade entirely," he said. "Of course, that would be horrendous for all sorts of American businesses — and it wouldn't work — but many people believe that's where we may be headed. I think it's extreme, but try telling the sellers that."
"It's a shame that we need to wait until things get that bad before the Fed will change course, ... but they don't seem to care about anything the markets are saying," he said. "The Fed wants concrete evidence of people being thrown out of work before they become less hawkish. I do not think that's the way to run the Fed, but I am definitively not in charge."
The few stocks that are bucking the broader market's declines are those that investors tend to buy when they're worried about an impending recession.
"Given that nobody thinks you can slip into a recession so fast after such strong economic numbers, there's genuine confusion. Confusion makes people want to sell," Cramer said.
Even on a technical basis, things are looking ugly for stocks, the "Mad Money" host warned. The market will be hard-pressed to find a bottom with key support levels falling through left and right.
Those who think that the economy is so strong that it can handle any number of interest rate hikes are fooling themselves, Cramer said.
"When you look at all the very good retailers that have been shelled after they reported, great companies like Macy's, Home Depot [and] Walmart, that's the market telling you to be concerned," he said. "It doesn't seem to concern the Fed at all."
"We aren't even that oversold yet," meaning that stocks could still be far from recovery, Cramer warned.
"There's too much hope. There's not enough hatred in my Twitter feed," he said. "The good news? If we keep falling at this pace, ... it won't be long before we reach oversold levels, where all hope is extinguished and we can bounce."
"I don't see a way around [the sell-off] until these 10 problems get fixed," Cramer lamented. "I've been highlighting these issues for what feels like ages. There's always some new people watching, though. These have only grown more acute with time, which is why we could be headed lower, even if we get a snapback rally from an oversold position."
Disclosure: Cramer's charitable trust owns shares of Facebook, Apple and Salesforce.com.