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As President Donald Trump prepares to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping and other world leaders at this weekend's G-20 summit, CNBC's Jim Cramer wanted to help investors hedge against the risk of U.S.-China trade talks going south.
While reports have suggested that Trump will seek a truce at the Buenos Aires, Argentina gathering, Cramer thought he might use more of a stick-and-carrot approach, keeping with his plan of raising the existing 10-percent tariffs on Chinese imports to 25 percent at year-end, then offering a "carrot" by holding off on an additional round of duties.
"When we come in on Monday, you need to be ready in case President Trump spends the whole night back from Argentina tweeting about how his best friend ... President Xi forced him to ignite the 25-percent tariff fuse," the "Mad Money" host said Thursday. "If he does, you're going to get a down market."
So, ahead of the summit, "you need stocks with built-in catalysts, the stocks of companies that are willing to reinvent themselves into something the market likes more than their current form," Cramer said as the major averages traded higher.
Cramer's four picks were the stocks of Dollar Tree, CVS Health, McDonald's and Constellation Brands. The common thread? All four companies are going through some sort of reinvention or restructuring that he thinks will create value going forward.
Dollar Tree, for one, has long been a "fabulous operator," Cramer said, calling the discount retailer "a personal shopping fave." But since the company acquired Family Dollar four years ago, its stock has been struggling because of the mismatch: while Dollar Tree's stores were pristine, Family Dollar's seemed "shabby [and] uninviting," Cramer said.
But now that Dollar Tree has started renovating the Family Dollar locations — creating value in the process — the "Mad Money" host thought it was time to reconsider buying into the stock.
"I'm sure the vast majority of Wall Street types have never been to a Dollar Tree. They don't know how nice it is," he explained. "I like that management's already planning for 25-percent tariffs and is adjusting its sourcing to get the heck out of Dodge, or Beijing, or Shanghai, as the case may be."
CVS, which closed on its acquisition of health insurer Aetna on Wednesday, was another underestimated company that Cramer thought would make for a good investment regardless of what happens with U.S.-China trade.
"I don't think people understand how potent this combination could be," he said, adding that he's been telling club members of his charitable trust that CVS shares "can go higher simply thanks to the power of arithmetic."
"Now that CVS and Aetna have combined forces, I expect the stock to be valued more like a health-care play than a retailer," he continued. "That could easily take CVS to $100, up $20 from where it is right now. I know some people are probably fretting about all the $40 billion CVS borrowed in order to pay for Aetna, but this company will generate $10 billion in cash flow next year. Count me not concerned. "
Not only is McDonald's a strong hedge against "periods of economic slowing," according to Morgan Stanley, but the company is also reinventing itself by remodeling its locations around the world, Cramer said.
And now that the Federal Reserve has indicated that there's "no preset policy path" for its interest rate hikes, money managers will probably build up more defensive stock positions in case there's an economic slowdown, the former hedge fund manager explained.
"A lot of Wall Streeters figured that the Fed must know something they don't. They now assume something's very wrong with the economy — they just can't see it — and they're also terrified of the upcoming tariff increases," Cramer said. "In that kind of environment, these fund managers will want to buy the stock of McDonald's."
Fourth but definitely not least, Cramer highlighted Constellation Brands, the beer, wine and liquor distributor behind Modelo and Corona that has a massive stake in Canadian cannabis producer Canopy Growth Corp.
While Constellation's stock has dropped since its investment in Canopy, Cramer said that right now, the alcohol giant seems to be ahead of other consumer-facing companies that are starting to wade into the cannabis industry.
"Don't forget: with Canopy, you get exposure to both the medical — they just started a large trial in nursing homes where the elderly are routinely drugged with opiods — and you also get the recreational," he said. "[With] Constellation, you get a company that already knows how to create good-tasting liquids that get people intoxicated."
The bottom line? If U.S.-China trade talks don't pan out the way some investors think they might, Cramer would use the resulting weakness to buy "the mothers of reinvention:" Dollar Tree, CVS, McDonald's, and Constellation Brands.