- CNBC's Jim Cramer and technician Tim Collins survey the stock charts of industrial giant Caterpillar.
- The machinery maker has become something of a proxy for progress in the U.S.-China trade war.
- Now, Caterpillar could bounce, but investors looking to buy the stock are taking on a lot of risk, Cramer says.
The U.S.-China trade truce may have lifted stocks on Monday, but buyers should remain cautious while Wall Street awaits details on the final agreement, CNBC's Jim Cramer and technician Tim Collins warned.
"[Collins] thinks you need to be cautious when buying stocks here, because the trade truce failed to clean the murky waters," Cramer said Monday after consulting with the chartist. "That said, if you want to understand what's going on with the Chinese and with the U.S. economy, there's one stock that he says you can tell a great deal from: Caterpillar."
Collins, Cramer's colleague at RealMoney.com, chose to focus on Caterpillar because the company is not only cyclical — meaning it thrives in a strong economy and hurts in a weak one — but because China accounts for a large portion of its growth.
As a result, the industrial's stock "has been a pretty good proxy for the progress — or lack thereof — in the trade war," Cramer, host of "Mad Money," explained. And "as long as the stock market doesn't completely give up the ghost this month, [Collins] believes Caterpillar could have a remarkable snapback rally. However, Collins acknowledges that this is a risky bet."
To understand where Caterpillar's stock could go next, Collins pointed to a single indicator that he said has been spot-on in predicting bottoms in the industrial play over the last three years: the Chaikin Oscillator.
Created by Mark Chaikin, another one of "Mad Money's" resident technicians, the Chaikin Oscillator combines two indicators — the moving average convergence-divergence indicator and the accumulation-distribution line — to understand the momentum of buying and selling in a given stock.
"In other words, this tool is very good at detecting shifts in the behavior of the big boys — ahead of time — who ultimately set stock prices with their gigantic trades," Cramer explained.
In Caterpillar's weekly chart, the Chaikin Oscillator plunged during November's marketwide meltdown to its lowest reading since 2015. Going into 2016, the indicator made a higher low as Caterpillar's stock dropped.
"The uptick in the Chaikin Oscillator foreshadowed a rebound in the stock. Sure enough, CAT gave you a mammoth rally over the next two years," Cramer said. "Collins seems to think that we're seeing something similar in terms of bullish potential, with the Chaikin Oscillator bouncing hard off the lows. However, this time we don't have the bullish divergence, because CAT's stock is bouncing along with it."
Still, every time the Chaikin Oscillator has fallen this low, Caterpillar's stock has rallied over the next 12 months, making Collins tentatively bullish, the "Mad Money" host said.
The technician's theory was supported by Caterpillar's shorter-term daily chart. Collins said that as long as Caterpillar's stock can hold above the $134 level, it could rally to $150 in six to eight weeks.
"Put it all together and Collins likes what he sees in Caterpillar's stock, but this is very much [a] high-risk, high-reward story given how much the darned thing has already run," Cramer said.
"CAT should be ready to roar even more here, and that makes sense to me if the Fed can engineer a soft landing for the economy and the president's new understanding with China turns into a genuine end to the trade war," he continued. "But you need to have a lot of conviction to bet on Caterpillar up here and I don't blame anyone who's feeling a little bit queasy, although, as I said earlier, I think the Chinese could solve a lot of problems with President Trump by simply buying a ton of machinery from this great American manufacturer."