This earnings season is far enough along that investors can start making judgments about which stock market sectors are on the rise and which ones could see weakness in the better part of 2019, says CNBC's Jim Cramer.
"We need to be on the lookout for themes that are working in spite of the litany of big-picture negatives" including the turmoil in Washington, slowing global economic growth and the damage done by the Federal Reserve's "ill-advised" statements about interest rates in late 2018, Cramer, the host of "Mad Money," told investors Thursday.
Here are seven themes that he thinks can inspire some strategic (and successful) investing:
"If your company's involved with aerospace, there's a good chance that you'll report a monster upside surprise," Cramer said, citing a recent earnings report from industrial giant United Technologies, which saw 22 percent organic year-over-year growth in its aerospace division.
That told Cramer that "the aerospace industry has accelerated dramatically," he said. "Now, there are still some worries about China. I get that. But the demand flow is so strong that China may not even matter that much."
That should benefit General Electric, Honeywell and Boeing, all of which specialize in segments of aerospace, Cramer said. Even so, he said United Technologies was his favorite "because of the disruptive new aircraft engine."
Still, "the whole group is too low," he said. "That even includes GE, although the story there is a lot more messy thanks to the problems from long-term care insurance and the ailing power division. But Honeywell? Honeywell's just a buy."
5G, or the fifth generation of wireless mobile connectivity, "is starting to make an impact" as well, the "Mad Money" host said.
"There's a reason why Xilinx reported the best quarter of any semiconductor company so far — they have the most to gain from the early adoption of 5G and they already have substantial orders," Cramer said adding that Xilinx "feels like the new Nvidia" because of its business lines in artificial intelligence, autonomous driving and, importantly, telecommunications.
The third major theme is the world's largest biotechnology and pharmaceutical players racing to find the best ways to treat, or even cure, cancer, Cramer said.
From Bristol-Myers Squibb's deal to buy Celgene to GlaxoSmithKline's purchase of Tesaro to Eli Lilly's acquisition of Loxo Oncology, most of the recent, high-profile deals in the health-care space center on the disease, he noted.
"Put it all together and I think there are a ton of biotechs that might be worth speculating on here," Cramer said. "Anything with a credible cancer immunotherapy pipeline could be in play."
The ongoing trend of companies moving their operations to digital formats, particularly the cloud, isn't stopping anytime soon, either, Cramer said.
"That's the message we got from IBM, for instance, which is doing some very powerful work in health care," he said. "When you think digitization, I urge you to think of companies like VMware ... and Cisco," which build infrastructure for the cloud.
Cramer had a slightly different take on these two groups: "Anything related to housing or autos should be avoided ... like the plague."
"These are no-growth industries globally and there's nothing good happening here unless we have a great spring selling season," he said. "I think the estimates need to come down for pretty much any company in either cohort, from 3M ... to Toll [Brothers] to Masco and to Lowe's."
After seeing the destruction in parts of the retail sector this holiday season, Cramer has concluded that when it comes to retail, "only a couple" stocks are really working.
He recommended the stocks of Walmart, Costco, Dollar Tree, Dollar General, Five Below, Ollie's Bargain Outlet, Burlington, Ross Stores and TJX Companies, hitting his famous "sell" button for "everyone else" in the space.
Consumer spending in China can also lead to gains for certain companies with business lines there, especially versus expectations that trade tensions will lead to boycotts of U.S. goods by Chinese consumers, Cramer said.
"There's been a resurgence in Procter & Gamble," he noted. "This strength defies the broader consumer packaged goods industry and it's led by spending in China. So don't write off every American company that that's doing a ton of business in the People's Republic — think Nike or Starbucks, which, frankly, just reported a pretty robust quarter."
"Regardless of what happens with the trade talks or the government shutdown, these seven themes can guide you through this tumultuous environment," Cramer said. "Remember them the next time everything goes crazy and, given the circumstances, you won't have all that long to wait."
Disclosure: Cramer's charitable trust owns shares of Honeywell, Cisco Systems and Five Below.