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The bulls win out in the bull-bear battle over Cummins, Jim Cramer says

Key Points
  • CNBC's Jim Cramer supports the bull thesis about where the stock of industrial giant Cummins could go next.
  • In the last week, one Wall Street analyst upgraded the stock while another downgraded it.
  • Cramer unpacks their two theories and explains what they mean for the company.
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Bulls win in bull-bear battle over Cummins, Cramer says

Manufacturer Cummins has been hit with competing analyst ratings after its most recent earnings report, so CNBC's Jim Cramer thought it was worth weighing in on the battle.

"I love it when we get these dueling pieces of research, because you always want to know the best arguments of both the bulls and the bears," he said Wednesday. "Hopefully, by pitting them against each other, we'll end up with a smarter synthesis that helps us figure out where Cummins' stock might really be headed."

Cummins, a truck-engine maker that is widely seen as being hostage to China, has become something of a proxy for the welfare of the global economy and "the intensity of the trade war with China," Cramer explained on "Mad Money." 

As such, it's worth knowing what Wall Street professionals think is in the cards, especially considering the Federal Reserve's newfound patience on interest rate hikes, which put pressure on the trucking industry late last year, he said.

Cramer first turned to the post-earnings note from Baird, which upgraded the stock to "outperform" from "neutral." The analysts argued that a recent decline in orders for a specific kind of truck — the Class 8 — could be a sign that Cummins is about to bottom.

"Historically, the truck stocks tend to bottom right around when Class 8 truck orders see their most significant declines," Cramer explained. "I've studied this cycle for years; that's the case. In short, they think you need to anticipate the eventual turnaround in the trucking business, because if you wait for the data to improve, you'll miss the rally in these stocks."

In fact, "Baird views Cummins as one of the most compelling ways to play the upcoming re-rating of the truck stocks," he said, adding that the company does over half of its sales in North America.

And, according to Baird, investors still have time: the analysts say that the re-rating process takes about 12 to 15 months to fully play out, and that period of time should produce gains for Cummins. They did, however, acknowledge that they could be too early with their call.

"Basically, the bull thesis is that the truck business has gotten so tough that it's now poised for a turn, and while that may sound counterintuitive, it makes sense to me given that we're no longer fighting the Fed, " Cramer said.

How about the bear? Oppenheimer downgraded Cummins' shares to "perform" from "outperform" and slashed its price target, predicting that fiscal year 2020 would be a down year for North American trucking.

"There's also a lot of uncertainty in China, and that doesn't help," Cramer said. "On the other hand, if we get a trade deal with China, these bearish analysts admit that the engine maker's earnings would explode higher. [But] at the end of the day, they don't feel comfortable pounding the table on Cummins when the North American truck business is declining."

So, while both the bulls and the bears acknowledged that Cummins' near-term situation wasn't perfect, they had very different outlooks on what's next for the stock of the U.S. manufacturing giant.

"To me, the glass is half full, and I like Cummins here given that you're no longer fighting the Fed," Cramer concluded. "But this stock is so linked to China that I think you can get a better price if you wait for the next pullback on some sort of story that there's no trade deal, and then you pull the trigger."

WATCH: Cramer unpacks Cummins' bull-bear battle

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The bulls win out in the bull-bear battle over Cummins, Jim Cramer says

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