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It is too early to tell whether the coronavirus could trigger a recession, Jim Cramer says

Key Points
  • It's too early to determine the long-term economic consequences of the deadly coronavirus, CNBC's Jim Cramer said Thursday. 
  • "China's not just exporting a virus, it could potentially export a severe slowdown," "the Mad Money" host said.
  • More than 8,200 people across the world have become ill with the coronavirus. 
Customers queue to buy facial masks to prevent a new coronavirus outbreak in Hong Kong, China January 29, 2020.
Tyrone Siu | Reuters

It's too early to determine the long-term economic consequences of the deadly coronavirus, CNBC's Jim Cramer said Thursday.

The "Mad Money" host said there are obviously immediate concerns surrounding the economy of China, where the outbreak first appeared. On Thursday the World Health Organization deemed the coronavirus a global health emergency.

"When you start talking about cordoning [China] off because of health-care concerns, you better believe that's going to slow down this incredible growth engine," Cramer said. He noted the supply chain disruption and decisions by some companies to shut down operations in China because of the fast-spreading virus. Starbucks, for example, has closed about half its stores in the country.

More than 8,200 people across the world have become ill with the coronavirus, with at least 171 deaths in China. There are at least eight cases of human-to-human transmission in four other countries, including one in the U.S.

"China's not just exporting a virus, it could potentially export a severe slowdown," Cramer said.

Overall, though, Cramer said the economic picture right now is one of mixed signals.

On one hand, the bond market is in a less-than-stellar state, Cramer said. The yield on the 10-year Treasury has fallen to around 1.5%, and the bond market needs to be taken seriously, he stressed.

On the other hand, Cramer said, "employment's fabulous and loan growth was pretty good at the banks when they reported."

"Nevertheless, you ignore the bond market at your own peril," Cramer said.

The stock market is also painting a conflicting picture, Cramer said.

Consumer staples companies such as snack maker Mondelez and Coca-Cola are performing well, even if their quarterly earnings reports were really good but not great, he said.

"You have to wonder how much of that has to do with recession fears," Cramer said.

Yet Amazon reported an out-of-the-park quarter Thursday, and its stock is soaring.

"Amazon's stock says no slowdown. If anything it says, 'Well, how about an acceleration?'" Cramer said.

If coronavirus leads to a death in the U.S. — "heaven forbid," he said — it is likely the stock market would fall.

"But the earnings are looking good and in the scheme of things maybe the outbreak is not the end of the world," Cramer said, noting that Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar was reassuring about the virus in a CNBC interview Thursday.

We don't necessarily have to wait for the virus to stop spreading before we can get clarity around its economic consequences, Cramer said.

"If we get this coronavirus under control, or we just get some certainty that China's got it contained, or even that the wave has peaked, well then you could see an extension of today's magnificent late-afternoon rally," Cramer said.

"But we need that news before we can get real aggressive," he added.

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It is too early to determine the economic consequences of the coronavirus, Jim Cramer says

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