Housing Turnaround or Recession?

We've talked about the irony thesis a lot lately on the show – at least when we haven't been focused on the Paulson/Invest In America bailout plan – the basic idea being that even as the banks are choking on bad mortgages, the stocks of the homebuilders have been rallying, which forecasts a bottom in housing prices in about nine months.

Jim's been through the many reasons why he thinks housing will bottom – peaking foreclosures, the bailout plan, the fact that our country hasn't built this few houses in 17 years, a time when we had 40 million fewer people living in America. We've recommended Masco, which makes cabinets and plumbing, and talked to the CEOs of Pulte Homes, as well as Ethan Allen, the interior design company, on Thursday night.

But at the same time we've been recommending a number of trade-down plays, stocks that work as the economy weakens and consumers try to save cash by buying cheaper products: Ralcorp, the largest maker of private-label cereals, and on Wednesday McCormick, the number-one spice maker in America, with 50% market share, as a play on fewer people going out to eat at restaurants and more people cooking at home. So how do these two things fit together? Are we predicting both a bottom in housing in nine months and a recession?

Yup. The irony thesis does not mean happy days are here again for the whole economy, it's housing specific. Even with a successful bailout plan, all that does is take the possibility of a depression off the table, not a recession.

Cliff Mason is the Senior Writer of CNBC's Mad Money w/Jim Cramer, and has been that program's primary writer, in cooperation with and under the supervision of Jim Cramer, since he began at CNBC as an intern during the summer of 2005. Mason was the author of a column at TheStreet.com during 2007, which he describes as "hilarious, if short-lived." He graduated from Harvard College in 2007. It was at Harvard that Mason learned to multi-task, mastering the art of seeming to pay attention to professors while writing scripts for Mad Money. Mason has co-written two books with Jim Cramer: Jim Cramer's Mad Money: Watch TV, Get Richand Stay Mad For Life: Get Rich, Stay Rich (Make Your Kids Even Richer). He is 100% responsible for any parts of either book that you did not like.

Mason has also had a fruitful relationship with Jim Cramer as his nephew for the last 23 years and will hopefully continue to hold that position for many more as long as he doesn't do anything to get himself kicked out of the family.

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