Game Plan: Buy Cheap-Oil Stocks

Cheap oil will be the dominant theme in the coming week, Cramer said during Friday’s Mad Money, so buy the stocks that benefit most from these low prices.

Wal-Mart and Panera Bread are Cramer’s top picks for this trend. Cheaper gas and heating oil, as well as what looks like lower mortgage rates in the near future – Cramer thinks they drop to 4.5% – are putting extra money into consumers’ pockets. And like good Americans they’re spending it. So retailers and restaurants are holding up, some doing well in fact, despite all this recession talk.

Cramer also said WMT and PNRA could be the best ways to trade the last couple weeks of 2008 because both are up year-to-date, which means tax-loss selling won’t push down the stocks. There’s actually a good chance money managers will pile into Wal-Mart and Panera as a way to dress up their portfolios, hoping to impress clients, and that could give both names a final bump before year end.

Investors in need of further proof of consumers’, at least for now, fatter wallets can look to great numbers from Darden Restaurants’ Red Lobster and Olive Garden chains. If consumer confidence was a bad as people say, then we might have expected losses rather than gains here.

The same can be said of Research in Motion and Costco. Cramer touted RIMM’s sales numbers as a sign of consumer strength, and COST CEO Jim Sinegal told Mad Money Thursday that business is good. Cramer attributed both, at least in some degree, to lower gas prices.

This all feeds into the bulls’ attempts to outmaneuver the bears in terms of framing the present market environment. There’s a clash, Cramer said, between those who see cheap oil and lower mortgage rates as the primary drivers, while others point to massive unemployment and tight credit supplies as the more powerful force at work. Granted, these latter two factors are playing a big role, and no one can deny the weight that 10% unemployment would put on the economy, but Cramer’s hoping that consumer spending can stop joblessness from reaching that level.

If that’s the case, he said, we might get by with only a “nasty recession.”

Jim's charitable trust owns Wal-Mart.

Questions for Cramer?

Questions, comments, suggestions for the Mad Money website?