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Sell Block: Life Insurers Escape Their Own Demise

Cramer released the life insurers from Mad Money’s Sell Block on Thursday, after the Treasury announced this struggling group would be eligible for Troubled Assets Relief Program money. The move fills one of the market’s last remaining black holes, he said.

All life insurers that are classified as savings and loans or bank holding companies qualify for a federal bailout. That should big a big help to companies in desperate need of capital like Lincoln National , Hartford Financial Services Group and Principal Financial Group. Otherwise they might not have been able to pay their annuities and life insurance policies.

These stocks surged on the announcement, so Cramer wouldn’t recommend buying them. But it was worth noting, he said, that the life insurers are no longer toxic. TARP money will cover policy payouts, losses from overleveraged commercial real estate portfolios and any other bad investing decisions these companies made.

While the free pass might not seem fair, it is necessary to get us out of this recession, Cramer said. The life insurers’ troubles have weighed heavily on all stocks. So the government intervention is good news for both the group and the market.

Going into the Sell Block, though, were Patterson and Henry Schein, the two largest players in dental supplies. A Credit Suisse First Boston survey of 100 dentists showed a lot of belt-tightening as consumers forego their twice-yearly visits. So whether we’re talking equipment sales or office consumables – think throwaway, one-shot items – dentists just aren’t placing orders.

Patterson and Henry Schein are down 48% and 31%, respectively, from 12 months ago, and Cramer thinks they could go still lower. While some unsophisticated investors might loop these stocks with other medical-related defensive plays, make no mistake – dentistry doesn’t count. Besides, most of Wall Street has already cycled into banks and industrials by now, so safety stocks wouldn’t work anyway.



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