Hostess Brands (NASDAQ: TWNK) may be floating along well so far, but Jim Cramer is worried about this consumer foods play for a host of reasons.
"Hostess Brands' growth is decelerating, the balance sheet is less than ideal with $1 billion of debt," and there's a risk of private equity shareholders unloading their positions and hurting the newly public stock, the " Mad Money " host said.
And while Cramer has nothing against private equity practices, some of them could endanger the interests of Hostess' public shareholders, he added.
"That's why my takeaway here is simple: if you like Hostess, I bet you'll love Flowers Foods (NYSE: FLO), FLO, a pure-play bakery company and the owner of most of the bread brands that Hostess sold back in 2013," Cramer said.
Flowers Foods' balance sheet is much cleaner, with less debt than Hostess, and the stock has soared 27 percent higher in the past six months thanks to strong earnings.
So despite Cramer's love for Twinkies, private equity baggage is not his cup of tea, so he recommends sticking with Flowers Foods. "It's much less risky and better for you," he said.
Market uncertainty can make any investor think about diversifying, so Cramer took to the charts to find out why consumer foods giant General Mills (NYSE: GIS) could be poised for a rally.
The "Mad Money" host turned to Larry Williams, an legendary technician whose calls have always intrigued Cramer over the years.
Tracing General Mills' trajectory back to 2015, Williams combined two key patterns, a 125-day cycle and 425-day cycle, to form this chart's red line, which Cramer said "has been a pretty accurate indicator of where the stock has headed:"
Cramer's take? "The charts ... suggest that the beaten-down General Mills could soon be ready to roar, a bold contrarian call from a brilliant guy with a fabulous track record. My instincts say that if you want to own a food stock for diversification or you're going for the fundamentals, you buy PepsiCo (NYSE: PEP), a name that's owned by my charitable trust."
Meanwhile, Cramer took a look at Darden Restaurants (NYSE: DRI), the parent of Oliver Garden and a Cramer family favorite.
"I think that Darden remains one of the greatest underrated stories out there," he said. "The reality is that they're making a ton of money with their family style fresh food and their new technology, which makes ordering foolproof."
And with the consumer confident, but still frugal, Cramer recommended stocks like Darden and Carnival Cruise (NYSE: CCL) for investors who want to play the bargain shopper.
"If you can get a bargain — and no one would ever say Olive Garden's expensive — or you can go somewhere inexpensive that's purely experiential, then you have a hit on your hands, which is exactly what Carnival and its brethren produce 52 weeks a year, all over the globe," Cramer said.
Tuesday's consumer confidence number was the bears' first "bee sting," Cramer said. At 126, it was the best report since December of 2000 and discounted concerns over the Trump agenda being fulfilled.
After applauding the recent fortunes of stocks like Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA), Red Hat (NYSE: RHT), Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL), and even General Motors (NYSE: GM), Cramer argued that the bears are reading too far into Trump's weaknesses by drawing conclusions that the GOP's health-care flop means Washington is somehow falling apart.
"The consumer's not frozen in place, wallowing in disappointment over Paul Ryan's failure to live up to a seven-year promise. The consumer's cruising and eating out and generally having a jolly old time," Cramer said.
And, while the bears are busy overanalyzing Trump tweets and praising pundits, Cramer's advice to investors is to stick to the stocks, which paint a prettier — and often more accurate — picture.
Speaking of pretty, JPMorgan's (NYSE: JPM) ultra-bullish call on Estee Lauder (NYSE: EL) caught Cramer's eye last week, so he looked into why the analysts see a $100 price target in the beauty giant's future.
Though the stock has not been a strong long-term performer, JPMorgan's note pointed out how much the company benefits from the rise of social media and selfie culture, its massive size and good deal history, and its positive growth trajectory at home and abroad.
Investors seem to be confident in Estee Lauder's prospects and the stock isn't particularly expensive at its current price, so Cramer saw reason in JPMorgan's call.
"I could easily see Estee Lauder going to $100, thanks to the leadership of CEO Fabrizio Freda and the way he's trying to pivot the company to benefit from the beauty boom. I think JPMorgan's got it right with this overweight call and I'd be a buyer, too," Cramer said.
In Cramer's lightning round , he rattled off his take on these two medical plays:
Pfizer (NYSE: PFE): "Well, Pfizer's kind of sitting there. They need to do a deal, they need to split up or buy someone. They should buy Bristol-Myers [Squibb] (NYSE: BMY). Then we'd have everything work out."
Arconic Inc. (NYSE: ARNC): "Well, we're telling club members of [Cramer's charitable trust] ActionAlertsPlus.com that as we get closer to [the vote on the company's director nominees], we will make a decision. We do like the fact that Klaus Kleinfeld split the company up and created a lot of value, though."
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