For Jim Cramer, Thursday's big bank earnings reports could not be more important to this ailing market.
For over 36 years, the stock market has edged up, resulting in overall higher prices and an eight-year streak of bullish sentiment.
"But every big move, every move that had really any impact, always had the banks as one of the major leadership groups," the " Mad Money " host said.
Bank stocks exploded after the election, but since March, weak employment numbers and the GOP's health care defeat dragged the big banks' shares down.
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"Once people got their head[s] around the idea that the president's economic agenda was coming slower than we'd like ... I think that directly contributed to a decrease in lending," Cramer said. "I wouldn't be surprised if it hurts the banks tomorrow when they report."
Interest rates also tanked, a signal that the economy was indeed slowing and that the Federal Reserve could hold off on raising rates again, a major headwind for bank earnings.
So reason No. 1 for a slumping market is the loss of bank stocks' leadership, an effect stemming from stasis in Washington and contingent on Thursday's earnings reports.
"What business can really make a plan for the future if it doesn't even know what health care is going to cost them, let alone repatriation and corporate taxes?" Cramer asked.
Reason No. 2 is turmoil on the foreign policy front, a surefire path to putting the brakes on economic growth. Cramer said that while straining relations with Russia over Syria and with China over North Korea are significant issues, they are obstacles to President Donald Trump's pro-growth mission.
"Don't get me wrong. These are really important issues," Cramer said. "[But] foreign policy seems to be trumping 'America First.'"
Reason No. 3 is that stocks are pricey, which could obstruct future earnings reports, Cramer said.
"We may be on incredibly uncertain footing. Why? Because stocks are historically quite expensive, meaning if you compare where they stand versus how the companies are supposed to do, their price-to-earnings multiples, which is what we use to compare apples to apples, might be too high," he said.
Reason No. 4 reflects a rapidly changing domestic economy, even though overall global expansion can help U.S. multinationals even in a stateside slowdown.
"Brick-and-mortar retailers are being crushed by Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) and the prospect of Paul Ryan's fascination with a regressive national sales tax on goods from overseas, which means pretty much everything that we buy at retail," Cramer said.
Reason No. 5? Autos. Cramer referenced a USA Today piece that lists the car industry's biggest hindrances, including a pileup of unsold cars, discounts wreaking havoc on companies' bottom lines, and loans getting longer even as production continues.
"Automobiles are a gigantic part of the economy. Looks like they've peaked," Cramer said.
Finally, reason No. 6 is a case of oversupply in stocks. A deluge of IPOs is clogging this holiday-shortened week, and the market now has more sellers than buyers, which leads to widespread markdowns, now a daily practice.
So whether strong earnings reports from JP Morgan (NYSE: JPM), Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC) and Citigroup (NYSE: C) or progress coming from Washington lift the market's spirits, this inflection point needs resolution.
"For the moment, we're at a level where things need to go very right for stocks to move higher, and those long odds make for a, yes, suboptimal start to earnings season," Cramer said.
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