In the spirit of football season, CNBC’s Jim Cramer has taken up a new strategy for finding each stock market sector’s power players — stocks that may have been inconsistent in the past, but look better than the competition at the moment.
This week, the “Mad Money” host started “laying out the Cramer power rankings to show you which stocks I like most as we head into the end of the year,” he said on Tuesday.
For his next sector breakdown, Cramer chose the consumer staples space, which includes makers of household needs like food, beverages and personal care products.
“As I keep telling you, the staples tend to get crushed when rates are rising,” Cramer told investors. “But — and this is a might big but — if the Fed tightens too aggressively and ends up tipping this economy into a slowdown — what I’m really concerned about — you’ll feel very foolish if you don’t own any of these stocks.”
In this market moment, all investors should stay diversified regardless of whether they believe that the Federal Reserve will cool the economy with its rate hikes, Cramer said. Here are his top 5 picks in the “safe” consumer staples space.
1. Constellation Brands
Mass alcohol producer and distributor Constellation Brands, home to well-known names like Corona and Modelo, topped Cramer’s power ranking.
Shares of Constellation have been trading wildly since the beer, wine and liquor company took a major stake in Canopy Growth, a Canadian cannabis producer. Last week, Constellation Brands’ CEO insisted on “Mad Money” that the investment was an offensive foray into the marijuana space, not an attempt to save a declining core business.
And even though Constellation’s stock is down slightly year to date, Cramer said the company’s prospects in its core business and the marijuana space far overshoot the risks.
“Turns out Corona and Modelo are doing great. Oh, and while the marijuana stocks have been frothy and, you know, a little bit too hot for this guy, the farm bill that’s currently being debated in Congress could legalize cannabidiol — that’s CBD — at the federal level, and Constellation would instantly be able to get into that business,” he said.
“I think the stock’s ridiculously cheap here given that kicker and it has a lot more room to run,” the “Mad Money” host added.
2. Costco Wholesale Corp.
In second place is none other than Costco, which Cramer hailed as “a big-box retailer with a terrific business model” that was one of the first to seize on the trend of subscription-based services with its membership program.
Shares of Costco are up 20 percent for the year, but the stock has been under pressure after a recent earnings report revealed a technical problem that impacts Costco’s financial reporting, Cramer said.
“But when you actually drill down and look at the numbers, you’ll find a nice uptick in membership renewal rates, members per store and sales per member, all of which were up versus the previous quarter,” he said.
“I don’t think the IT issue, which did not cause a restatement, which is what I most fear, will be a big deal, and now the stock’s down nearly 9 percent from its September highs,” he continued. “I’d be a buyer here.”
3. McCormick & Co
Spice and condiment maker McCormick came in third place on Cramer’s power ranking thanks to the company’s savvy 2017 acquisition of the popular Frank’s RedHot and French’s mustard brands.
“The deal’s turned out to be a huge win,” Cramer said. “The stock has given you some monster gains since CEO Lawrence Kurzius paid us a visit last year to explain the acquisition, convincing us of its worth, and I bet it’s got more room to run.”
The only typical play on Cramer’s consumer staples power ranking, household products giant Clorox took fourth place.
“This is the kind of stock you buy when you’re worried about the Fed-mandated economic slowdown that I am so concerned about,” he said. “Clorox is a classic consumer packaged goods company with a solid 2.6 percent yield.”
Cramer said he chose Clorox over rivals like Procter & Gamble and Kimberly-Clark because he trusted Clorox’s CEO, Benno Dorer, to execute better than the competition.
“Call it survival of the fittest. The company’s gotten aggressive about cutting costs, and as a result, its stock has held up better than the other consumer packaged goods plays, although it’s still barely up for the year,” he said. “Clorox has also been trying to raise prices, and I think that will give them some nascent growth for 2019.”
5. Estee Lauder
Cosmetics play Estee Lauder, another non-typical name for the consumer staples group, was Cramer’s No. 5 despite worries around one of its major distributors, Bon-Ton, announcing its liquidation.
“Frankly, you could argue the cosmetic kingpin doesn’t belong in this group, but for a lot of us, makeup is a necessity these days,” the “Mad Money” host said, noting that the company’s stock is up 10 percent for 2018.
“Even as Estee Lauder, led by the fantastic Fabrizio Freda, keeps delivering fantastic results, the stock just hasn’t been getting the credit it deserves,” he continued. “Maybe that’s the opportunity.”
These companies’ products may qualify as necessities — or something close — but investors can be selective when choosing which stock to buy here, Cramer said.
“You need some exposure to the staples for the sake of diversification, which you know we believe in on ‘Mad Money.’ However, if you believe interest rates can keep going higher, you might want to stick with [an] atypical one like Constellation Brands, Costco, McCormick and Estee Lauder rather than a standard bond market alternative like Clorox,” he concluded.
Click here for Cramer’s power ranking of communications services stocks. Click here for his power ranking of consumer discretionary stocks.