In football as in the stock market, CNBC’s Jim Cramer often finds it helpful to look at the “power rankings” — the dynamic, to-the-minute listings of the best performers.
“Like football, the standings at the moment might be obscuring some real staying power that you’ll only notice after doing a deeper dive,” he said on Monday. “Now that the third quarter’s in the bag, I’ll be rolling out the Cramer Power Rankings for the rest of the year, sector by sector.”
The “Mad Money” host started with the communication services sector. Late last year, index operators S&P Dow Jones Indices and MSCI decided to meld the telecommunications sector and the media group, creating an industry classification known as “communication services.”
The new stock group accounts for 10 percent of the S&P 500 and ranges from telecom to TV to online properties. High-profile names like Twenty-First Century Fox and Facebook make up the hodgepodge sector, so Cramer found no better place to start his power rankings.
No. 1 on Cramer’s list of power players was entertainment giant Disney. While the stock has only gained about 8 percent in 2018, the company just won the bidding war for a key portion of Fox’s entertainment assets, ending a long-winded battle with Comcast, the parent company of NBCUniversal.
“What the heck is Disney doing ranked No. 1 on this list? Simple: now that all of the deal-making distractions are behind them, I love the way things are set up for Disney,” Cramer said. “Content is king in this environment, which I guess makes Disney the king of kings.”
Better yet, now that Disney has quashed its ESPN woes with subscription-based streaming service ESPN Plus, the company can focus on broadening its flagship franchises, which now include the wildly lucrative Star Wars and Marvel Comics series, Cramer continued.
“That’s why I’ve been recommending Disney since the spring … [and] it’s also why we own it for the charitable trust,” he said. “And, hey, even after its recent run, Disney’s still a relative bargain. It’s trading at 15 and a half times next year’s earnings estimates. It’s very rare that you see this stock down this much.”
As the parent company of Google, YouTube and self-driving car initiative Waymo, Alphabet took silver in Cramer’s communication services power ranking.
The stock has gained a meager 10 percent since the beginning of the year, but the “Mad Money” host attributed that to “guilt by association” with the downtrodden stocks of Alphabet’s online comrades, Facebook and Twitter.
“I think that’s a mistake in judgment by the marketplace. Alphabet’s not in the same boat as Facebook or Twitter. They’ve done a much better job of preventing their platforms from being abused by bad actors, even including the security breach they announced today,” he said, referencing Google’s Monday announcement that a bug left 500,000 users’ account details vulnerable.
Moreover, the stock’s current multiple of 24 times next year’s earnings estimates discounts Google Cloud, Google Play and ancillary segments like Waymo, making the stock “really attractive” on a price-to-earnings basis, Cramer added.
“You’re basically getting these for free,” he said. “In short, the pullback in Alphabet’s giving you a terrific buying opportunity.”
“Take-Two’s always been driven by huge new releases like Grand Theft Auto, and in less than three weeks, they roll out Red Dead Redemption 2, one of the most anticipated games of the year. It looks like they’ll make a fortune on this thing,” he said. “At nearly 25 times next year’s earnings estimates, you know what? I think this one’s a steal.”
Counterintuitive as it may sound, Viacom took fourth place on Cramer’s power ranking because of its compelling turnaround story.
Shares of the MTV, Comedy Central and VH1 parent have rebounded over 20 percent since their June lows, and the company’s Paramount subsidiary has released several hit movies this year including “Mission Impossible: Fallout” and “A Quiet Place.”
“[CEO Bob Bakish has] been a cost-cutter, cutting them left and right, and he’s doing everything in his power to monetize the company’s most valuable franchises,” Cramer said.
“Oh, and the latest quarter was terrific,” he added. “Maybe Viacom can combine with the now-headless CBS — they’re both controlled by the Redstone family — but at this point, Viacom can do just fine on its own.”
“I love the business model. I believe management can get the subscriber growth back on track,” he said. “But Netflix is in a show-me mode here now, which is why it’s only No. 5 spot despite being the best performer in the group year to date.”
The rankings aren’t over — look for more as the week goes on — but these communication services power players shouldn’t be discounted just because of their recent stock movements.
“Here’s the bottom line: the power rankings tell you a lot more than the scoreboard,” Cramer concluded. “And when it comes to the communication services cohort, my top five players — in descending order — [are] Disney, Alphabet, Take-Two Interactive, Viacom, and Netflix.”
Disclosure: Cramer’s charitable trust owns shares of Facebook, Disney, Comcast and Alphabet. Comcast is the owner of NBCUniversal, parent company of CNBC and CNBC.com.
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