Still Growing - Cramer's Mad Midday (8/19/08)

Includes: FMCC, FNMA, LOW, M, WFC
by: Joan Wickham

Stocks discussed in the in-depth session of Jim Cramer’s Mad Money TV program, Tuesday, August 19.

“There is no leadership in this market,” Jim Cramer told viewers. He said the markets are stuck in “no man's land.” Many traders are on vacation and there is not much news driving the action. Despite the late summer lull, Cramer said there is still money to be made if investors have a little cash, stay diversified and use a little ingenuity.

John Stumpf CEO - Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC), Freddie Mac (FRE, Fannie Mae (FNM)

Cramer talked with John Stumpf, president and CEO of Wells Fargo, about recent moves by the bank. He said Wells Fargo is still growing thanks to the bank’s capital strength, liquidity and operating model. Of particular interest was Well's decision to raise its annual dividend from 31 cents a share to 34 cents a share during what has been one of the worst times in recent history for the banking and financial sector. Stumpf defended the decision, stating that the dividend boost was not done for show, but was based on the company's fundamentals and earnings. When asked about a possible government takeover of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, Stumpf said that a takeover would be good for housing and the economy, but would have little impact on the operations of Wells Fargo. With regards to the company's balance sheet and earnings report, Stumpf defended the bank's decision to extend the amount of time to charge off bad home loans to 180 days from 120 days. He said it was not done to prop up earnings but to give customers more time to negotiate their loans and avoid foreclosure. Stumpf cited the company's recent $3 billion write-down, half of which was used to charge off loans and half of which was used to bolster reserves, as proof positive that the company is being candid about its bad loan exposure. He acknowledged an increase in “Level 3” debt at the bank but he said it should be taken in perspective, noting it only represents 5.5% of the bank's assets. “These are not necessarily bad times for us,” Stumpf continued. “We tend to outperform when times get tough.”

The High-End Market - Loews Corp (NYSE:L)

Is the high-end American consumer really tapped out? Cramer put that question to Jonathan Tisch, chairman and CEO of Loews Corp. Whether rich or poor, “the consumer is just bereft,” Jonathan Tisch told Cramer Tuesday. “They don’t know what to do.” Despite rumors to the contrary, Tisch said Loews' earnings are still up 2% to 3% from last year. He said that New York remains a strong market for the company, helped in part by a weakening dollar that is attracting overseas tourists. In other areas of the country, the picture is not as rosy. According to Tisch, Hawaii is a “disaster,” as the state is suffering from airlines cutting back on their total number of seats. He said Las Vegas is also in the same boat, suffering from too many rooms and lower gambling revenue overall. Despite the patchy signs of weakness, Tisch said Loews is looking to expand its footprint. He said that competition for choice properties and hotels remains stiff due to increased demand from international investors.

Final Thoughts – Lowe (NYSE:LOW), Macy (NYSE:M)

Cramer told viewers to consider some of the beaten-down bank stocks. He suggested looking into Lowe's and Macy's, both of which recently reported better-than- expected numbers.

Seeking Alpha publishes a summary of Jim Cramer's stock picks every day including: Mad Money Recap, Lightning Round and Stop Trading! 

Get Cramer's Picks by e-mail -- it's free and takes only a few seconds to sign up.

Seeking Alpha is not affiliated with Jim Cramer, CNBC or