As Wall Street gets through the thick of earnings season, CNBC's Jim Cramer helps investors make sense of the stocks worth buying here. The "Mad Money" host points out what American companies are performing well in China, despite the trade war. Later in the show he reveals stocks worth picking up in the beaten-down software sector and checks in with Centene CEO Michael Neidorff to discuss a major looming Obamacare court case.
Deciphering winning stocks this earnings season
CNBC's on Thursday said the stocks worth owning are those of companies that can keep performing at this stage of the business cycle.
After years of robust economic expansion, the global economy is entering a slowdown phase. As opposed to looking at aggregated numbers from earnings season thus far — 42% of reporting companies have beaten estimates, and 24% have cut their forecasts — market players need to do a company-by-company review to understand the best spots to invest money, the "Mad Money" host said.
"When you're looking at stocks this earnings season, these are the buckets you need to be sorting them into: Who's doing so well they don't notice the environment, who's thriving in spite of the environment, who's treading water, and who's getting steamrolled?" he said. "When you divvy the corporate world up into those categories, there's a lot to like but a lot to avoid."
Companies that are performing well in China
Believe it or not, there is a bucket of businesses that are winning in China, Cramer said.
PayPal, Tesla and Lam Research are on that list of companies, he said. The key to doing so is "surprisingly" simple: hire a ton of workers in China, work with government, play by the rules and be "indispensable" in making new technologies, he added.
"I wish it was about China buying planes from Boeing or soybeans from our farmers," Cramer said, "but these companies are working, at least for the moment — although that could change at any time with a simple tweet from the president of the United States."
Software stocks worth buying on the pullback
Software stocks have struggled lately, but the pullback has created some buying opportunities, Cramer said.
The software stocks with "the best fundamentals and the most reasonable valuations" are worth adding to your portfolio, Cramer advised.
"Today the cloud stocks proved they can bounce, and after months of agony, even after this evening's Amazon shortfall … I think you can start gradually — not all at once, don't be a hero — buying the highest quality names here," he said.
Centene CEO expects court system to protect Obamacare
The U.S. judicial system will ultimately block a court ruling that questioned the constitutionality of Obamacare, Centene CEO Michael Neidorff told Cramer.
A federal appeals court in New Orleans is expected to soon hand down a decision on the legality of the Affordable Care Act, the landmark health-care law enacted under President Barack Obama nearly a decade ago, that could upend the American health system. Neidorff, who also serves as chairman and president of the managed-care company, predicts the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals will act to protect the ACA.
"Now we think there's a chance that the appeals court could overturn" the ruling, he said in a sitdown on "Mad Money." "We know that if they don't, it's going to the Supreme Court and we think the Supreme Court will overturn it — not 5-4, it will be 6-3 or 7-2."
Cramer's exclusive interview with AEP CEO Nick Akins
In a one-on-one conversation with American Electric Power CEO Nick Akins, Cramer asked the chief if he ever expected the company to become a growth stock. The utility's family of companies includes AEP Ohio, AEP Texas, Appalachian Power and Kentucky Power, among others.
"Our focus is primarily providing dividends on a consistent basis for our shareholders and typically we're seen as a staid industry, it's not that way anymore," Akins replied. "It really is focused on technology deployment and being able to really reinvest in our grid to ensure that the American way of life can continue."
Cramer's lightning round
In Cramer's lightning round, the "Mad Money" host zips through his thoughts about callers' favorite stock picks of the day.
Vodafone: "Too risky. It's had a very big move and at this point the yield won't support it."
: "The stock's come down a lot. I guess it ran a little too much … I like Novocure. I think it really belongs in a portfolio."
Disclosure: Cramer's charitable trust owns shares of PepsiCo, Salesforce.com, Lam Research and Twilio.