Here's the real reason why stocks popped on China trade reports: Cramer

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The stock market’s positive response to a report that U.S. officials were considering lifting tariffs on China to get a trade deal was telling, but it wasn’t necessarily good, CNBC’s Jim Cramer said Thursday.

“Stocks that had been crushed on Chinese worries roared higher like this arrangement was already a done deal” despite the report being anonymously sourced, Cramer noted. “Even when we got contrary reports later in the session that perhaps there might be no deal, these stocks held onto most of their gains.”

The action led the Dow Jones Industrial Average to lift itself out of correction territory, ending the day 163 points higher. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite also climbed.

But to Cramer, host of “Mad Money,” the blindly positive moves signaled something concerning about investor sentiment on U.S.-China trade.

“Now, there’s no doubt that investors want a deal with China in the worst way — and I actually mean in the worst way, as in the worst way for our country,” he said. “The stock market doesn’t care if we get a good deal — it wants any deal so we can get back to business as usual. That’s why all the companies with big business in China saw their stocks U-turn and go higher.”

So, while the market’s optimism can make you money, Cramer wouldn’t try to build a strategy around trade talks, especially with all the conflicting reports.

“I think it’s a sucker’s game to try to predict anything that goes on in Washington,” he said. “It’s pure chaos down there right now.”

Still, the late-2018 breakdown left the market so undervalued that “it feels dangerous not to buy stocks” at these levels, even if their catalysts are “nothing to write home about,” Cramer acknowledged.

And while some may write this market moment off as confusing, he saw it as one of “clarity” and “rationality” as stocks inch their way back to normal.

“When you see this kind of positive action, you need to recognize what’s driving it. In the fourth quarter, stocks got way too cheap, and that overreaction to the downside has created incredible values that give investors a sense of certainty — they know they won’t be blown out if they buy something because there’s only so much much downside from these levels,” he explained. “When you have that sense of certainty, it’s very easy to pull the trigger and buy, which is why 2019 is turning out to be a much better year than many investors expected.”

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