Donald Trump is not shy about hiding his disdain for the poor—especially those who are not white.

He infamously referred to developing nations as “shithole” countries and Mexican immigrants and asylum seekers are rapists. His budget cuts go after the nation’s most vulnerable populations, including children and the elderly.

That’s apparently not enough. Now the Trump administration is trying to literally define the poor out existence by artificially lowering a poverty threshold already seen as insufficiently stringent to capture the true ranks of America’s poor.

To do so, the White House Office of Management and Budget is relying on a sneaky, seemingly minor statistical tweak that will have major implications for who will be defined as poor—and thus what government benefits they will be able to claim.

The idea is to select a different inflation measure for annual cost-of-living adjustments than the consumer price index that is currently used, such as the “chained” CPI or the personal consumption expenditures index or PCE.

It sounds innocent enough, but in reality this will mean billions of dollars in cuts to key federal health programs that serve as a lifeline to the country’s neediest populations.


About 18% of people under 18 are below the official poverty level. The Trump administration wants to lower that percentage by redefining poverty levels lower.

“Either alternative measure would result in a lower poverty line, and the gap between the poverty line under the current versus either of the proposed methodologies would widen each year,” write Aviva Aron-Dine and Matt Broadus of the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington.

“The administration claims that it seeks to make the poverty line more accurate, but … either change would likely make the poverty line less accurate overall while also increasing the number of people without health insurance and experiencing other forms of hardship.”

The report’s findings are dire. After 10 years it estimates that:

• More than a quarter million senior and disabled individuals would either lose their eligibility for Medicare’s Part D subsidy program, or receive less help from it.

• More than 150,000 seniors and people with disabilities would lose help paying for Medicare premiums, forcing them to pay premiums of over $1,500 per year to maintain basic physician coverage under Medicare.

• More than 300,000 children would lose comprehensive health coverage under Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), as would some pregnant women.

• More than 250,000 adults who gained access to Medicaid coverage from the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) expansion would lose it.

• More than 150,000 consumers who buy coverage through the ACA marketplaces would lose eligibility or qualify for less assistance, increasing deductibles by hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

• Tens of thousands would lose eligibility for premium tax credits, driving up their premiums by potentially thousands of dollars.

Put simply, the poverty line is already too narrowly defined, so anything that lowers it further would deprive actual poor people of much-needed resources, including basic nutrition.

“The data show that households just above the poverty line have high rates of material hardship: for example, high uninsured rates and difficulty affording health care, as well as high rates of food insecurity,” the report says.

This is not the first time the Trump administration has dealt with people it considers undesirable by attempting to make them disappear statistically.

The administration is trying, despite ferocious political and court challenges, to introduce a citizenship question into America’s decennial census—even more draconian than the last time such a question was posed in the 1950 census.

In both cases, it’s difficult to separate racism from policy, since Trump’s strongest animus appears reserved for the poorest of our citizens.

In either situation, a victory for Trump would mean a major loss not just for the poor, immigrants and minorities but also for voting rights, political representation, and even sound research—which depends on accurate data collection for its reliability.

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The retail sector has been reeling in the month of May with trade and economic headwinds in its way, CNBC’s Jim Cramer said Thursday.

The Spdr S&P Retail ETF, which tracks the segment’s performance on the market, has fallen more than 11% in the month alone and has now dipped nearly 1% thus far in 2019.

“Between the trade war with China and a potentially slower economy here at home, this is a tough moment for retail,” the “Mad Money” host said. “But if you do your homework, you’ll find retailers that can work even in a difficult environment.”

Target and TJX, the parent of discount chains T.J. Maxx and Marshalls, have seen their stock prices rise more than 21% and 13% in 2019, respectively. Cramer called these retailers winners after both posted “genuinely great” quarterly results last week.

“Target’s spent years investing in sexier stores, building out same-day delivery, growing its digital business — it is just on fire. Those moves are finally paying off,” he said. TJX’s stores “buy their merchandise from other retailers when they’re desperate to offload excess inventory, which is how they can beat Amazon on price and why they don’t care about China. “

Other retail stocks have gotten slammed after shareholders learn about their sourcing from China, Cramer said. That includes companies like Home Depot, Best Buy, and Foot Locker.

The host suggests, however, that Home Depot could be worth buying into further weakness.

Cramer also gave insight on Urban Outfitters, Lowe’s, and Kohl’s.

Get his full thoughts here

Investor checklist

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on July 12, 2018 in New York City.

Spencer Platt | Getty Images 

Cramer shared his checklist for picking stocks in a volatile market.

His key to investing is to think like the big institutional investors, whose buy and sell decisions as a collective influence stock prices and, in turn, the overall market. After a string of days in the red, the major U.S. indexes all rose Thursday.

Amid a flood of IPOs and a prolonged U.S.-China trade war, it’s getting more and more difficult to find stocks that are safe to buy, Cramer said.

“Money managers are desperate to avoid owning companies that could be facing estimate cuts, and this checklist is what protects them,” he said. “Be ready for any company that fails the checklist to join the house of pain here, and remember that it will probably get worse before it gets better. So please prepare accordingly.”

Check out Cramer’s checklist here

Oil update

Scott Sheffield, CEO of Pioneer Natural Resources.

Adam Jeffery | CNBC

Windmills are bringing some of the cheapest electricity to the Permian Basin, pushing natural gas prices into the negative, Pioneer Natural Resources CEO Scott Sheffield told CNBC.

“Pioneer has taken our gas to California, so we’re not seeing any of the negative prices,” he said in a one-on-one with Cramer. “But a lot of the independents are seeing negative.”

In order to address challenges in natural gas, Sheffield said the company will need to add as many as five additional natural gas lines to its operations in the southwestern basin.

Read more here

Planting seeds

Adam Jeffery | CNBC

Canopy Growth‘s $3.4 billion tie-up with Acreage Holdings will give the joint enterprise a leg up amid marijuana legalization across America, CEO Bruce Linton told CNBC Thursday.

On Friday, the Food and Drug Administration is scheduled to hold a hearing on cannabidiol, the nonintoxicating compound found in hemp, to regulate the product that could grow into a $22 billion industry within three years.

The Canadian cannabis companies merged to share operations, brands, and intellectual property in efforts to dominate the dispensary industry in 20 states and in future markets, Linton said. He expects to see a breakthrough in the next 18 to 24 months.

“That’s just enough time to use all of our IP and brands to really get ahead,” Linton said in an interview with Cramer. “The next wave comes on and we’re way at the front.”

Go deeper here

The cost of a dollar

A Dollar General store in Creve Coeur, Illinois.

Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Companies that have moved operations out of China in the midst of the trade war have provided good returns for their shareholders, Cramer said.

Dollar General is a prime example of a company to have done so, reducing its Chinese exposure to 6%.

Now the stock is on fire, the host said.

Find out why here

Cramer’s lightning round: I think Six Flags’ stock is fine

In Cramer’s lightning round, the “Mad Money” host runs through his thoughts on callers’ stock picks of the day.

Realogy Holdings: “No. It’s just not moving enough and you’re not gonna want to own that stock.”

Six Flags Entertainment: “That last quarter wasn’t that great. They kind of over promised on China. Yields 6%. I think it’s fine. I prefer Entertainment Properties, EPR. I think that’s better in that segment. “

Disclosure: Cramer’s charitable trust owns shares of Amazon, Kohl’s, and Home Depot.

Questions for Cramer?
Call Cramer: 1-800-743-CNBC

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Questions, comments, suggestions for the “Mad Money” website? madcap@cnbc.com

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Stock index futures tanked on Friday morning, as investors feared President Donald Trump’s surprise threat of tariffs on all Mexico imports, amid a worsening trade war with China, could risk sending the U.S. economy into a recession.

Around 6:57 a.m. ET, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures indicated a drop of 258 points at the open. Futures on the S&P 500 were lower by 1.2%. Nasdaq futures dropped by 1.5%. The S&P 500 was already down 5.3% this month through Thursday after trade talks fell apart with China and rhetoric on both sides worsened in May.

“President Trump’s latest trade bombshell … might turn out to be a short-lived threat that is quickly defused by commitments on border security, but it nonetheless looks damaging at a number of levels,” Krishna Guha, head of global policy and central bank strategy at Evercore ISI, wrote in a note. “At the big picture level, it suggests that Trump trade policy might well mean a permanent state of endemic uncertainty and instability in the global trading system not simply a hard-headed sequential re-set of prior arrangements that started with Mexico and proceeds via China to Europe and Japan.”

Shares of GM dropped more than 5% in premarket trading. Ford lost 4% while Fiat Chrysler traded 5.2% lower. Both have significant production in Mexico that could be subject to tariffs. Shares of railroads Kansas City Southern and Union Pacific also fell.

The closely watched 10-year Treasury yield dropped to lows not seen since 2017. The U.S. benchmark was yielding 2.154% Friday morning. It was above 2.5% at the beginning of the month. Mexico’s currency, the peso, tanked against the dollar by more than 3% to trade at 19.74 per dollar.

On Thursday evening, Trump announced the U.S. would impose a 5% tariff on all Mexican imports from June 10 until illegal immigration across the southern border was stopped.

The White House added in a statement that tariffs would be raised if the immigration issue persisted, with the charges set to increase even further if Mexico fails to take “dramatic action” to reduce or eliminate the problem.

Mexico is one of the U.S. largest trade partners. The U.S. imports every year billions of dollars worth of of chemicals, transportation equipment and other goods from Mexico.

The news regarding U.S. tariffs on Mexican goods comes as the U.S. tries to work out a trade deal with China. Washington and Beijing have imposed tariffs on billions of dollars’ worth of one another’s goods since the start of 2018, battering financial markets and souring business and consumer sentiment.

Earlier this month, the two countries hiked tariffs on their goods, sparking a sell-off in equities.

The “worst case scenario is foreign governments (China/Mexico) simply wait Trump out given we’re 19 months from an election,” wrote Tom Essaye of Sevens Report Research. ” In that outcome, there is no China trade deal and tariffs (Chinese and Mexican) act as an anchor on global growth and market sentiment for 18 months, increasing the chances of a recession.”

The biggest Chinese newspaper explicitly warned the U.S. on Wednesday that China would be prepared to cut off rare earth minerals as a countermeasure. Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Hanhui then said Thursday that provoking trade disputes amounted to “naked economic terrorism. “

Not helping things, the trade war appears to be dragging down the Chinese economy. The country’s manufacturing activity contracted more than expected in the month of May, China government data out overnight showed. The official manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) for May was 49.4,  down from April’s reading of 50.1. PMI readings below 50 signal contraction.

— CNBC’s Joanna Tan contributed to this report.

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Trucks carrying cars queue in front of the Otay Mesa border crossing in Tijuana.

Omar Martinez | picture alliance | Getty Images

Shares of the largest U.S. automakers dropped in premarket trading Friday after President Donald Trump announced that the U.S. will impose a 5% tariff on goods imported from Mexico on June 10.

General Motors was hit the worst, down 5.5% in premarket trading Friday. Ford lost 4% while Fiat Chrysler dropped more than 5%.

“Automakers may indeed see large financial impact and uncertainty from the tariffs, as all major OEMs import a considerable portion of the vehicles they sell in the US from Mexico,” Deutsche Bank said.

The big three automakers each have billions of dollars at stake due both production and suppliers in Mexico. According to Deutsche Bank, GM and Fiat Chrysler import 29% and 24%, respectively, of the total parts for its cars and trucks from Mexico. Ford has the second highest total imported vehicles from Mexico at 17%, Deutsche said.

Deutsche Bank also warned that U.S. investors may be surprised the amount of full-size pickup trucks and parts that are imported from Mexico. For example, 41% of the nearly 586,000 GM Silverado trucks sold in the U.S. are made in Mexico, Deutsche said.

In the scenario where Trump follows through with his threat to raise Mexico tariffs to 25% in the coming months, Deutsche Bank also estimated the profit each of the big three automakers would lose. The firm said the EBIT (earnings before interest and taxes) hit for a 25% tariff would be $6.3 billion for GM, $3.3 billion for Ford and $4.8 billion for Fiat Chrysler.

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Uber Technologies Inc. shares shot higher in after-hours trading Thursday after executives indicated a price war with Lyft Inc. that was keeping ride-hailing fares low was settling down.

Uber

UBER, -0.35%

 reported first-quarter losses of $1.01 billion, or $2.26 a share, on revenue of $3.1 billion. Shares bounced around between slight gains and losses in after-hours trading until executives provided what passes for a forecast from Uber in a conference call and said that the pricing war was easing.

“We’ve more recently seen signs of competition becoming more focused on brand and products versus incentives, which is a trend that has continued into Q2 2019 and we think which is a healthy trend for the business,” Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi said on the conference call, just as shares started heading higher.

Lyft

LYFT, -2.54%

 shares also showed after-hours gains around the same time, about 4:45 p.m. Eastern, and were trading almost 3% higher. Khosrowshahi cited Lyft’s earnings conference call specifically when later asked by an analyst about pricing trends in the U.S.

Related: Uber and Lyft IPOs mean the cheap rides are coming to an end

“In the U.S., if you listen to the Lyft conference call, for example, they talked about competing more on brand and I think that competing more on brand and product is, call it a ‘healthier’ mode of competition than just throwing money at a challenge,” the Uber CEO said. “So we have seen that pencil out into the market, so to speak, and we are obviously operating independently. But I say we like what we see on the competitive front in the U.S., which is our largest market.”

Uber issued a very limited forecast, with Chief Financial Officer Nelson Chai saying “core platform adjusted net revenue” — a figure that ignores noncore businesses and strips out any driver incentives — and contribution margins will improve in the second quarter from the first and continue that pattern through the end of the year. The company did not provide a forecast for any traditional metrics.

Uber disclosed ahead of the IPO that it expected to lose at least $1 billion and up to $1.11 billion in the first quarter, on net revenue of $3.04 billion to $3.1 billion. In the year-ago quarter, Uber reported massive earnings of $3.75 billion on revenue of $2.58 billion, though that outsize profit was linked to the sale of some of its international operations, with a stated operational loss of about half a billion dollars in the year-ago quarter.

“Our Q1 2019 results were at or near the high end of the ranges we shared last month in our IPO prospectus,” Chai said in the earnings announcement. “Our investments remain focused on global platform expansion and long-term product and technology differentiation, but we will not hesitate to invest to defend our market position globally.”

Not enough analysts projected Uber’s first-quarter earnings to form a solid consensus for this report. Analysts for banks that underwrite an initial public offering tend to wait 25 days from the offering before initiating coverage of a stock, and most of Wall Street helped out on Uber’s IPO, which listed an astounding 29 banks as underwriters. Expect a wave of Uber initiations next week with analysts’ thoughts on this earnings report.

See also: 5 things you need to know about the biggest U.S. IPO since Facebook

Uber reported bookings — which represents the total amount of money spent on the Uber platform, instead of just the part that Uber takes and is counted as revenue — of $14.65 billion, up from $10.9 billion a year ago. Uber said in its pre-IPO disclosure that it expected gross bookings of $14.44 billion to $14.66 billion, with about 78% of that total attributed to its ride-sharing platform and most of the rest coming from the Uber Eats food-delivery business.

Uber lived up to its forecast with ride-hailing bookings of $11.45 billion and Uber Eats bookings of $3.07 billion in the first quarter, with the rest credited to the company’s “Other Bets” ventures. Uber Eats bookings more than doubled from a year ago, increasing 108%, while ride-hailing increased about 22%.

Lyft stopped disclosing bookings information in its first earnings report after its earlier IPO, despite providing the information in pre-IPO filings. Chief Financial Officer Brian Roberts said at the time that Lyft “really wanted to try to avoid investor confusion” in not providing the information.

More: Lyft stops providing key data after IPO, then insults investors’ intelligence

The revenue breakdown was roughly similar to bookings. Uber said that about 76.7% of revenue came from ride-hailing, and 17.3% from Uber Eats, with the rest credited to Other Bets and “Vehicle Solutions.”

Uber stock has yet to touch its IPO price of $45 a share in regular trading since the first trading day on May 10. Shares closed Thursday with a 0.4% loss at $39.76, but topped $41 in after-hours action.

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WASHINGTON — Two Trump administration officials concealed the role of a Republican redistricting strategist in adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census form, the American Civil Liberties Union alleged Thursday in a Supreme Court case that could affect the distribution of political power across the country over the next decade.

The citizenship query originated with Thomas Hofeller, a GOP consultant who died last year, whose 2015 study concluded that amending the census form “would clearly be a disadvantage to the Democrats” and would be “advantageous to Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites,” the ACLU said in a motion filed with U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman, whose January decision striking the question currently is on appeal before the Supreme Court.

At arguments in April, U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco told the justices the administration added the question to improve compliance with the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which protects minorities from discriminatory practices that dilute their political power.

But evidence obtained from a separate lawsuit challenging redistricting by the Republican-controlled North Carolina legislature “shows that Dr. Hofeller instead knew that adding a citizenship question would have exactly the opposite effect — it would disadvantage Latinos and benefit ‘Non-Hispanic Whites,’” according to the ACLU motion, a copy of which was filed Thursday with the Supreme Court. The ACLU motion said Justice and Commerce department officials “falsely testified” about the origin of the citizenship question, and asked Furman, an Obama appointee, to sanction the government. The judge gave the Trump administration until Monday to respond and called a hearing for Wednesday.

An expanded version of this report appears on WSJ.com.

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L.A. developers have a big problem: Too many new megamansions.

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Americans are thirsty for energy drinks, so brands like Coke and Amazon are giving industry titans like Monster and Red Bull a run for their money.

Energy drinks are non-alcoholic beverages with high levels of caffeine or other stimulants (like guarana), plus amino acids (like taurine), herbs (like ginkgo) and vitamins to give busy people a quick boost. Coca Cola Co.

KO, +1.32%

which has a 16.7% ownership interest in Monster Beverage

MNST, +0.84%

rolled out its first energy drink in Europe in April, and on Thursday a flash mob of dancers in partnership with Spotify

SPOT, +1.54%

  surprised Londoners with energetic performances and free samples of the new Coke Energy in front of the Piccadilly Circus Lights. The sugar, calorie and taurine-free Coke Energy offering 80 milligrams of caffeine (compared to 24 milligrams in a classic Coke) draws its jolt from “naturally-derived sources,” guarana extracts and B vitamins.

Coke celebrates ‘positive energy’ for you’ll never guess which product https://t.co/q6NeuNyjuX

— John Matthews (@johnrmatthews) May 30, 2019

It’s also reviving its 2003 coffee-infused Blak beverage (which fizzled upon release) as Coca-Cola With Coffee in international markets, which will launch in more than 25 markets around the world by the end of the year. “Coke Coffee was designed to reach consumers during specific occasions and channels like the mid-afternoon energy slump of work,” CEO James Quincey said during an earnings call in April, which is part of Coke’s efforts to become a “total beverage company” beyond soda. Coke also purchased the U.K.’s Costa coffee chain for $5.1 billion, closing the deal in January.

Getty Images

Coca Cola’s coffee-infused “Blak” drink fizzled in 2006, but could be a hit in today’s energy drink market.

Amazon.com Inc.

AMZN, -0.16%

 also recently expanded its private food and beverage labels to include Solimo Red Energy Drink and Solimo Silver Energy Drink, which it openly compares to its top competitor. “If you like Monster Energy’s Zero Ultra, Sugar Free Energy Drink, we invite you to try Solimo,” reads the product description page.

As for Monster, its first-quarter earnings beat Wall Street expectations earlier this month, with sales rising 11% to $946 million from $850.9 million a year ago. It launched its zero-sugar and zero-calorie Reign “body fuel” beverage line in March, with flavors like Carnival Candy, Sour Apple, Razzle Berry and Peach Fizz. And it will continue its new-product rollout this year by launching low-calorie Dragon Tea and sugar-free Ultra Paradise drinks, Food Business News reported, along with a caramel espresso product.

Red Bull has partnered with the Sonic restaurant chain for Red Bull Slushies this summer, and also introduced a limited Summer Edition Beach Breeze flavor this month that will only be available through Labor Day.

Related: Energy drinks may be linked to frightening side effects for your heart

A couple of European labels are also testing the waters, with soft-drink firm AG Barr

BAG, +0.21%

  launching both sugar-infused and sugar-free Irn-Bru Energy drinks across the U.K. this summer, which will “combine the iconic flavour of Irn-Bru’s top secret essence with the taurine, caffeine, B vitamins and taste of an energy drink,” and boast 32 milligrams of caffeine. “Energy drinks are a really fast-growing, exciting market and we’re confident Irn-Bru Energy will wake up and shake up energy drink fans in Scotland and beyond,” marketing director Adrian Troy told the BBC. And plant-based energy drink brand Tenzing is introducing a new British raspberry and Japanese Yuzu flavor in July that will feature a “triple hit of natural caffeine, electrolytes and vitamin C.”

Americans are drinking “substantially” more energy drinks, according to a recent study appearing in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, which found that 5.5% of young adults (ages 20 to 39) said they gulped energy drinks in 2016, up from just 0.5% in 2003.

Indeed, energy-drink launches spiked 29% in the five years leading up to 2015, Mintel reported, and sales are expected to reach about $16.9 billion in 2022. “Energy drinks remain the controversial, yet undeniably successful, wild child of the soft drinks family,” wrote Alex Beckett, Global Food and Drink Analyst at Mintel, in the report. The primary driver of global growth remains the drinks’ capacity to provide consumers with a quick and effective energy boost — something which resonates with consumers the world over.”

But several studies suggest that customers might want to sip energy drinks in moderation, including one published in the Journal of the American Heart Association on Thursday that warned such beverages may be linked to frightening side effects for your heart. A 2017 Frontiers in Public Health review of energy-drink research also associated consumption with risk-seeking behavior, mental-health problems, increased blood pressure, dental issues, obesity and kidney damage.

The American Beverage Association defended the safety of energy drinks in a statement to MarketWatch, saying: “Energy drinks have been enjoyed by millions of people around the world for more than 30 years and are recognized by government food safety agencies worldwide… as safe for consumption… America’s leading energy drink manufacturers voluntarily go beyond all federal requirements when it comes to responsible labeling and marketing practices, including displaying total caffeine content from all sources and advisory statements that the drinks are not recommended for children, pregnant or nursing women, or those sensitive to caffeine.”

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Tien Tzuo, CEO, Zuora

Scott Mlyn | CNBC

Zuora shares plummeted more than 24% in extended trading on Thursday after the cloud software company gave a sales forecast for the full year that trailed analysts’ estimates.

Here are the key numbers for the first quarter:

  • Loss: $12.2 million, or 11 cents a share, excluding some items vs. 13 cents estimated, according to Refinitv
  • Revenue: $64.1 million vs. $64.15 million estimated, according to Refinitiv

Sales rose 22 percent in the quarter from a year earlier as more clients signed up from Zuora’s software, which helps companies manage their subscription businesses.

But the company said revenue for the full fiscal year will come in at between $268 million and $278 million, well below the $291.1 million average analyst estimate, according to Refinitiv.

Zuora, which went public last year, said it adopted new revenue recognition rules effective Feb. 1, which changes when sales get recorded depending on contract terms.

The stock had been up 9.7% for the year as of the close on Thursday.

WATCH: Zuora CEO says manufacturers must adopt a subscription model

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Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announces Blue Moon, a lunar landing vehicle for the Moon, during a Blue Origin event in Washington, DC, May 9, 2019.

Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images

Wall Street loves Amazon, and investors have bumped its stock up another 20% this year.

But one of its most bullish analysts warns there are several looming risk factors facing the company now.

D.A. Davidson’s Tom Forte, who has one of the highest target prices for Amazon at $2,550 per share, according to FactSet, wrote in a note published Thursday that he is closely monitoring four warning signs that could potentially result in the “demise of Amazon.”

While Forte reiterated a “buy” rating for Amazon, and kept his price target unchanged, he wrote that the following four risk factors could negatively affect Amazon’s future performance:

  • The law of large numbers: Amazon has become so big that it would become harder to impress investors with rapid growth rates. For example, Amazon needs a whopping $2.3 billion of additional sales just to generate 1% growth, based on last year’s total revenue of $232 billion, Forte noted. As a result, Forte expects Amazon’s sales to increase at a 15.5% compound growth rate, down from the previous three years’ 29.6% compound growth rate.
  • Succession: What’s going to happen when Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos decides to step down? It could lead to “significant succession risk,” Forte notes, as the move to the next CEO could slow the overall business. At the same time, Forte notes that Amazon is well-prepared for the change, with a deep bench of executives who could potentially take the helm once Bezos leaves. Bezos, now 55, hasn’t said much about his succession plan. For reference, Bill Gates was 45 when he left resigned as Microsoft CEO, while Starbucks’ Howard Schultz and Walmart’s Sam Walton both had much longer careers.
  • Competition: Amazon will face intensifying competition in the its core e-commerce space, as most of the weaker players have already vanished. That means, in order to sustain its growth rate, Amazon will have to enter new, large markets, where more competition awaits, Forte writes. Two of the most challenging areas for Amazon going forward are apparel and grocery, Forte notes, as the company’s has struggled to see much growth in either area. He believes Amazon needs more than just advanced technology to win categories like women’s fashion, while noting the Whole Foods acquisition hasn’t really moved the needle in winning share in the grocery category.
  • Regulation: Forte notes that the U.S. government could “stop Amazon in its tracks” if it steps up antitrust or other regulatory scrutiny of the company. While Amazon’s low price offerings could make an antitrust case challenging to pursue, Forte says the company’s huge market influence could draw additional regulatory pressure, both in the U.S. and overseas. He wrote the potential for antitrust and regulation across the globe could “negatively impact Amazon’s operating results and stunt its future growth.”

Forte concludes that he still believes in the company, but is keeping a close watch for warning signs. 

“As much as we hold Founder, Chairman, CEO, and President Jeff Bezos in the highest regard and as we are optimistic on the company’s ability to sustain an elevated growth rate by further penetrating existing markets and entering new ones, and, therefore, a premium multiple for years to come, we are closely monitoring the company and stock for warning signs that could result in the demise of AMZN.”

WATCH: Analyst explains why he says Amazon’s stock will hit $3,000 in a few years

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CNBC’s Jim Cramer on Thursday shared his checklist for picking stocks in a volatile market. 

His key to investing is to think like the big institutional investors, whose buy and sell decisions as a collective influence stock prices and, in turn, the overall market. After a string of days in the red, the major U.S. indexes all rose Thursday.

Amid a flood of IPOs and a prolonged U.S.-China trade war, it’s getting more and more difficult to find stocks that are safe to buy, Cramer said.

“Money managers are desperate to avoid owning companies that could be facing estimate cuts, and this checklist is what protects them,” the “Mad Money” host said. “Be ready for any company that fails the checklist to join the house of pain here, and remember that it will probably get worse before it gets better. So please prepare accordingly.”

Cramer suggests the following guideline to gauge whether a security is worth adding to a portfolio at current levels:

1. How much exposure does the company have to China?

U.S. companies that source or sell goods in China — or both, such as Apple — will continue to see their margins recede following President Donald Trump‘s action to levy 25% tariffs on $200 billion of imports earlier this month. Unless the company has moved operations out of China, it’s likely to eat additional costs, Cramer said.

Cisco Systems was smart to move operations outside of China, but Apple is caught in a unique pickle, Cramer said.

“Most companies that source from China didn’t really have that kind of foresight, which is why many of their earnings estimates need to come down,” Cramer said. “Even though Apple’s stock is very cheap, the earnings estimates may be too high in light of the tariffs and the possibility of a Chinese boycott. Apple does not get pass this checklist.”

2. Is the stock too levered to the U.S. consumer?

PVH, the parent of the Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein fashion brands, is Cramer’s most reliable indicator of the domestic consumer. CEO Manny Chirico told the host Wednesday that the holding company cut its forecast in response to waning consumer confidence. 

That should serve as a signal for the rest of the retail sector.

“We now know that when President Trump raised his tariffs earlier this month, it actually did have a bigger impact than a lot of people thought it would. It’s a punch in the kisser,” Cramer said. “There’s no denying that the tariffs have really now started to hurt us, there’s too much evidence … These consumer-reliant stocks will now be hammered, if they haven’t been hit already.”

3. Are profits related to the yield curve?

Businesses whose earnings are dependent on the yield curve, which tracks interest rates in bond securities, are likely to see lower earnings estimates, Cramer said. That includes the banks, who make money off the difference between long-term and short-term interest rates.

“In an inverted yield curve world, all of the financials are toxic, except for the faux-financials fintech,” he said. “And even fintech has gotten too expensive here.”

If it’s a bank, money manager’s don’t want to go near it, Cramer said. 

4. Will the stock be impacted by the push for single-payer health care?

Many in the crowded slate of Democratic 2020 presidential hopefuls are advocating for some form of a universal health care system. Bernie Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont, is the most notable mouthpiece to increase access to care with “Medicare for All.”

That creates a risk for the health care stocks and hospital chains that benefit from the nearly-decade old Affordable Care Act.

Front runner and former Vice President Joe Biden is one exception in the Democratic field. Cramer believes his candidacy will inject confidence in managed care stocks.

“As long as Joe Biden’s in the lead, the group is fine, you gotta buy them,” he said. But if Biden falters, these stocks could be crushed.

5. Are the company’s earnings related to weather?

April showers bring May flowers, the saying goes. However, Cramer has labeled the month of flowers “terrible” for retail and housing.

“I think it’s idiotic to sell stocks based on the weather, but money managers do stupid things all the time, and apparently a lot of companies were caught with their pants down by all this rain,” he said.

6. Is there millennial aversion to the company?

Canned and processed foods and plastic products are being written off by environmentally-conscious millennials. Investors should think before they buy stocks that are caught in this dilemma, Cramer recommended.

“More and more I hear younger millennial money managers speak disparagingly about these groups. You have to be very careful,” he said. “But please, don’t just go buy the ultimate millennial stock, Beyond Meat, like everybody else. [That stock price is] way too high. “

Disclosure: Cramer’s charitable trust owns shares of Apple, JP Morgan Chase and Cisco.

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