Jim Cramer examines the Dow’s best and worst performers of 2023

Jim Cramer on what's behind Salesforce's success

CNBC’s Jim Cramer on Tuesday broke down the five best and worst performers on the Dow Jones Industrial Average during 2023.

Cramer compared each Dow company’s closing price in 2022 to the end of 2023, noting the most significant winners and losers.

Many tech-related stocks saw significant full-year gains, while some stocks with the greatest full-year losses were entangled in lawsuits.

Top five:

  1. Salesforce: Cramer lauded Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff for welcoming feedback from several activist investors, namely Elliot Management. As a result, Cramer said the company was able to make changes that boosted profitability.
  2. Intel: To Cramer, Intel’s success last year is due to CEO Pat Gelsinger’s “relentless enthusiasm” and ability to bring the company’s product line up to date.
  3. Microsoft: This tech giant managed to successfully embrace new artificial intelligence technology, Cramer said. Microsoft bought a large portion of OpenAI, the company behind popular generative AI tool ChatGPT, and also managed to profit off of its own AI product, he added.
  4. Apple: Cramer acknowledged that many investors are wary of Apple’s stock, but said he thinks the company has promising future sales prospects in numerous countries, including Brazil, the Philippines and Indonesia. However, he cautioned that Apple’s rally has been so strong that it may not be sustainable for now.
  5. Boeing: To Cramer, Boeing suffered from operational issues and management that “seemingly couldn’t shoot straight.” But the company saw success because of a global plane shortage, and it is one of the only companies that can operate at the necessary scale.

“The winners seem obvious — they always do by hindsight — but some just needed foresight to shine, and it didn’t even take much foresight to identify the Dow’s biggest success stories last year,” Cramer said.

Bottom five:

  1. Walgreens: Cramer noted Walgreens’ leadership shakeup this year may have caused its stock to suffer. And although he said drugstores may feel like a “dying industry,” Walgreens may benefit from competitor Rite Aid‘s bankruptcy and continue its transition into healthcare.
  2. Chevron: Chevron stumbled this year because of a prolonged drop in the price of crude oil, Cramer said.
  3. Johnson & Johnson: Johnson & Johnson has been plagued by ongoing litigation alleging that its talc-based products cause cancer, and Cramer said its legal strategy so far has proved inadequate. Courts rejected the company’s bankruptcy claims, and it may have to pay billions to resolve these issues.
  4. 3M: Like Johnson & Johnson, 3M was faced with serious lawsuits that accused the company of polluting drinking water with “forever chemicals.” But unlike Johnson & Johnson, 3M managed to reach a settlement deal worth billions, and Cramer said he thinks the company can move forward now that major lawsuits are in the past.
  5. Coca-Cola: Despite strong sales and earnings, Cramer said fears of recession and weight loss drugs’ effect on the market brought Coca-Cola’s stock down.

“Each of these losers has a comeback path, with only J&J coming up short of what I can call a potential rebounded candidate for 2024, thanks to the inability to put the talc litigation behind it,” Cramer said.

Jim Cramer looks back at the Dow's top performers in 2023

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Disclaimer The CNBC Investing Club Charitable Trust holds shares of Salesforce, Microsoft and Apple.

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