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Chinese consumers are starting to “take sides” as the U.S.-China trade dispute rages on, and that could hamper the success of some U.S. companies, CNBC’s Jim Cramer said Friday.

Perhaps it already is: U.S. tech giant Apple recently warned that its fiscal first-quarter results would miss expectations due to weaker-than-anticipated iPhone sales in China. Then, earlier on Friday, Goldman Sachs downgraded the stock of Starbucks, citing “a number of points of caution” in the Chinese market.

“We know that the Chinese consumer’s beginning to take sides,” Cramer said on “Mad Money.” “That’s not good news for any American companies that do business over there, even if many of their stocks seem to reflect that we might be getting some progress in the trade talks.”

Cramer was referring to shares of apparel companies like Nike, Lululemon and Tapestry, all of which do business in China but have not seen their sales slow in a material way. Stocks of industrials with ties to the People’s Republic, like Boeing and Deere, an agricultural play that should be suffering from tariffs on U.S. crops, are also holding firm.

“I wonder if the action in Deere is signaling that maybe we’ll get some progress in these Chinese trade talks, or, at the very least, they’ll make a bunch of ag[ricultural] purchases as a show of good faith,” the “Mad Money” host wondered.

But the best ways to gauge trade talk progress in Cramer’s book are what he called “the three As”: American Express, Apple and aerospace.

If American Express is able to get a license to operate in China, that will signal that China is ready to embrace the U.S. financial sector, Cramer explained. If the Chinese government “starts making nice” with Apple, that would also be “very positive,” he said, much better than the news of iPhone price slashes in China that made waves Friday.

“But the most important show of good faith would be for China Airlines to place a gigantic order of planes with Boeing, an order that would reverberate throughout the entire aerospace complex, including Honeywell, United Technologies, and GE, … which is finally starting to [trade] like an aerospace and industrial stock again,” Cramer said.

For now, though, the “winners and losers in China” are starting to emerge, and there’s no denying that “the Chinese economy’s gotten pretty tricky here, especially for American companies,” he said.

“Frankly, China’s become unfathomable at the moment. We have no idea [what] their government’s doing, what it’s thinking,” Cramer said. “Maybe it’s darkest before the dawn, but I’d argue it’s ill-advised to predict the dawn until we’re further along into the night.”

Stocks sank in Friday’s trading session as worries about an economic slowdown in China took hold. For a timeline of the trade war and tariff exchanges between U.S. and Chinese trade authorities, click here.

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Tim Cook reportedly met with an vice premier in China

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Apple CEO Tim Cook attends the annual session of China Development Forum (CDF) 2018 at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, China March 26, 2018.

Jason Lee | Reuters

Apple CEO Tim Cook attends the annual session of China Development Forum (CDF) 2018 at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, China March 26, 2018.

Apple CEO Tim Cook reportedly met with a top official in China Friday as he tours the country ahead of the China Development Forum and Apple’s own event on Monday.

State-run news agency Xinhua reported that Cook met with Chinese Vice Premier Sun Chunlan on Friday. Apple did not immediately return a request for comment on the topic of the meeting or other reasons for Cook’s trip to China, but Xinhua said Sun “made positive remarks” about Apple’s role in relations between the U.S. and China.

According to local reports, Cook also visited an online education company that is incorporating augmented reality into its product and met with a Chinese musician as he touted Apple’s streaming service. Cook has been in the country since Thursday and has posted about the trip on Weibo, 9to5Mac reported.

It’s unclear if Cook will be in attendance at this weekend’s Chinese Economic Forum, though Apple is listed as a participating group on the event’s website. Cook attended the forum last year, where he had called for data privacy regulation following Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal that revealed the agency exploited millions of user data without their explicit consent.

Cook’s trip follows a turbulent year for commerce between the U.S. and China due to ongoing trade tensions between the two countries. Apple’s revenue in the region was hit hard in its first quarter 2019, dropping nearly $5 billion from the previous year. Cook had cited economic slowdowns in China as a chief cause for its disappointing revenue in the quarter, but still expressed optimism in an interview with CNBC following the report.

“I’m encouraged by the comments coming out of both countries,” Cook told CNBC’s Josh Lipton at the time. But the path forward between the two countries still remains unsettled.

Cook is expected back in the U.S. by Monday, when Apple is hosting its own event where analysts anticipate it will unveil a new streaming service.

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Watch: CNBC’s full interview with Apple CEO Tim Cook



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Putin’s missile with ‘unlimited’ range is too expensive and hasn’t flown more than 22 miles

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Putin’s push to develop weapons of this caliber has sparked concerns of a budding arms race among China, the U.S. and Russia.

What’s more, the latest revelations come a little more than a year after the Russian leader touted his nation’s growing hypersonic arsenal. Of the six new weapons Putin unveiled last March, CNBC learned that two of them, a hypersonic glide vehicle and air-launched cruise missile, will be ready for war by 2020.

The hypersonic glide vehicle, dubbed Avangard, is designed to sit atop an intercontinental ballistic missile. Once launched, it uses aerodynamic forces to sail on top of the atmosphere.

One U.S. intelligence report, according to a source, noted that the hypersonic glide vehicles were mounted to Russian-made SS-19 intercontinental ballistic missiles — and one test featured a mock warhead.

Previous intelligence reports, which were curated last spring, calculate that Avangard is likely to achieve initial operational capability by 2020, a significant step that would enable the Kremlin to surpass the U.S. and China in this regard.

The hypersonic cruise missile dubbed “Kinzhal,” which means “dagger” in Russian, has been tested at least three times and was mounted and launched 12 times from a Russian MiG-31 fighter jet.

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US slaps sanctions on Venezuela bank Bandes after Guaido aide’s arrest

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Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro meets with UN chief Ban Ki-moon at the United Nations headquarters in New York on July 28, 2015.

Spencer Platt | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro meets with UN chief Ban Ki-moon at the United Nations headquarters in New York on July 28, 2015.

The United States imposed sanctions on Venezuela’s development bank Bandes, a day after the Trump administration warned there would be consequences for the arrest of opposition leader Juan Guaido’s top aide.

The U.S. Treasury said it was slapping the sanctions on the Banco de Desarrollo Economico y Social de Venezuela, including its subsidiaries in Uruguay and Bolivia.

“(President Nicolas) Maduro and his enablers have distorted the original purpose of the bank … as part of a desperate attempt to hold onto power,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement announcing the action.

Guaido, who invoked the constitution to assume the interim presidency in January, has accused Bandes of being used by officials of Maduro’s government to steal funds.

The U.S. Treasury said Maduro tried to move $1 billion out of Venezuela through Banco Bandes Uruguay in early 2019.

Bandes has received billions of dollars over the past decade from the China Development Bank, in exchange for oil, which the Venezuelan government used to fund infrastructure projects.

The sanctions freeze assets belonging to the bank and its subsidiaries, and prevent U.S. citizens from any dealings with Bandes.

The announcement comes after Venezuelan authorities detained Guaido’s chief of staff, Roberto Marrero, on Thursday in a pre-dawn raid, sparking vows of reprisals from the United States, which backs Guaido.

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