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Cramer sees biotech stocks as a refuge in the coronavirus-driven market plunge

CNBC’s Jim Cramer said investors who are trying to navigate Monday’s global stock market sell-off should look to drug companies.

“I look at these drug companies and I think, ‘Wouldn’t that be a great place to go if the market really falls apart?'” Cramer said. “They’re so good and they haven’t come down.”

Earlier Monday, Cramer tweeted that the sell-off in response to the deepening coronavirus outbreak indicated further negative effects on U.S. multinational companies’ earnings.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average, S&P 500 and Nasdaq saw significant declines as the virus’s outbreak takes deeper roots outside of mainland China, where a vast majority of the cases are located.

Coronavirus cases have risen in Italy, now home to the largest outbreak outside of Asia. There also are now more than 830 cases and seven deaths in South Korea as the country’s authorities raised their alert to the “highest level.”

On “Squawk on the Street,” Cramer pointed to Gilead Sciences as one potential buying opportunity, noting it has a drug being used in a coronavirus trial.

Shares of the biopharmaceutical company were up more than 4% early Monday, standing in contrast to markets around the globe that are falling due to increased concerns about the coronavirus.

The “Mad Money” host said there is much uncertainty around the fate of Gilead’s antiviral remdesivir as a possible treatment for coronavirus. But he noted that a World Health Official on Monday suggested the drug may prove effective.

“If Gilead works, anybody who sells here is going to say, ‘Why did I sell it when there was such ingenious science going on?'” Cramer said.

In general, he cautioned investors against buying heavily into Monday’s declines.

“If the world slows, you’re going to regret that you bought heavily here unless you’re going to [be] buying Merck,” Cramer said, referencing the potential benefits of the pharmaceutical company’s Keytruda to treat cancer.

GlaxoSmithKline is another example of a stock that could remain attractive, Cramer said. He said the British pharmaceutical company has new developments around its anti-cancer efforts and it maintains a strong dividend yield.

“If you own companies that are directly in harm’s way, maybe you sell some. But then you redeploy into things that are just kind of bulletproof,” Cramer said. “Do you want to sell a drug company that may be working?”