The Dow Jones Industrial Average has gained nearly 12% so far in 2019. It doesn’t seem like a whole heck of a lot, but considering the topsy-turvey markets of 2019, it’s a pretty strong lift. That gain was driven by the majority of the Dow 30 as most of the stocks in the DJIA index contributed to its postive year-to-date gain.
Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) is the biggest winner of the bunch, gaining more than 30%. But owing to the odd price-weighted nature of the index, it’s likely Visa (NYSE:V), with a 28% gain and a higher share price, that has been the biggest driver behind the Dow’s gains.
Not every component of the Dow Jones today has had a strong year, though. Five of the index’s 30 stocks have declined so far this year. But not all of them make the list of the five worst Dow Jones stocks in 2019, which we’ll recount in greater detail going forward.
For reasons that go beyond pure performance, these five components have had the roughest year so far, which means they have the most to prove in the second half of 2019.
Walgreens (NASDAQ:WBA) is the easiest pick on the list. That’s somewhat ironic considering that Walgreens is one of the index’s newest members, replacing General Electric (NYSE:GE) just last year. WBA stock far and away has had the worst performance in 2019: its 22.6% decline is almost exactly twice as steep as that of the index’s second-biggest decliner. WBA touched a five-year low late last month before a modest rally in recent weeks.
As I wrote in April, disappointing store-level execution clearly has been a factor. But what might be more worrisome for WBA is that the entire retail pharmacy industry seems to under threat. Shares of rival CVS Health (NYSE:CVS), too, have touched a multi-year low.
Smaller Rite Aid (NYSE:RAD) continues to plunge, with a hefty debt load adding to the pressure. Front-end sales aren’t growing, and in pharmacy higher generic prices are compressing already-thin margins.
WBA stock is cheap, now at less than 9x forward earnings. But right now, Walgreens looks a lot like most other retailers – and that will have to change for Walgreens stock to reverse its performance in not only 2019, but the last few years.
Dow Inc. (DOW)
But DOW is part of the DowDuPont spinoff, a hugely complicated financial engineering project that was supposed to create real value for shareholders. It hasn’t happened. DWDP shareholders received one share of Corteva (NYSE:CTVA) and one share of DOW for every three DowDuPont shares they owned. At current prices, that totals about $50 in value. DWDP shares closed 2018 near $54 – after declining 25% last year.
This was a case where many value investors saw significant upside. Yet trade war concerns and post-spin trading have led DWDP to destroy value, at least so far. DOW and its former siblings still have time, and room, to rally. But a lot of smart investors likely see the YTD performance as among the most disappointing in their portfolios.
Performance-wise, Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) hasn’t been a bad stock in 2019. It’s underperformed the market, but a 0.5% decline actually turns very slightly positive when accounting for dividend payments.
Still, 2019 hasn’t been a good year for Intel. It’s suffering chip shortages. It’s still behind in 10nm — and about four years late. Rival Advanced Micro Devices (NASDAQ:AMD) is gobbling up market share in CPUs. Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) settled with Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) in large part because Intel couldn’t move quick enough to get the iPhone to 5G.
Intel still is a behemoth in the chip space, and the company still has time to right its ship. With INTC stock at barely 10x earnings, there’s upside if and when that happens. But the company’s performance so far this year inspires little confidence, which has been much weaker than a flattish stock price would imply.
The 11.4% decline in 3M (NYSE:MMM) shares so far this year is the second-worst performance in the Dow. But no component has posted a worse quarterly report than 3M did with its Q1 release in late April. 3M stock plunged 13%, its worst one-day decline in over 30 years. The drop was big enough to on its own pull the index down over 100 points.
MMM stock still hasn’t recovered: it would drop nearly another 20% in the following weeks before bottoming of late. And there’s a case for the stock after the big decline, as James Brumley argued earlier this month. A 3.4% dividend yield helps the argument, and 3M’s diversified business should allow it to ride out any further near-term or market volatility.
Still, Q1 was an obvious concern: stocks like 3M don’t fall 25% in a matter of weeks for no reason. And it was the automotive and Chinese markets that led to the poor quarter. Neither seems likely to rebound sharply all that soon. At the very least, it’s going to take a lot more than one good quarter for 3M to make back what it lost after Q1.
It’s a bit unfair to put Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) on this list. Pfizer certainly hasn’t had a terrible year. PFE stock is down 2.6%, the third-worst performance in the index. But drugmakers generally underperform in bull markets, and many drug stocks have done worse in 2019. A 3.4% dividend yield offsets most of those losses anyhow.
That said, Pfizer hasn’t had a great year, either. Rival (and fellow Dow component) Merck (NYSE:MRK) has gained 8%-plus. And it’s hard not to get the sense that PFE, which traded mostly sideways for over three years in the middle of the decade, is back to being stagnant. There doesn’t seem to much of a catalyst on the horizon to change the Pfizer story, while external pressures on the industry continue to mount.
It’s true that, even this year, PFE shareholders could have done worse. But given that 25 Dow Jones stocks are up YTD, it’s obvious they could have done better.
As of this writing, Vince Martin has no positions in any securities mentioned.