Stocks surged Tuesday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average posting its biggest intraday gain since 2008 amid hopes that Congress and the White House are finally nearing terms on a $2 trillion package aimed at shoring up the U.S. economy during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The S&P 500 jumped 9.34%
- The Dow Jones Industrial Average surged 11.26%
- The Nasdaq Composite soared 8.12%
- For what feels like the first time in an eternity, Chevron (NYSE:CVX) was the Dow’s top performer today, advancing almost 18%.
Equities faltered Monday as partisan politics stood in the way of stimulus efforts, with Senate Republicans accusing their Democratic colleagues in the House of tacking on non-essential, politically-charged amendments to the stimulus package. Dems have naturally lodged similar complaints about their GOP counterparts.
Comments from President Trump that he would like to see the U.S. economy reopened by Easter (April 12) contributed to the ebullience on Wall Street, though that forecast for business as usual may prove to be optimistic.
While stocks remain in a bear market, fertile ground for big one-day rallies as was experienced Tuesday, 28 of 30 Dow stocks were higher in late trading, the best ratio seen in weeks.
In this environment for energy producers, cutting expenses helps and that explains Chevron’s big rally today. The second-largest U.S. oil company said it was halting a $5 billion buyback plan and trimming $4 billion from its exploration budget.
That news comes a day after Standard & Poor’s said it was reviewing Chevron’s credit rating for a possible downgrade. Last week, S&P lowered its rating on CVX rival Exxon Mobil (NYSE:XOM). For now, it looks dividend cuts aren’t in the offing for either Chevron or XOM.
Speaking of Buybacks…
Due to the airlines and Boeing (NYSE:BA) feasting on buybacks during the bull market and now needing government (read: taxpayer) assistance, share repurchase programs are going out of style faster than linen after Labor Day.
This is an optics issue, one that Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) is apparently aware of. Although the semiconductor giant is financially sturdy and not needing a government loan or bailout, it said today it’s halting a $20 billion repurchase plan announced last October.
Boring Could be Beautiful Again
With traditional safe-haven sectors, such as consumer staples — the exception of Walmart (NYSE:WMT) — and utilities largely failing investors this month, it’s understandable that investors have reservations about revisiting these groups.
However, some analysts are bullish on names such as Dow component Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) and rival PepsiCo (NASDAQ:PEP). Coca-Cola recently yanked 2020 guidance due to the coronavirus pandemic, joining a slew of companies in doing so, but J.P. Morgan’s Andrea Teixiera highlights Coca-Cola’s strong balance sheet and asset-light model as catalysts for the stock in 2021 after the “lost year” of 2020.
Can’t Get Much Worse
American Express (NYSE:AXP) was the second-best performer in the Dow today behind Chevron and Visa (NYSE:V) was also among the double-digit winners. Maybe, emphasis on “maybe,” this is a sign of capitulation in these names.
Analysts are stepping in, lowering price targets and earnings forecasts on credit stocks, but this was bound to happen. With the travel and leisure industry in the U.S. essentially shutdown and retail stores and malls mostly closed as well, there are few avenues for credit and debit card purchases. Not to mention a slumping economy that may not rebound until well into the third quarter.
For the adventurous, profitable, wide-moat names such as AXP and Visa may be worth considering here and certainly so if more declines come to pass.
Bottom Line on the Dow Jones Today
With March nearly in the books, first-quarter earnings season is on the way and, let’s be honest, there weren’t be much in the way of earnings to speak of. This is widely known fact in the investment community, prompting some to start talking about second-quarter earnings.
As John Butters of FactSet points out, the outlook for April through June is getting ugly.
“Last week, the aggregate earnings growth rate for Q2 2020 changed from slight year-over-year earnings growth on March 12 (+0.8%) to a slight year-over-year earnings decline on March 13 (-0.7%),” he said.
The estimated second-quarter earnings decline for the S&P 500 is 3.9% compared with a 2.9% drop for the current quarter.
Todd Shriber has been an InvestorPlace contributor since 2014. As of this writing, he did not hold any of the aforementioned securities.