If you needed any more proof that the COVID-19 market environment can and will throw investors a curveball, Thursday wasn’t an awful day for equities despite another batch of weekly jobless claims numbers that were, well, awful.
- The S&P 500 gained 0.57%%
- The Dow Jones Industrial Average eked out a gain of 0.12%
- The Nasdaq Composite jumped 1.66%
- In a movie investors have to be tired of, Boeing (NYSE:BA) was the Dow’s worst performer today, slipping 7.59%.
As noted above, jobless claims numbers continue to be alarmingly bad. Last week, 5.245 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits for the first time. However, that was better than the 5.5 million some economists expected and that interpretation of “better” likely supported stocks to some extent today.
However, the U.S. economy is in unchartered territory, as roughly 22 million workers have filed for unemployment in just four weeks. All of the job gains since the end of the Great Recession are now gone. Another support factor for stocks today was that claims in big states, such as California, Michigan and Pennsylvania, while still bad declined from the prior week.
Still, jobs data is ugly and will likely remain so over the near-term, likely explaining why 18 of 30 Dow stocks were lower in late trading.
Usually, Boeing’s well-documented struggles are of its own doing, but today the stock tumbled because United Airlines (NASDAQ:UAL) outgoing CEO Oscar Munoz was rather chatty and none of what he had to say was pleasant.
Munoz noted that while the company, a major Boeing customer, is getting federal assistance under the CARES Act, it won’t be enough to cover fixed and operating costs. He added the carrier is going to scrap 90% of its flights next month and that layoffs are a possibility, a reversal from a previous stance.
Late to the Party
Sometimes, it’s better to be late than to never arrive at all and that may explain why Verizon (NYSE:VZ) gained more than 1% today on news that it’s buying video conference service provider BlueJeans Network.
Due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, video conferencing is all the rage these days as more Americans work from home. Terms of the deal weren’t revealed, but investors apparently like the idea, as Verizon was one of the better Dow performers today.
Intel Perks Up
Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) was in the Dow winners circle today after chip contract maker Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (NYSE:TSM) reported better-than-expected earnings. For those familiar with the concept of a “bellwether stock,” Taiwan Semi is one of the bellwethers in the chip space.
Guilt by Association
Mastercard (NYSE:MA), not a Dow stock, was stung Guggenheim analyst Jeff Cantwell downgrading the stock today, citing weak travel spending that could weigh on the stock into next year.
That ominous summation isn’t limited to Mastercard. It’s highly relevant to Dow members American Express (NYSE:AXP) and Visa’s (NYSE:V), which explains why those stocks followed peer Mastercard lower on Thursday.
Walmart (NYSE:WMT) continues winning as a coronavirus play, ascending to another 52-week high today while extending its gain over the past week to 8.55%. What’s interesting about the strength in Walmart is that comes against the backdrop of weak retail sales and easing COVID-19 cases, but of which are risks to this name, but it appears the stock is rebuffing those concerns.
Bottom Line on the Dow Jones Today
Today is significant for another reason because at 6 p.m. EST, President Trump will reveal federal guidelines for reopening the economy. It’s not unreasonable to expect that with this announcement coming today, the president will point to May 1 as the restart day.
Even if it’s May 15, things are about to get interesting, politically speaking, because a cadre of Democratic governors from coast to coast appear intent on delaying their states’ reopenings.
Assuming some states get back to business before others and those in the latter group continue struggling economically, governors can attempt to shift blame to the White House all they want, but that’s their own risky gambit, one Trump will remind voters of on the campaign trail.
Todd Shriber has been an InvestorPlace contributor since 2014. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.