Airline stocks dip as air travel slips once again
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Good evening, Bull Sheeters. This is Fortune finance reporter Rey Mashayekhi, filling in this week for Bernhard Warner with a special PM edition of the newsletter.
We’ll be doing things a little differently and starting off with the U.S. markets, where Big Tech stocks drove the major indices upward.
- After swooning in the first hour of trading Monday, the Dow rallied Monday to inch up 0.03%. The S&P 500 ended the day up 0.8% to go positive for the year, while the Nasdaq—driven by a robust day for large-cap tech giants like Amazon—was up 2.5%.
- As indicated by the Nasdaq’s positive performance, Big Tech put last week’s lukewarm market performance in the rearview. Besides Amazon (+7.9%), the likes of Tesla (+9.5%), Microsoft (+4.3%), Alphabet (+3.1%), and Apple (+2.1%) all had strong days.
- Optimism on the coronavirus vaccine front appears to have helped the mood of the markets. Pfizer and BioNTech reported more good news in their joint trial, as did Oxford University in an early-stage trial with pharma giant AstraZeneca.
- As November’s presidential election draws nearer, more analysts are predicting what an increasingly likely Joe Biden victory could mean for the markets. While some believe a Democrat in the White House would lead to more tepid market conditions, Bank of America thinks a Democratic sweep of the executive and legislative branches could see a unified response to the COVID-19 pandemic that would prompt a stock market rally.
- The European bourses had a less enthusiastic start to the week, though good news on the vaccine front also prompted a late-day rally on the continent. London’s FTSE was down 0.5%, but Frankfurt’s DAX (+1%), the CAC 40 (+0.5%) in Paris, and the pan-European STOXX 600 (+0.7%) all were up.
- Europe’s more centralized, aggressive approach to addressing the COVID-19 pandemic—and the region’s accelerated emergence from the crisis—could see European stocks outperform markets elsewhere, according to BlackRock. “As economies start to normalize, we see European equities as the most attractive regional exposure to a differentiated global reopening,” strategists for the asset manager said.
- UBS and Morgan Stanley are expected to lead the IPO for British telecommunications firm Vodafone’s European mobile towers unit, per Reuters—a deal that could raise more than $4 billion and value the business at $18 billion.
- While Tokyo’s Nikkei (+0.1%) and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng (-0.1%) started off the week virtually flat, mainland China’s major indices posted strong gains. Shanghai’s SSE Composite was up more than 3% Monday, while Shenzhen’s SZSE Component (+2.6%) and SZSE Composite (+2.7%) weren’t far behind.
- Jack Ma’s Ant Group—which owns and operates the hugely popular Alipay mobile payments network—will be going public via dual IPOs in Hong Kong and Shanghai, the Chinese tech giant announced Monday. Ant will list on both the Hang Seng and Shanghai’s upstart, tech-focused STAR Market—bypassing the New York exchanges amid U.S. regulators’ heightened scrutiny of Chinese companies.
- Wealth managers at Credit Suisse, HSBC, UBS and other banks are reportedly screening clients in Hong Kong for any ties to the region’s pro-Democracy movement in a bid to avoid the ire of Chinese authorities, according to Reuters.
- Gold prices continued their rally.
- The dollar ticked upward.
- Crude oil was up marginally, with Brent closing at more than $43 per barrel.
The airline industry’s hopes for a steady post-COVID recovery have been dealt a blow with the news that U.S. air travel is once again slipping. The total number of people who passed through checkpoints at U.S. airports fell last week for the first time since April, indicating more pain in the cards for carriers as the coronavirus’s spread continues to scare off travelers.
Airline stocks reflected such fears on Monday, with the major publicly-traded names all taking a sizable hit. Delta, which is looking to cut pilots’ guaranteed minimum pay, and Southwest, where nearly 17,000 employees have signed up for buyouts and partially paid leaves of absence, each fell more than 3%. American’s stock dropped nearly 4%, and United shares lost almost 5% of their value.
That’s bad news for investors who were hoping to capitalize on a beaten-up sector—one presumably primed for a rebound should a successful COVID-19 vaccine be developed and/or the virus be brought under control. But with cases in the U.S. continuing to escalate, and even the most advanced vaccine candidates still in the trial stage, that “dip” appears to have evolved into a longer, lingering rut with no clear end in sight.
That’s all for today. Have a pleasant evening and see you tomorrow.