The Dow Jones Droned On, But Amazon.com's UAVs Stole the Show Today

The world's largest e-tailer made waves with its delivery drone efforts on an otherwise dull day for the markets.

Jul 11, 2014 at 4:35PM

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI), which spent the day nudging higher from an opening-bell dip, finished Friday with a slight gain of 0.17%, extending to 38 its streak of trading days without moving more than 1% in either direction. The last 1% move, on May 15, has thus far been only one of 18 such days this year, which puts 2014 on track to finish with about 34 1%-plus days for the Dow. That's more than we saw in 2013, which was an extraordinarily quiet year by modern market standards, but it's still below the annual average (since 1928) of 57 1% moves per year.

With little real news to move the markets, no Dow component traded more than 1.5% higher or lower than its Thursday closing price. The S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) was similarly dull today, approximating the Dow's steady progress from early weakness throughout the day to finish 0.15% higher. No S&P component experienced a double-digit percentage change, and only one -- e-commerce giant Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) -- even moved by more than 5%.

Primedrone

The future of deliveries? Source: Amazon.com.

Amazon popped today on news that it had petitioned the Federal Aviation Administration for authorization to test its new delivery drones, less than a month after the FAA strengthened its anti-drone-delivery position by publicizing documents clarifying its existing ban on commercial unmanned aerial vehicles. This was a necessary step in legitimizing the FAA's regulations, which were ruled illegal earlier this year because the agency never solicited public comment before instituting the rules. Last month's documents were one way to solicit that input, and as the current corporate vanguard on the use of commercial drones, it was inevitable that Amazon would address the FAA sooner rather than later.

None of the S&P's dedicated delivery-service components seemed to be much moved by the news. Both UPS (NYSE:UPS) and FedEx (NYSE:FDX) ended the day with slight gains, as investors seem to be largely discounting any risk to their massive global delivery networks from one of their largest customers.

The letter, dated July 9 and posted to the government's regulations.gov website last night, claims that Amazon's drones can travel more than 50 mph and carry cargo weighing up to 5 pounds. It requests an exemption allowing Amazon to conduct research and development testing on these drones outdoors. Amazon claimed that "one day, seeing Amazon Prime Air will be as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road today," which might be true at some point, but which nonetheless is a strikingly bold pronouncement of the future. Just imagine thousands of box-toting drones, plastered with the familiar Amazon.com logo, darting about in the sky all day long.

Want to read more about the potential of drone-delivery services, and about Amazon's efforts to build such a service? Click on one of the links below:

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Alex Planes holds no financial position in any company mentioned here. Add him on Google+ or follow him on Twitter @TMFBiggles for more insight into markets, history, and technology.

The Motley Fool recommends Amazon.com, FedEx, and United Parcel Service. The Motley Fool owns shares of Amazon.com. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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