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Why Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Waters, and Astec Industries Slumped Today

By Dan Caplinger – Updated Apr 23, 2019 at 5:52PM

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Despite a strong day for the overall market, bad news for these individual companies hit their shares hard.

Tuesday was a strong day on Wall Street, sending several major market benchmarks to new all-time highs. As the leading companies in many different industries started reporting their financial results for the first quarter of 2019, what many had expected to be a disappointing quarter of sluggish performance turned out to be a lot better in many cases. Even with the strong gains in many corners of the market, some companies had to deal with downbeat news that sent their shares lower. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCAU), Waters (WAT 0.31%), and Astec Industries (ASTE 0.80%) were poor performers. Here's why they did so poorly.

Fiat deals with new regulatory issues

Shares of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles dropped slightly following the expansion of inquiries into airbag malfunctions. Late last week, the automaker had said that it would recall more than 320,000 Dodge Dart vehicles due to a potential transmission defect that could allow the shift cable to detach, allowing cars to start rolling without warning. Adding further to the company's woes, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said that it would look at airbag installations in 12.3 million vehicles, including those sold by Fiat Chrysler and five other manufacturers between 2010 and 2019. The news is particularly unwelcome given efforts that Fiat Chrysler already made to recall 2 million vehicles in 2016, and investors seem to fear that further problems could be even more costly, offsetting encouraging recent sales gains.

Yellow Jeep with star decal on driver door.

Image source: Fiat Chrysler.

Waters sees falling sales

Waters saw its stock drop 12% after the instrument maker reported disappointing results in its first-quarter financial report. Waters said that revenue was down 3% from year-earlier levels, with gains in its recurring revenue sources getting fully offset by falling instrument sales. Geographically, the U.S. and most Asian markets have performed well, but China and Europe have been weak for Waters. Despite slight gains in adjusted earnings compared to the year-ago profit, particular challenges in the key pharmaceutical and industrial sectors could lead an essential part of Waters' customer base to defer purchases -- potentially putting additional pressure on the instrument maker in the coming quarters.

Astec has a tough start to 2019

Finally, shares of Astec Industries plunged 26%. The manufacturer of specialized equipment for road building, mining, and drilling operations saw net income drop nearly 30% during the first quarter of 2019 compared to the year-ago period, with flat sales stemming largely from weakness in the U.S. market. Astec experienced poor performance in all three of its key business segments, and interim CEO Richard Dorris pointed to tight market conditions, weather-related shutdowns, and relatively high expense levels for its shortfall. With backlog levels down by nearly half from where they were a year ago, investors aren't giving Astec much benefit of the doubt and want to see confirmation that positive developments in the company's order flow will produce stronger sales in the current quarter.

Dan Caplinger has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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