Wednesday morning wasn't a good one for Wall Street, as market participants reacted negatively to contentious news on multiple fronts. Between likely bans on Chinese tech companies, rising tensions between the White House and Capitol Hill, and uncertainty about the future course of monetary policy in the U.S., major indexes were generally lower. As of 11:30 a.m. EDT, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) was down 39 points to 25,838. The S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) fell 3 points to 2,862, and the Nasdaq Composite (NASDAQINDEX:^IXIC) lost 14 points to 7,772.
Often, companies in the same industry report their financial results near the same time, and in the home improvement retail sector, it was Lowe's (NYSE:LOW) that got its turn to tell investors how it was doing this morning. At the same time, Boeing (NYSE:BA) is facing calls to compensate airlines for losses related to the grounding of its 737 MAX aircraft models -- the latest in a long series of challenges for the aerospace giant to overcome.
Lowe's sees a tough spring ahead
Shares of Lowe's plunged more than 10% after the home improvement retailer released its first-quarter financial report. The big-box seller of home-related products couldn't live up to investor expectations, and it foresees difficult conditions in the near future.
Lowe's reported a 3.5% gain in comparable sales across the company, including a 4.2% rise in its U.S. stores. Yet total revenue was up just 2%, and net income growth was limited to less than 6% compared to year-ago levels. It took a substantial drop in outstanding share count to boost earnings to $1.31 per share, and even that wasn't enough to match what most of those following the stock had been looking to see from Lowe's.
CEO Marvin Ellison tried to look on the bright side, pointing to the company's efforts to manage inventory and offer service to both regular customers and building professionals. Yet he acknowledged that "the unanticipated impact of the convergence of cost pressure, significant transition in our merchandising organization, and ineffective legacy pricing tools and processes led to gross margin contraction in the quarter, which impacted earnings."
With an outlook for revenue growth of just 2% and adjusted earnings of $5.45 to $5.65 per share, Lowe's has some investors more worried than ever. It'll take concrete signs of recovery to restore faith in the home improvement retailer.
Boeing takes China heat
Elsewhere, Boeing's shares fell almost 1%. The aerospace company continues to face fallout from the two recent crashes of 737 MAX aircraft, and the issue doesn't look even close to resolution at this point.
The latest news came from the three largest airlines in China, which officially asked Boeing for compensation related to the grounding of their fleets of 737 MAX aircraft and delays in delivering additional aircraft. China Eastern Airlines, Air China, and China Southern Airlines have all now come together in making requests.
China has been one of the nations hit hardest by the grounding, with nearly 100 out of the roughly 350 737 MAX aircraft in the global fleet under its jurisdiction. China's three largest airlines have more than 50 of the jets among them, and they've suffered not only daily losses from not being able to fly the planes but also pressure on metrics like passenger volume.
China's airlines aren't the only ones looking for compensation from Boeing, as some industry players from across the world have also weighed in with claims, including United Continental Holdings. As the grounding continues, however, Boeing will feel more pressure to get a solution in place and do its best to put the painful episode behind it.