Friday morning saw more selling pressure on Wall Street, as the monthly employment report from the Department of Labor didn't make it any clearer whether the Federal Reserve might cut interest rates again in the near future. Globally, investors kept responding negatively to President Trump's announcement of additional tariffs on China. As of 11 a.m. EDT, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) was down 295 points to 26,288. The S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) dropped 36 points to 2,917, and the Nasdaq Composite (NASDAQINDEX:^IXIC) fell 151 points to 7,960.
Earnings season continued, with energy titan Chevron (NYSE:CVX) stepping up to give its reading on the state of the oil and gas industry. Elsewhere, other companies took steps to try to respond to changing economic conditions, and Lowe's (NYSE:LOW) announced aggressive moves to try to cut its costs as it seeks to compete more effectively against its main rival.
Chevron gets energetic
Shares of Chevron were up 1% following the integrated oil giant's second-quarter financial report. The company reported a robust 26% rise in earnings compared to year-ago profits, and even though revenue fell 8%, strong production levels helped buoy the company's results.
Production volume in Chevron's upstream segment climbed 9% year over year. The company said that nonconventional production in the Permian Basin area came in at 421,000 barrels per day, making up a substantial portion of the 3.08 million barrels per day that it produced in total. The U.S. has been especially important for Chevron. Production domestically climbed 159,000 barrels per day to 898,000.
Strong production figures helped to offset lower prices, which included a $7-per-barrel drop in crude and natural gas liquids to $52. Natural gas prices were down even more sharply, plunging almost 60% to just $0.68 per thousand cubic feet. Lower margins on sales of refined products like gasoline caused earnings from Chevron's downstream segment to fall by 13%.
Chevron also got a $740 million boost to earnings from the termination fee it received after it got outbid on its deal to acquire Anadarko Petroleum. Given how good the Permian has been to Chevron, it probably would have preferred to get Anadarko's assets there, but it's still a nice consolation prize that the company can use for possible acquisitions elsewhere.
Lowe's sends out pink slips
Shares of home improvement retailer Lowe's were little changed after it reportedly told thousands of specialty employees that they'll no longer be able to work at the company. In the latest example of the trend toward letting third-party companies handle certain business functions, Lowe's will apparently outsource the jobs of some maintenance workers and assembly specialists outside the company. Currently, those workers do things like putting together wheelbarrows and grills.
Rising labor costs have been an issue throughout the service economy, as low unemployment levels make it difficult to find qualified workers. Increasing costs have therefore given companies like Lowe's a greater incentive to eliminate unnecessary positions. Turning to outsourcing specialists can reduce overall expenses while still providing services that consumers want.
Lowe's has sought to restore its growth after a tough period recently, and rising costs and organizational issues have posed obstacles to CEO Marvin Ellison's turnaround efforts. Intense competition with Home Depot has Lowe's wanting to close the gap between the two home improvement giants. Yet even if outsourcing saves costs, layoffs could hurt employee morale at a critical time for Lowe's.