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Stock Market News: Virgin Galactic Flames Out; Anheuser-Busch Loses Its Fizz

By Dan Caplinger – Feb 27, 2020 at 12:11PM

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Major benchmarks plunged again on Thursday morning.

After a brief respite yesterday, the stock market continued its steep decline on Thursday morning. Fears about the spreading novel coronavirus show no signs of abating anytime soon, and the rising number of cases in new locations has investors becoming more pessimistic about the prospects of containing the outbreak before it reaches pandemic proportions. As of 11 a.m. EST, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI -1.15%) was down 915 points to 26,043. The S&P 500 (^GSPC -1.02%) fell 104 points to 3,012, and the Nasdaq Composite (^IXIC) dropped 352 points to 8,628.

There were plenty of losing stocks in the market, but some of the hardest hit included Virgin Galactic Holdings (SPCE -0.59%) and Anheuser-Busch InBev (BUD -1.99%). Despite being in very different industries, both stocks suffered from a loss of confidence among investors about their respective prospects for future growth.

Wall Street jumps off the Virgin bandwagon

Shares of Virgin Galactic Holdings were down 20% Thursday morning following moves from several Wall Street analysts. In the wake of the space tourism company's fourth-quarter financial report earlier this week, professional stock watchers had a chance to weigh in on Virgin Galactic's prospects.

Virgin spaceplane as seen from below, in flight on a clear day.

Image source: Virgin Galactic.

Analysts at Morgan Stanley downgraded Virgin Galactic from overweight to equal weight, arguing that stock's price had already risen to such a large extent that it reflected near-certainty about the company's success in bringing travelers into space. Although the analysts remain optimistic about the company, they believe its fundamental business needs to catch up to the share price.

Meanwhile, Credit Suisse also cut its rating on Virgin Galactic from outperform to neutral. Citing the inability for the company to scale up its space tourism business any faster than already anticipated, the analysts still boosted their target price on Virgin stock from $15 to $25 per share, but they believe further gains are unlikely.

Virgin Galactic's share price rise has been impressive recently, reflecting the hope that investors have about the nearly limitless potential of space travel. Yet at least for now, shareholders seem to agree that the high-flying stock has gotten ahead of itself, and Virgin will have to make good on its promise in order to satisfy the high expectations of its investors.

A-B InBev takes an earnings hit

Shares of Anheuser-Busch InBev fell 8% following the beer giant's release of fourth-quarter financial results. The maker of Budweiser and other well-known beer brands suffered a substantial drop in earnings, capping a year that the company's CEO described as "below our expectations."

Anheuser-Busch's sales numbers were mixed. Revenue climbed 2.5% on a 1.6% rise in organic sales volume during the fourth quarter. Performance outside the beer category was particularly good, as organic volume grew 8% year over year. The beer segment was somewhat stagnant, though, with just 0.8% organic growth. More problematic was Anheuser-Busch's bottom line. Declining gross margin weighed on profits, and underlying earnings per share fell more than 25% from the year-ago period.

The beer maker also sees problems coming from the coronavirus outbreak. Anheuser-Busch said that it believes it lost $285 million in revenue due to the outbreak, with pre-tax operating earnings taking a $170 million hit in China alone. The company also sees most of the growth for the full 2020 fiscal year coming in the second half, hopefully once the outbreak is under control. Meanwhile, rising costs will continue to be a challenge.

Shifting consumer preferences have proven tough for Anheuser-Busch to navigate, as competitors have been quick to offer hard seltzer products that have gained a strong following. The company is confident it can catch up, but investors don't seem to have much patience to wait and see whether it's successful.

Dan Caplinger has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc. The Motley Fool recommends Anheuser-Busch InBev NV. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Stocks Mentioned

Anheuser-Busch InBev NV Stock Quote
Anheuser-Busch InBev NV
$45.82 (-1.99%) $0.93
Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc Stock Quote
Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc
$5.08 (-0.59%) $0.03
Dow Jones Industrial Average (Price Return) Stock Quote
Dow Jones Industrial Average (Price Return)
$29,926.94 (-1.15%) $-346.93
S&P 500 Index - Price Return (USD) Stock Quote
S&P 500 Index - Price Return (USD)
$3,744.52 (-1.02%) $-38.76
NASDAQ Composite Index (Price Return) Stock Quote
NASDAQ Composite Index (Price Return)
$11,148.64 (%)

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

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