What happened

Shares of Boeing (BA -0.24%) stock dropped 7% in early Thursday trading before bouncing back a bit. As of 11:05 a.m. EST, Boeing stock is down "only" 3.2%.


3D rendering of coronavirus nodules.

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

It's possible that Boeing's slumping only because pretty much all stocks are down today. Coronavirus concerns are tanking the markets once again, and Boeing's hardly immune to "sentiment disease." But Boeing has another problem that's specific to Boeing.

This morning, the website GuruFocus.com ran a story postulating that just as Kraft Heinz Company (KHC 1.80%) saw its debt downgraded earlier this month, so too might Boeing. But is that likely?

Now what

With a market capitalization of $171.3 billion, Boeing carries a debt load of $18.5 billion, net of cash on hand -- about 10% of its market capitalization. For comparison, Kraft carries a market cap of $33.4 billion and net debt of $27.7 billion -- 83% of its own market cap.

If you ask me, the situations with these two blue chip stocks don't look remotely comparable -- except for one thing. No matter how bad coronavirus gets, people are still going to put ketchup on their hamburgers and fries in both the near and long terms. Boeing, in contrast, is still struggling to get one of its best-selling planes, the 737 MAX, back into service, and it's bleeding cash as it struggles to do so.

On top of that, now we've got coronavirus complicating matters, cratering the travel industry and depressing demand for the airplanes that Boeing is still allowed to manufacture and sell. In the near term, at least, I think Boeing's business really is much more exposed to coronavirus concerns than is Kraft's. In that respect if no other, Boeing's debt rating could in fact be at elevated risk for downgrade the longer this health crisis continues.