Thursday was painful for stock investors. Friday promises to be better.
Already today, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up a good 3.5%, the Nasdaq and S&P 500 up 4%. Stocks are rallying broadly, and e-commerce stocks such as eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY), Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN), and MercadoLibre (NASDAQ:MELI) -- "the Argentine eBay" -- are doing their best to keep up.
As of 10:40 a.m. EDT, eBay stock is still up 2.7%, Amazon 3.8%, and MercadoLibre 3.5%.
But why aren't e-commerce stocks doing better than average?
That's not a rhetorical question. With much of America now "sheltering in place," "self-quarantining," and "social distancing" itself away from brick-and-mortar locales, it makes sense that e-commerce stocks might be doing better than average business these days, delivering packages to a nation that's suddenly playing possum, and living a life of solitude.
In the case of Amazon stock, in fact, today should be a positively great day. As you may have heard from my fellow Fool Lou Whiteman earlier, the Department of Defense is now reconsidering whether a massive $10 billion cloud computing contract, originally awarded to Amazon competitor Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), should in fact have been awarded to Amazon's AWS unit instead.
Even for a company the size of Amazon, with $280.5 billion in annual sales, a $10 billion defense contract is kind of a big deal -- more so given that those revenues would land smack dab in the middle of the company's highly profitable AWS business, where they'd immediately begin generating massive 26.2% operating profit margins (according to profitability data from S&P Global Market Intelligence).
The fact that a deal this potentially lucrative isn't moving Amazon stock more tells me that, for the time being at least, investors still aren't buying and selling individual stocks based on the anticipated fortunes of the companies they represent -- but buying and selling stocks en masse, based on what they think the Federal Reserve, the Trump White House, and Congress might do in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.
This makes judging whether eBay, Amazon, and MercadoLibre stocks' next moves will be up or down incredibly hard to predict. And we all know how the stock market feels about uncertainty.