Stocks declined sharply last week as investors processed uncertainty around the economic impact of the novel coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. and around the world. Despite a nearly 10% surge on Friday, both the Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI -0.06%) and the S&P 500 (^GSPC -0.17%) shed roughly 9% for the week.
Mitigation efforts initiated to deal with COVID-19 and economic stimulus plans will likely dominate financial headlines over the coming week. A few major businesses will also issue official updates on their demand trends in the wake of the recent pullback. Below, we'll preview the announcements coming from FedEx (FDX 1.23%), Five Below (FIVE -0.72%), and Darden Restaurants (DRI 0.54%).
1. FedEx's growth plans
FedEx shares have been especially hard hit as fears spiked in recent weeks over a global economic slowdown. The stock has dropped over 20% since early February, in fact. That dive implies investors are expecting some bad news when the shipping giant reports fiscal third-quarter earnings results on Tuesday afternoon.
There was no shortage of headwinds in FedEx's last earnings report. CEO Frederick Smith and his team listed a half-dozen pressure points over the holiday season, in fact, ranging from a compressed shopping calendar to price cuts by rivals to suspension of business from the e-commerce giant Amazon.com.
This week's report will likely focus more on general growth trends, especially as coronavirus responses dampen economic activity in places like China and Europe. FedEx's profitability was trending lower before this health scare, and investors are bracing for a significant downgrade to the shipping giant's outlook this week.
2. Five Below's growth plans
Investors will be closely following Five Below's earnings report on Wednesday for signs of cracks in the youth-focused retailer's expansion strategy. Sure, it is likely to close out its 14th consecutive year of sales growth at existing locations -- along with more than 150 new stores launched in 2019. However, comparable-store sales likely dipped into negative territory over the holiday season and fell below 1% for the full year. Assuming the chain hits its updated outlook, overall sales growth will land below 20% for the first time in several years.
CEO Joel Anderson and his team might blame a lack of a comprehensive online platform for part of the slowdown, but that weakness should lesson with its new digital-selling acquisition. Look for management to also update investors on its efforts to move up the value chain with added products priced between $5 and $10. Finally, Five Below should comment on its store expansion strategy as it aims to pass 1,000 stores in 2020 on the way toward management's long-term goal of at least 2,500 locations around the country.
3. Darden's customer traffic
Darden will announce its results on Thursday, and investors aren't expecting much good news from the restaurant chain. Its last report was mixed, with solid gains at Longhorn Steakhouse being offset by sluggish results at Olive Garden and in its smaller restaurant concepts.
Darden is winning market share in a near-flat industry, but will that be enough to keep sales rising, especially as diners continue to flock toward fast-casual chains and home delivery? We'll get some clarity around that question when the company reveals its customer traffic metrics on Thursday while issuing an updated outlook for 2020. As it stands today, that forecast calls for comps to rise by between 1% and 2% this year, assuming no impact from coronavirus traffic changes.