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Stock Market Wrap-Up: Airlines, Cruise Lines Soar on Coronavirus Stimulus Hopes

By Dan Caplinger - Updated Mar 23, 2020 at 4:38PM

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Stocks again fell on Monday as lawmakers couldn't get anything done quickly.

Wall Street saw the downward trend continue on Monday, despite efforts from the Federal Reserve to provide potentially unlimited liquidity to prevent the financial system from seizing up over economic consequences of the COVID-19 coronavirus disease pandemic. Tech stocks once again outperformed the broader market, giving the Nasdaq Composite (^IXIC 0.00%) a better showing than the Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI 0.00%) and the S&P 500 (^GSPC 1.05%).

Today's stock market


Percentage Change

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Data source: Yahoo! Finance.

Delays on Capitol Hill prevented much-anticipated legislation to provide a stimulus to the economy from moving forward. Yet that didn't stop some hard-hit sectors from seeing nice gains today. Airlines and cruise lines were among some of the biggest winners, even as there's still plenty of uncertainty about whether provisions to help them will get through Congress and the White House.

Airlines make an offer. Can Congress refuse?

Several airline stocks gained altitude on Monday, with three of the four U.S. majors posting considerable gains. United Airlines Holdings (UAL 2.88%) led the way with a 7% gain, followed by Southwest Airlines(LUV 1.69%) 6% move higher and Delta Air Lines (DAL 1.90%) with a 4% rise. The moves reflected hope that a package of loans and grants might make it into the stimulus legislation, and airlines were willing to make concessions to woo lawmakers to support it.

Late Friday, Delta suspended its dividend effective immediately, in an effort to conserve cash among anticipated steep losses. With the airline spending $50 million daily and seeing revenue drop by 80% in the second quarter compared with the year-earlier period, Delta's clearly in a race to see if the industry can recover before it runs out of available cash and financing options. United warned that it might need to start layoffs in April without aid.

Delta aircraft in flight as seen from below, with blue sky and hazy clouds above.

Image source: Delta Air Lines.

As a sweetener, CEOs from the three airlines, along with those of several other airlines and air cargo carriers, pledged that if loans of at least $29 billion become available to the industry, then they'll stop buying back stock and paying dividends for as long as the loans are outstanding. That addressed concerns from opponents of the aid package, who'd pointed to the tens of billions of dollars in buybacks that they argue could've been available to get them through the current crisis.

Not all airline stocks gained ground today, though, with JetBlue (JBLU 1.91%) notably falling 4%. The more time goes by without a resolution, the harder it'll be for airlines not to make even more drastic changes to their operations to address the situation.


Along similar lines, several cruise ship operators also did well. Royal Caribbean (RCL 1.09%) picked up 18% on Monday, while Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH 1.89%) posted an 11% advance.

As with airlines, cruise lines are trying to deal with the nearly complete loss of revenue for their business amid the coronavirus pandemic. Some discussions in Congress have included cruise operators as potential aid recipients, but there's been more of a sense that they might have to find their own long-term solutions.

Royal Caribbean's move came after it found a $2.2 billion credit line to help it get more liquidity. Norwegian has also made efforts to shore up financing as it aims to make it through these tough times.

Again, though, the news wasn't all good in the industry. Carnival (CCL 1.97%) stock was unchanged, as stock analysts believe the company could see further declines before the COVID-19 outbreak gets resolved. With so much uncertainty, trying to call a bottom on either of these two industries is a risky proposition.

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Stocks Mentioned

Southwest Airlines Co. Stock Quote
Southwest Airlines Co.
$36.73 (1.69%) $0.61
Delta Air Lines, Inc. Stock Quote
Delta Air Lines, Inc.
$29.52 (1.90%) $0.55
United Airlines Holdings, Inc. Stock Quote
United Airlines Holdings, Inc.
$36.44 (2.88%) $1.02
Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Stock Quote
Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.
$35.29 (1.09%) $0.38
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. Stock Quote
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd.
$11.33 (1.89%) $0.21
Dow Jones Industrial Average (Price Return) Stock Quote
Dow Jones Industrial Average (Price Return)
$30,775.43 (0.00%) $0.00
S&P 500 Index - Price Return (USD) Stock Quote
S&P 500 Index - Price Return (USD)
$3,825.33 (1.05%) $39.95
NASDAQ Composite Index (Price Return) Stock Quote
NASDAQ Composite Index (Price Return)
$11,028.74 (0.00%) $0.00
Carnival Corporation Stock Quote
Carnival Corporation
$8.82 (1.97%) $0.17
JetBlue Airways Corporation Stock Quote
JetBlue Airways Corporation
$8.53 (1.91%) $0.16

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

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