What happened

Shares of AMC Networks (NASDAQ:AMCX), Roku (NASDAQ:ROKU), and Live Nation Entertainment (NYSE:LYV) were all over the map on a down day for the S&P 500 and Dow, with AMC Networks down 10%, Roku up 17%, and Live Nation up 10%.

So what

Stocks maintained their decline Monday as policymakers continue to negotiate an economic stimulus package, which has been blocked for a second time in 24 hours. Meanwhile, the COVID-19 coronavirus continues to spread, with roughly 40,000 cases in the U.S. and almost 500 deaths  as of Monday afternoon. Entertainment stocks have been sold off with the broader markets, but not always in predictable patterns, as you can see with AMC, Roku, and Live Nation.

^SPX Chart

^SPX data by YCharts.

Roku's 17% jump Monday does make some sense. If policymakers can't agree on a stimulus bill and economic aid is delayed, or the outbreak becomes more damaging than anticipated, more Americans will opt to stay in and avoid restaurants, concerts, and theaters, among other diversions. That scenario would likely boost Roku's hours viewed and advertising revenue.

Live Nation Entertainment's 10% jump Monday makes a little less sense. The entertainment company depends largely on concert revenue, concert attendance, and other event-related revenue streams to drive growth. The COVID-19 coronavirus has thrown a huge wrench into that business in the near term as health officials continue to advise against large gatherings, and many concerts, tours, and other large events are postponed or canceled. On the bright side, management believes the company has enough flexibility to reschedule many of the concerts and festivals that were postponed during March.

AMC Networks' decline is also somewhat of a head-scratcher (other than it could simply be a case of following broader markets lower) since the stock has previously bounced higher when media stocks or streaming companies such as Roku rise. The entertainment company is known for delivering content to audiences across its national networks, so it should stand to benefit as many families find themselves working at home and spending more time there. Investors could still be cautious from the company's mixed fourth-quarter results, but you could argue the stock has been oversold if you believe in its long-term business.

Now what

Today is simply a lesson of volatility and uncertainty: Stocks are going to have wild and often unexplainable pops and drops in the near term. It's uncertain how long the world will deal with COVID-19, and it's uncertain to what degree it will hurt global economies. For many entertainment stocks, this slowing economy due to social distancing and consumers focusing on necessities (rather than discretionary spending) is going to be rough. Markets have historically bounced back from downturns, terrorist attacks, and other outbreaks, but investors must be wise about investing in companies with strong balance sheets that can weather the storm without outside help or aid.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.