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Dow Jones News: ExxonMobil Cuts Spending; Baseball Could Return to TV in May

By Timothy Green – Apr 7, 2020 at 1:48PM

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Exxon is slashing investments and reducing operating costs amid the pandemic, and Disney's ESPN may have live sports to air as early as next month.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI -0.10%) attempted to extend the rally on Tuesday, with the index up 3.1% by 12:30 p.m. EDT. Some early signs that the spread of the novel coronavirus in the U.S. is beginning to slow thanks to social distancing measures may be giving investors a reason to be optimistic.

The number of cases and deaths from the virus will continue to rise in the coming weeks, and the extent of the economic impact is still to be determined. So far, there are over 375,000 confirmed cases and over 11,800 deaths from the virus in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University.

Rallying hard on Tuesday were ExxonMobil (XOM 4.18%) and Disney (DIS -1.21%). Exxon was up after the oil major announced significant cuts to capital investments and operating costs, while Disney rose after a report of a possible May start to the MLB season.

ExxonMobil cuts spending

Oil prices are depressed due to a combination of oversupply and weak demand stemming from the novel coronavirus pandemic. On Tuesday, oil major ExxonMobil announced plans to slash both capital spending and operating expenses in response to the difficult environment. The stock was up 5.4% by early afternoon.

An oil derrick at sunset

OVID;JImage source: Getty Images.

Exxon now expects to spend about $23 billion on capital investments in 2020, down from a previous outlook of $33 billion. The company will also cut cash operating expenses by 15%, driven partly by increased efficiencies and expected lower energy costs. The most significant capital spending cuts will be in the Permian Basin.

Despite the deep reduction in capital spending, Exxon still expects to meet various longer-term targets. The company still sees $20 billion going into U.S. Gulf Coast manufacturing facilities as part of a 2017 initiative, and it expects total U.S. investment over five years starting in 2018 to reach the proposed $50 billion.

In the long run, Exxon CEO Darren Woods expects demand for energy to grow once the crisis is over: "The long-term fundamentals that underpin the company's business plans have not changed -- population and energy demand will grow, and the economy will rebound."

While Exxon stock rallied on Tuesday, shares of the energy giant remain about 49% below their 52-week high.

Possible baseball in May good for Disney's ESPN

Disney's ESPN reported on Tuesday that Major League Baseball is working on a plan to start the season as early as May. Some high-ranking federal public health officials support the plan, according to ESPN's sources.

The plan involves all 30 MLB teams playing games at stadiums in the Phoenix area, with no fans. Stadiums would include the home of the Arizona Diamondbacks as well as spring training facilities and possibly other nearby fields. Players and staff would be sequestered in hotels, traveling only to and from the stadiums.

The possible return of baseball to TV would be good news for ESPN. With professional sports shut down in the U.S. due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the cable sports network has lost its main source of programming. Without the draw of live sports, the revenue hit from lost advertising opportunities is significant. An analyst at MoffettNathanson estimates Disney could lose $481 million in ad revenue from the shutdown of the NBA alone.

This loss of sports advertising revenue is only one of Disney's problems. The company's U.S. parks are closed indefinitely as the pandemic continues to spread, and movie releases are being postponed. Most of Disney's empire is suffering due to the pandemic.

A return of baseball to TV in May would help Disney regain some lost revenue, and it could draw more viewers than usual if fans are hungry for live sports. Shares of Disney were up 4.9% by early afternoon, but the stock is still down around 32% from its 52-week high.

Timothy Green has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Walt Disney and recommends the following options: long January 2021 $60 calls on Walt Disney and short April 2020 $135 calls on Walt Disney. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Walt Disney Stock Quote
Walt Disney
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ExxonMobil Stock Quote
$99.25 (4.18%) $3.98
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Dow Jones Industrial Average (Price Return)
$30,287.44 (-0.10%) $-28.88

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