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Why FedEx Shares Dropped 14.1% in March Despite a Hint of Optimism

By Neha Chamaria – Apr 7, 2020 at 3:35PM

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What does FedEx stock's sharp recovery in the latter half of March mean for investors?

What happened

Shares of FedEx (FDX 5.06%) fell 14.1% in the month of March, according to data provided by S&P Global Market Intelligence.

The stock's graph, though, presents an incredibly interesting picture: FedEx fell sharply until March 17, when it reversed course just as swiftly to gain an eye-popping 27.7% through the end of March. So what's with FedEx's roller-coaster ride?

So what

A lot happened in March, and it was a jumble. The U.S. government's $2 trillion stimulus package dissipated some of investors' fears about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on FedEx's operations, even as the company withdrew its 2020 outlook.

A globe surrounded by cardboard packages

Image source: Getty Images.

Earlier in March, the rapid global spread of the novel coronavirus, followed by governmental restrictions on the movement of goods and people in different regions, spooked investors in transportation stocks as fears of a slowdown and recession rattled markets.

Shipping stocks, in particular, were in the line of fire as COVID-19 hit global trade hard, slowing down manufacturing activity, which directly affects freight volumes for freight and logistics providers. It was a double blow for FedEx, which had ended 2019 on a somber note and was banking on 2020 for recovery.

On March 17, FedEx reported its third-quarter numbers, which beat analysts' estimates, and saw the stock hit bottom for the month. Specifically, a 3% year-over-year growth in FedEx's revenue -- largely on the back of a newly launched program -- aroused hopes among investors.

FDX Chart

FDX data by YCharts.

In January, FedEx launched its seven-day residential delivery program, which not only adds an extra day of delivery but also gives the company a much-needed headway in last-mile delivery -- a crucial growth area for freight and logistics companies right now. The program boosted FedEx Ground's volumes and revenue substantially in Q3.

To top that, a $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package from the White House and Congress, announced toward the end of March, was the perfect excuse for the market to turn bullish about FedEx -- it spurred hopes of minimal damage to the transportation industry and a faster recovery.

Now what

Amid the coronavirus uncertainty, FedEx withdrew its 2020 guidance of adjusted earnings of $10.25 to $11.50 per share. The company continues to make tough decisions: On April 3, FedEx said it was slashing CEO Fred Smith's salary by 91% from April 1 to Sept. 30, and drawing $1.5 billion in credit to maintain the strength of its balance sheet; its business-to-business (B2B) demand has suffered globally, and demand in key markets like Europe has fallen sharply.

Given the present global situation, it appears FedEx shareholders will need a lot more conviction to see the stock rise from here.

Neha Chamaria has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends FedEx. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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