What happened

President Trump thinks it's time to start thinking about "reopening the country." Stock investors are cautiously optimistic on the idea, and the S&P 500 was up a fraction of 1% as of 12:20 p.m. EDT on Thursday. But cruise stocks, including Carnival (NYSE:CCL), and Royal Caribbean Cruises (NYSE:RCL), were down 6.1% and 7.2%, respectively. Cruise reviewer TripAdvisor (NASDAQ:TRIP) was down as well, by 4.9%.

Collage showing a cruise ship, a man in a face mask and a microbe

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

Let's begin with the macroeconomic news. Globally, the coronavirus remains rampant, with Johns Hopkins University reporting nearly 2.1 million total cases of COVID-19 worldwide (640,000 in the U.S. alone), and nearly 140,000 deaths. Reports of new infections are also up for the second straight day, both in the U.S. and worldwide, after falling for three straight days previously.  

And this morning, the Department of Labor reported another 5.2 million new jobless claims in the past week, bringing the total to 22 million jobs lost over the last four weeks, nearly wiping out all the job gains since the Great Recession, according to NPR.  

None of which sounds particularly promising for stocks, or for a return to normalcy.

Meanwhile, cruise ship operators bring their own bad tidings. Last night, The Miami Herald reported that Royal Caribbean plans to lay off as much as 26% of its workforce. The company is keeping the lid on the details for now, the Herald says, because it wants "to speak directly with our employees first and will have further comment as details become available." But reportedly, the majority of the company's planned layoffs will be permanent, not temporary furloughs.  

Now what

It sounds very bad for the cruise industry in particular. If one company has come to the point where it's considering mass, permanent layoffs, you can be pretty certain that its rivals are as well.

Adding to investor worries, the website Business Insider reported last night that Royal Caribbean rival Carnival, which has already stated that several of its subsidiary cruise lines will be suspending operation through late June, may not be able to sail with full passenger loads even then. Carnival, the site says, is considering restricting the number of passengers who may board its ships, perhaps by as much as half, in order to make social distancing easier.  

Together, these developments bode ill for the cruise industry, and this includes not just the cruise operators themselves, but also companies like TripAdvisor, which depends on folks seeking information about which cruises to book. All three of these stocks are accordingly selling off today. 

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.