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Stock Market News: Amazon Dips, but Clorox Cleans Up

By Dan Caplinger – May 1, 2020 at 11:39AM

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Markets fell on new geopolitical concerns.

The stock market started off the month of May on a down note, as market participants reacted negatively to news from Washington. President Trump is reportedly looking at seeking to impose new tariffs on China, with accusations that essentially blamed the Asian country for the coronavirus pandemic. Shortly before 11 a.m. EDT, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI -0.86%) was down 388 points to 23,958. The S&P 500 (^GSPC -0.65%) lost 54 points to 2,859, while the Nasdaq Composite (^IXIC -0.25%) dropped 176 points to 8,714.

Amid growing geopolitical tension, earnings season continued for U.S. companies. (AMZN -0.27%) wasn't able to satisfy its shareholders completely, despite having impressive growth during the pandemic. Clorox (CLX -0.83%), however, got a better reception from its investors following good performance from its underlying business.

Amazon sales soar, but so do costs saw its shares fall 7% following the Thursday afternoon release of its first-quarter financial report. The numbers showed dramatic increases in coronavirus-related activity during the period, but they also reflected the new challenges of doing business under the pandemic's shadow.

Parking lot with rows of several dozen blue vans marked with Amazon Prime's light blue curved line logo.

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Revenue during the period jumped 26% from year-ago levels, with the company seeing boosts in demand for online shopping, video streaming, and cloud computing services during the pandemic. However, operating expenses soared at an even faster 29% rate, including a 30% jump in Amazon's cost of sales and substantial increases in fulfillment and marketing expenses. That caused operating income to fall year over year, and earnings of $5.01 per share were down from more than $7 per share a year ago.

Amazon doesn't see those costs going away anytime soon. CEO Jeff Bezos detailed plans to obtain personal protective equipment for employees as well as obtaining equipment like thermometers and thermal cameras to conduct its own tests for COVID-19 exposure. Those measures could cost $4 billion in the second quarter alone.

Shareholders didn't react well to that figure, but Amazon still sees strong growth persisting into the second quarter. A lot of ailing companies would kill to be in Amazon's position despite the ongoing challenges that the e-commerce giant will face.

A clean bill of health for Clorox

Clorox stock fared better, with shares rising 4% Friday morning. The maker of bleach and other household goods has seen rising demand during the pandemic, and the latest earnings report gave even more evidence of that tailwind for the consumer products giant.

Clorox saw sales jump 15% in its fiscal third quarter compared to year-earlier levels. That helped push the company's bottom line up by more than 30% year over year, with gains in all of the company's business segments. Sales volumes jumped 18%, and Clorox was able to improve its gross margin by focusing on cost reductions in addition to high demand.

As many expected, cleaning products saw the biggest gains. Segment sales soared 32%, resulting in a better than 70% jump in pre-tax income. Clorox saw solid gains in its lifestyle food, water, and dietary supplements business as well, and the consumer products company also fared well in its international markets.

Shareholders were pleased to see boosts to full-year guidance from Clorox, with sales gains expected to come in between 6% and 8% compared to previous projections of just 1% growth. As long as people keep needing the essential consumer products the company makes, Clorox can expect to keep prospering.

John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Dan Caplinger has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon and recommends the following options: short January 2022 $1940 calls on Amazon and long January 2022 $1920 calls on Amazon. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Stocks Mentioned, Inc. Stock Quote, Inc.
$120.62 (-0.27%) $0.33
Clorox Stock Quote
$130.60 (-0.83%) $-1.09
Dow Jones Industrial Average (Price Return) Stock Quote
Dow Jones Industrial Average (Price Return)
$30,012.68 (-0.86%) $-261.19
S&P 500 Index - Price Return (USD) Stock Quote
S&P 500 Index - Price Return (USD)
$3,758.85 (-0.65%) $-24.43
NASDAQ Composite Index (Price Return) Stock Quote
NASDAQ Composite Index (Price Return)
$11,121.00 (-0.25%) $-27.64

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

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