Shares of Boeing (BA 0.28%) lost 5.44% in April, according to data provided by S&P Global Market Intelligence, underperforming the S&P 500's 12.68% gain. While the broader market spent the month growing increasingly optimistic that the COVID-19 pandemic's impact on the economy might be short-lived, Boeing and the commercial aerospace sector had no such luck.
What happened to Boeing in April? The list is probably too long to type out, but almost all of it has to do with the pandemic and its chilling impact on the airline industry. Airlines that only two months ago were haggling to get ahead of each other to buy new Boeing planes are now in survival mode, cutting flights, grounding jets, and looking for ways to save money.
That all translates to less business for Boeing and puts its 4,000-plus backlog of orders in jeopardy. The company's shares lost nearly half of their value in March, and the news only got worse as the calendar flipped over to a new month.
In April alone, Boeing:
- Saw a major customer cancel part of its order for new jets.
- Pushed back its recertification target for the grounded 737 Max until the third quarter, meaning the plane will be out of the air for at least 18 more months.
- Walked away from a $4 billion deal for the commercial arm of Embraer, preserving cash but opening itself up to arbitration risk and potentially creating a hole in its product lineup that could take years to fill.
- Cut aircraft production rate targets into 2022.
- Reported a $1.35 billion first-quarter loss and warned the second quarter would be worse.
Boeing does have a defense business to fall back on, but commercial has been its cash cow for the better part of a decade and was responsible for the premium valuation assigned to the stock until recently. With the company predicting a multiyear time period before airplane demand will recover, investors saw little reason to stick around in the shares as the month dragged on.
Boeing shares are only down 5.6% through the first four days of May, and only trail the S&P 500 by about 2.5 percentage points so far in the month. Compared to previous months, that almost feels like a win.
On May 1, the company announced that following a successful $25 billion bond sale, it would not have to seek a government bailout for a liquidity cushion. Given that the government was likely to require equity warrants and other concessions in return for cash, that is a positive for shareholders.
It feels like Boeing shares, now down nearly 60% year to date, are nearing a bottom. But with key airline customers in no shape to buy planes, and likely not in a position to resume growth for years, there isn't much of a reason to get excited about the shares even at these depressed levels.