An early gain was wiped out by late Thursday morning for the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI). The Dow was down about 0.5% at 11:05 a.m. EDT, with a strong performance from Boeing (NYSE:BA) unable to push the index higher. Uncertainty surrounding the reopening of the U.S. economy continues to weigh on investors' minds.
Boeing stock was up on Thursday thanks to some optimism from an analyst. While demand for air travel is close to nonexistent right now, a strong recovery over the next few years is expected. Meanwhile, shares of McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) headed lower following a report on the scope of the company's efforts to help franchisees.
Boeing upgraded on recovery potential
Shares of beleaguered airplane manufacturer Boeing have dragged down the Dow this year as the company struggled with two separate crises. First, the grounding of the 737 Max put a strain on Boeing's finances and marred its reputation. Second, the pandemic has decimated demand for air travel and led airlines to pull back on orders and deliveries. Boeing stock is down more than 60% from its 52-week high, with much of that decline happening in the past few months.
On Thursday, Boeing switched roles and was the primary stock working to keep the Dow afloat. The stock was up about 5% in the morning, boosted by a positive analyst opinion. Analyst Michael Eisen of RBC initiated Boeing with an "outperform" rating and attached a $164 price target to the stock.
Eisen admits there's plenty of uncertainty hanging over the company. The 737 Max has yet to be recertified to carry passengers, and the airline industry is in shambles as consumers stay away from airports amid the pandemic.
But Eisen sees a silver lining: He expects passenger demand to grow at a high double-digit rate for multiple years, which he sees pushing the stock higher. It's the classic "things are so bad right now that they can only get better" argument. Eisen also expects the 737 Max to gain recertification in the third quarter, with production of the troubled plane ramping up to nine per month by the end of the year.
It's almost a given that passenger demand will grow from the currently depressed level. But if demand for air travel remains below pre-pandemic levels for years, airlines may be hesitant to order or take delivery of new planes for quite some time. A recovery in airplane demand could very well lag a recovery in passenger demand, which would be bad news for Boeing.
While Boeing stock is down big in recent months, the stock has already rebounded strongly from its pandemic low. Shares of Boeing are up about 60% since bottoming out in March.
McDonald's expects franchisees to need a lot of help
Almost all of McDonald's U.S. locations are franchised. This frees the fast-food giant from having to operate the vast majority of its restaurants, but it also means that those restaurants are not as financially stable as McDonald's itself.
On Wednesday afternoon, Bloomberg reported that McDonald's has set aside $40 million to support franchisees that have been hit hard by the pandemic. The aid will be on a case-by-case basis. The company has already been deferring cash collections to ease liquidity issues for its franchisees.
While McDonald's is willing to provide some help for franchisees, this is not a blank-check situation. In a call last week, McDonald's U.S. President Joe Erlinger suggested that some franchisees should consider selling locations or seeking other alternatives.
McDonald's is better suited for the current environment than many other restaurant chains, given its pre-pandemic focus on drive-thru. But sales have still taken a big hit. In March, U.S. comparable sales were down 13.4%. That sales trend was expected to continue into April.
Shares of McDonald's were down 0.8% Thursday morning. The stock is about 18% below its 52-week high.