Major benchmarks gave up early gains on Thursday morning, as investors remained of two minds with respect to the potential for a recovery from the coronavirus pandemic's economic ill effects. Stocks in the Nasdaq Composite (NASDAQINDEX:^IXIC) were down slightly more than broader-based indexes, with the Composite dropping almost 1% shortly after 11:45 a.m. EDT. The Nasdaq 100 Index was similarly down by nearly 1%.

Among notable stocks in the Nasdaq 100, Ross Stores (NASDAQ:ROST) saw a nice gain as investors hoped that the discount apparel retailer would be able to follow in the footsteps of one of its closest industry peers. For Expedia Group (NASDAQ:EXPE), however, the news wasn't nearly as good, with the online travel company's latest quarterly report raising at least as many new questions as it answered.

Will Ross rock retail?

Ross Stores saw its shares gain 4% Thursday morning, falling back from as much as a 10% advance early in the session. The retailer won't report its latest earnings until after the market closes this afternoon, but investors are getting a head start on placing their bets after having seen the results from a close competitor.

TJX (NYSE:TJX) posted its first-quarter report Thursday morning, and the stock of the company behind the T.J. Maxx and Marshalls lines of discount retailers climbed 5% after the news. To be clear, the numbers were ugly: Sales plunged by more than half from year-ago levels. TJX also posted significant losses for the period. However, TJX said it started reopening stores on May 4, and it has seen encouraging sales performance from stores that have been operating for at least a week.

Storefront for Ross without any people.

Image source: Ross Stores.

Ross Stores is likely to show similar massive declines in sales, but along with TJX, discount retail is likely to see some tailwinds once stores start to reopen in earnest. Hard-hit consumers won't be able to afford full-price items, giving the off-price retailers like Ross and TJX a competitive advantage. Ross and TJX are also likely to get a lot of new inventory from full-price retailers that couldn't sell items during their own store closures.

Ross investors won't get the final results until after the market closes Thursday afternoon. However, based on TJX's optimism, Ross is in position to mount a recovery if economic conditions -- and shoppers -- can cooperate to help retail companies bounce back.

Staying closer to home

Shares of Expedia Group were down 5% following the company's release of first-quarter financial results. Given how hard the travel industry has gotten hit by the novel coronavirus pandemic, it wasn't a big shock to see how ugly Expedia's numbers turned out.

Revenue at Expedia fell 15% from year-ago levels, resulting in an adjusted net loss that was more than six times worse than it was in the first quarter of 2019. Room nights booked were down 14% year over year, helping to send gross bookings for the period down almost 40%. Both Expedia's retail and business-to-business segments posted double-digit percentage declines, and March saw gross bookings actually turn negative as the volume of cancellations exceeded new bookings for travel. Air travel revenue plunged by more than half, but lodging-related sales were down 10% year over year as well.

Stock analysts piled on with negative comments following the report. Evercore ISI downgraded the stock, highlighting the online travel company's assertion that the second quarter will continue to have challenges and might not see an immediate recovery even as the economy starts to reopen.

Travel stocks in some areas have started to rebound, and in the long run, people will start to travel again. For now, though, Expedia can expect to keep seeing tough conditions for at least the next several months, and that could try the patience of long-term investors.

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.