Thursday morning brought mixed moves from investors on Wall Street as they tried to digest countervailing views of the economy.
Jobless claims came in at 4.4 million when you add up both state and coronavirus-related federal assistance, and there's still a lot of concern about how quickly the tens of millions of newly unemployed workers in recent months will be able to get jobs again once the economy reopens.
Yet investors still seem to have some confidence in the federal government's efforts to restore economic growth. Just before 10:45 a.m. EDT on Thursday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) was up 8 points to 24,582. However, the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^SPX) fell 11 points to 2,961, however, and the Nasdaq Composite (NASDAQINDEX:^COMP) gave back 62 points to 9,314.
Market participants are still looking closely at some key industries, and among the ones getting the most attention are marijuana and airlines. Aurora Cannabis (NYSE:ACB) has been in the news a lot lately, and it made a strategic move that caused its stock to soar Thursday. Meanwhile, United Airlines Holdings (NASDAQ:UAL) continued to gain altitude as carriers aim to find a pathway toward getting passengers back into the skies.
Aurora heads south of the border
Shares of Aurora Cannabis jumped 26% on Thursday morning. The Canadian cannabis company has struggled lately, but investors are excited about something that Aurora has contemplated for a long time now: moving into the U.S. market.
Aurora announced late Wednesday that it had agreed to buy U.S. hemp-derived CBD specialist Reliva, paying $40 million in stock, with the potential for Reliva's owners to earn up to $45 million more if the U.S. company reaches defined financial targets. Aurora sees the deal closing relatively quickly, setting a June time frame.
The purchase of the Massachusetts-based CBD company should immediately boost Aurora's adjusted pre-tax operating earnings, thanks to Reliva's positive EBITDA over the past 12 months. The combination of leadership teams should help Aurora in its strategy to enter the U.S. market, creating what it called the "leading global cannabinoid platform."
Skeptics won't hesitate to note that Aurora didn't waste any time taking advantage of the rise in its share price to do a stock-based deal. Yet with the promise that the U.S. hemp and cannabis markets have, doing a deal was essential for Aurora to keep pace with rivals that have already started tapping into the market south of the U.S.-Canadian border.
Continuing its ascent
United Airlines Holdings saw its stock rise another 5% early Thursday, adding to gains from earlier in the week. The airline industry is working toward reassuring passengers that the skies are safe for flying, and evidence shows that many people have pent-up travel demand that they're itching to satisfy.
United specifically told its passengers what they should expect from the airline once operations return to normal. There will be enhanced safety guidelines that travelers will have to follow, such as requiring face coverings, adjusting seat-selection practices, and boarding fewer people at a time. United has also created a partnership with Clorox (NYSE:CLX) to enhance its disinfecting and cleaning processes in the hope of preventing the spread of coronavirus.
Investors shouldn't expect change to come overnight. Even domestically, states are only now starting to reopen nonessential businesses, even in areas that have seen relatively low incidence of COVID-19 cases. United relies on international travel as well, and the prospects of borders reopening soon seem slim.
Nevertheless, airline shareholders are pleased to see United and its peers making some progress. It might not come as quickly as everyone would like, but United's strategy appears to have promise for restoring confidence in the long run.