The stock market appeared to be taking the surge in COVID-19 cases seriously on Wednesday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI 2.80%) was down about 2.8% at 1:45 p.m. EDT. Confirmed cases and hospitalizations are rising in many states, raising fears that new stay-at-home orders will be necessary.
Sinking along with the market were Apple (AAPL 2.56%) and Boeing (BA 5.92%). Apple stock was down after Politico reported that an antitrust suit against the tech giant was in the works, and Boeing stock was likely hit by COVID-19 fears.
Apple may face antitrust probe
Politico reported on Wednesday that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and various state attorneys general were moving toward launching an antitrust probe of Apple. The issue at hand is Apple's control over the App Store.
Politico's sources indicated that the DOJ and the attorneys general have spoken to multiple companies that are unhappy with Apple's App Store policies. On Apple's mobile devices, the App Store is the only way to download apps. Apple takes a cut of sales, and it has policies in place to prevent apps from avoiding those fees.
Another complaint from developers is the inconsistency of how Apple applies its rules, especially when it comes to apps that compete with Apple's first-party apps. Music streaming giant Spotify, which competes with Apple's music streaming app, has previously filed a complaint.
Last week, the European Commission began two antitrust investigations into Apple. The first is related to how Apple treats competitors like Spotify, and the second is related to the company's mobile payments service.
The worst-case scenario for Apple would be a breakup of the company. That's not unthinkable. A judge ordered Microsoft to be broken up after the company lost its antitrust suit twenty years ago, but that order was later thrown out by a federal appeals court. More likely, Apple may be forced to change its business model around the App Store, which could hurt the bottom line. Apple stock was down 1.5% by Wednesday afternoon.
Boeing sinks as COVID-19 flares up
Shares of Boeing were down around 5.6% in the afternoon. There was some company-specific news: The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has finalized a directive requiring airlines to complete inspections of a component on Boeing's 737 Max airplane that could lead to a loss of engine power. However, the surge in COVID-19 cases in various states is likely the driving force behind the decline.
Boeing needs demand for air travel to rebound. In a scenario where air travel remains significantly depressed for a long time, some of Boeing's airline customers may be forced to declare bankruptcy. While air travel has been picking up recently, a resurgent virus may put an end to the recovery.
On Wednesday, the states of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut announced that visitors from certain hotspots will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days. These hotspots include Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Washington. The European Union is also prepared to ban American travelers due to the surge in U.S. cases, The New York Times reported.
None of this bodes well for the air travel industry. If more states adopt mandatory quarantines, the nascent recovery in air travel demand could come to an end. Boeing stock has soared since bottoming out in March, but investors may be underestimating the pandemic risk that remains.