The stock market rally finally took a break on Wednesday morning, with major benchmarks falling as a host of worries plagued investors. Continued rising COVID-19 case counts and a downgrade of global economic growth prospects made market participants think twice about the bullish case that has helped send some indexes higher by 30% to 50% since March. Just before 11 a.m. EDT, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI -1.62%) was down 507 points to 25,649. The S&P 500 (^GSPC -1.72%) fell 56 points to 3,076, and the Nasdaq Composite (^IXIC -1.80%) gave up 145 points to 9,986.
Amid the tough conditions in the market, you might think that the companies that have seen their stocks drop the most recently would continue falling. Yet for rental car giant Hertz Global Holdings (HTZG.Q) and Chinese coffee company Luckin Coffee (LKNC.Y -5.12%), Wednesday brought significant gains as shareholders looked for hope for their respective businesses to recover fully from their recent challenges.
Could Hertz find car buyers?
Shares of Hertz Global Holdings soared as much as 70% Wednesday morning, reversing much of the stock's losses in recent days. Although Hertz has filed for bankruptcy, the rental car company has still attracted attention from investors who seem to believe that there might be something left for current shareholders even after paying off all of the company's creditors.
The latest speculation came from stock analysts at Jefferies, who suggested that Hertz might find active bidders for some of its most prized assets. In particular, Jefferies believes that CarMax (KMX -0.35%) or AutoNation (AN -0.03%) might choose to bid for a substantial portion of Hertz's rental car fleet, and that could pump billions of dollars of cash into the company to pay off debt.
There are still some problems with that bull case, though. Even if CarMax and AutoNation are interested in purchasing the vehicles, they're likely to seek out the best deals they can find, and that probably means that Hertz won't come close to realizing full value for its fleet. Remember, much of what sent Hertz into bankruptcy in the first place was that its loss of business during the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in its marking down the value of its vehicles.
Even if Hertz finds reasonable buyers from the auto dealer community for some of its cars, it doesn't mean it'll be able to restructure its debt in a way that prevents shareholders from losing everything. The risk here remains remains high.
Luckin heats up despite likely delisting
Luckin Coffee's gains weren't quite as impressive as Hertz's, but a 16% rise in the stock was still noteworthy. The move reclaimed most of the ground that Luckin lost after yesterday's latest announcement from the Nasdaq stock market.
Luckin's stock had fallen dramatically on Tuesday after the Nasdaq cited the coffee company's failure to file its 2019 annual report as an additional reason supporting the stock market's call to delist Luckin's shares. The company replied that its internal investigation of accounting practices, combined with delays related to the pandemic, have prevented it from filing in accordance with normal Nasdaq rules.
A couple things could be helping Luckin today, however. One is the hope that investment banking specialist Houlihan Lokey could help Luckin work its way through its current crisis, as the bank is familiar with companies in financial distress. The other is the realization that at this point, Luckin is facing a binary event in the results from its internal investigations, making its stock essentially a lottery play. If the business isn't viable, then the stock could fall to zero quickly. If it is viable, then there could be significant upside -- even if investors have to trade over-the-counter in order to claim it.
When markets fall, it's important to look critically at stocks that are bucking the trend. Although some have fundamental advantages that justify their outperformance, others will merely have attracted speculation without necessarily any strong reason to believe in a long-term turnaround.