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How FedEx and Constellation Brands Lifted the Whole Stock Market Wednesday

By Dan Caplinger – Jul 1, 2020 at 12:21PM

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Earnings are still important, and these two companies delivered.

Wednesday morning began another good day for Wall Street, as major market benchmarks managed to claw upward by modest amounts. Investors have seemed complacent even in the face of rising COVID-19 case counts, and they've instead focused squarely on signs of economic recovery. Just after 11 a.m. EDT, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI -0.12%) was up 57 points to 25,870. The S&P 500 (^GSPC -0.16%) gained 14 points to 3,115, and the Nasdaq Composite (^IXIC -0.45%) picked up 61 points to 10,121.

Today's the beginning of the third quarter, and although earnings season won't begin in earnest for another couple weeks, market participants got a peek at current conditions from a couple of important companies. FedEx (FDX 0.28%) often acts as a bellwether for the global economy, as it takes financially healthy businesses and consumers to ship goods from place to place. Constellation Brands (STZ -0.10%) has a much different view, but the beer and spirits giant has a useful perspective on how people are dealing with the pressures of the pandemic.

Delivering the goods

FedEx stock soared 13% after the delivery company reported its fiscal fourth-quarter and full-year 2020 results. Although the negative impact from the coronavirus pandemic was evident, there were some good signs in the report as well.

Several FedEx planes on an airport ramp, with a mostly cloudy sky behind

Image source: FedEx.

Revenue for the quarter was down about 2% from year-ago levels, and earnings fell by roughly half on an adjusted basis. For the year, revenue of $69.2 billion was down less than 1% from fiscal 2019's figures, but earnings per share took a nearly 40% hit year over year. FedEx said that it had to pay about $125 million in expenses during the quarter in order to take measures to protect workers, including personal protective equipment and enhanced cleaning procedures.

Yet even though FedEx didn't see growth, investors were still happy that the results were as good as they were. With low expectations, even these somewhat lackluster numbers were better than those following the stock had anticipated.

Market participants shouldn't really take FedEx's results as much of a sign of confidence in the overall economy, since the shipping giant refused to give guidance for fiscal 2021 because of coronavirus-related uncertainty. Nevertheless, the news could've been much worse, and today's move in FedEx stock seems to be a collective sigh of relief for those investing in transportation stocks .

Feeling the high?

Elsewhere, Constellation Brands saw its stock rise 8%. The beer and spirits purveyor also came under pressure recently, but its results gave confidence in its ability to stay the course through tough times.

Constellation's fiscal first-quarter results were mixed. Net sales were down 6% from year-earlier levels, reflecting some of the challenges in logistics during the pandemic. However, earnings per share rose 4% year over year.

Constellation did well to overcome many of the headwinds it faced. The slowdown in beer production in Mexico sent shipment volumes for its beer segment down 7%, resulting in a 6% segment sales decline. Wine and spirits saw even steeper drops in shipments of 13%. The company's stake in marijuana company Canopy Growth also hit Constellation's bottom line, costing it $0.14 per share.

However, beer depletion rates, which reflect actual consumption, rose during the period. With Mexican beer production returning to normal levels in June, Constellation sees better times ahead, and recent strategic moves to streamline its business and concentrate on its best core opportunities could continue to lift the spirits of investors along with the share price.

Dan Caplinger has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Constellation Brands and FedEx. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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