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Will the S&P 500's 3 Biggest Losers in 2020 Ever Recover?

By Dan Caplinger – Jul 7, 2020 at 6:29AM

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Two of these companies have something in common.

The coronavirus bear market was brutal to stocks early in the year, but the S&P 500 (^GSPC -1.02%) managed to recover much of its lost ground during the second quarter. With the help of some high-flying technology and biotech companies, the S&P is down just 4% at the midway point in 2020.

However, there've been plenty of companies that took huge hits from the COVID-19 pandemic that haven't bounced back. Let's take a closer look at the three S&P stocks with the worst performance so far in 2020 to see if they have a fighting chance to recover.

^SPX Chart

^SPX data by YCharts.

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, down 73%, and Carnival, down 69%

The cruise ship industry has come to a standstill because of the pandemic, and the major stocks in the industry have borne the brunt of the impact. Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH 0.53%) and Carnival (CCL -6.06%) have been the two worst performers in the S&P 500 year to date, and Royal Caribbean Cruises (RCL 1.26%) just barely missed out on making it a clean sweep, finishing No. 4 just a few percentage points out of the top three.

The primary problem for both Norwegian and Carnival is that their ships haven't been able to operate in the aftermath of the coronavirus crisis. Even as airlines and other travel options have started to open up, cruise ships remain subject to a no-sail order in the U.S., and many other countries aren't allowing cruises to operate in their territorial waters either. Having already lost key parts of the winter and spring seasons, neither Norwegian nor Carnival expects any significant activity in the summer, and even some fall itineraries have already fallen by the wayside.

Two deck chairs on a wood deck on a cruise ship, with wake and sunset in background.

Image source: Getty Images.

The problem for investors in the cruise ship stocks is that the companies have all had to take drastic measures in order to raise the capital necessary to handle fixed costs during their respective shutdowns. Through a combination of convertible debt and equity, Norwegian, Carnival, and Royal Caribbean have all had to dilute their previous shareholders. Moreover, even the straight debt that the companies have taken on comes with high interest rates that will put pressure on profits for years to come. At this point, it's hard to see how cruise stocks will get back to their previous levels even if a long-term solution to COVID-19 comes in the near future.

TechnipFMC, down 66%

The energy industry  has also taken a big hit from COVID-19. Lockdowns in many areas kept workers from commuting, and that created a massive glut of supply that proved disastrous for crude oil prices. Briefly, oil futures went negative, and that made for its own set of challenges as investors dealt with a situation that had never happened before.

Low oil prices aren't just bad for exploration and production companies. They're also bad for the supporting businesses that help those E&P players. TechnipFMC (FTI 4.43%) is one of the biggest engineer and manufacturing contractors serving the oil and gas industry, and it needs healthy energy markets in order to drive the demand for its services. That demand has been sorely absent for TechnipFMC in recent months. Moreover, there's little reason to expect that it'll come back quickly -- even as oil prices have started to move back upward to $40 per barrel. Unless crude can produce a lasting bull market, tough times could continue for TechnipFMC.

Expect more pressure

It's possible that the S&P 500 will continue to regain its lost ground, especially if its stronger components carry most of the weight. Unfortunately, investors can't expect too much from TechnipFMC or the cruise ship stocks. Even if they claw back some of their losses, they're nevertheless likely to see ongoing pressure to their fundamental businesses.

Dan Caplinger has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Carnival. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Stocks Mentioned

Carnival Corporation Stock Quote
Carnival Corporation
$6.98 (-6.06%) $0.45
TechnipFMC Stock Quote
$9.67 (4.43%) $0.41
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Stock Quote
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings
$13.29 (0.53%) $0.07
S&P 500 Index - Price Return (USD) Stock Quote
S&P 500 Index - Price Return (USD)
$3,744.52 (-1.02%) $-38.76
Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Stock Quote
Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.
$44.02 (1.26%) $0.55

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

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