The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) was down 0.9% at 12:55 p.m. EDT on Thursday after some rough economic numbers were released. U.S. gross domestic product tumbled 32.9% on an annualized basis in the second quarter, the worst decline since records began being kept in 1947.
While the economy has improved as states reopened, the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits is beginning to tick up again. Initial unemployment claims rose slightly to 1.42 million for the week ended July 25, a sign that the recovery may be stagnating as COVID-19 surges across the country.
Contributing to the Dow's weak performance was ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM). Exxon releases results on Friday, but the stock was down on a report that the oil company is planning major cost cuts to keep its dividend intact. Moving in the opposite direction was Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG), which enjoyed a sales boost due to the pandemic.
Exxon aims to maintain dividend
Reuters reported on Thursday that oil major ExxonMobil is planning to implement significant cost cuts, including layoffs, in an effort to preserve its dividend. With the stock tumbling this year, Exxon's dividend yield currently sits around 8%.
These reported cost cuts come as Exxon grapples with monstrous losses due to weak oil prices and depressed demand. The company posted a net loss of $610 million in the first quarter, and analysts are expecting that loss to grow to around $2.6 billion in the second quarter. Exxon is scheduled to report its second-quarter results before the market opens on Friday.
The company has raised its dividend annually for 37 years in a row, but it may be unable to keep that streak alive given the scope of its losses. If Exxon maintains its current dividend for all four quarters this year, it will pay out around $15 billion to investors. The company raised $9.5 billion by selling bonds in April to shore up its balance sheet.
With cases of COVID-19 surging in many states, the pandemic is unlikely to be over anytime soon. That raises the prospect of a prolonged period of weak oil demand, which could make it difficult for Exxon to avoid a dividend cut.
Shares of Exxon were down about 4.2% by early Thursday afternoon. The stock has lost about 37% of its value this year.
Procter & Gamble beats estimates
Total revenue was up 4% to $17.7 billion for Procter & Gamble in the fiscal fourth quarter, beating analyst estimates by $730 million. Organic sales were up 6%, driven by strong sales of fabric and home-care products. Organic volume was up 8% for the category, while organic sales surged 14%. Within that category, home-care organic sales jumped 30% due to strong demand for home-cleaning and dishwashing products.
Adjusted earnings per share came in at $1.16, up 5% year over year and $0.15 better than analysts were expecting. Adjusted gross margin was up 210 basis points due to productivity savings, commodity cost decreases, and pricing improvements.
For fiscal 2021, Procter & Gamble expects total revenue to grow by 1% to 3%, with organic revenue expected to grow by 2% to 4%. Adjusted EPS is expected to grow by 3% to 7% compared with 2020. This outlook includes the impacts of currency headwinds and lower commodity costs.
Procter & Gamble stock carved out a new 52-week high on Thursday, up 2.8% by early afternoon. The pandemic has hurt parts of Procter & Gamble's business; the grooming segment suffered a 4% volume decline in the fourth quarter, for example. But overall, it appears to be a net positive for the consumer goods company.