Market participants have looked closely at how the coronavirus pandemic has spread across the U.S., with many new states that weren't initially hotspots having moved into the limelight in recent weeks. However, investors today seemed to look on the bright side, as at least some trends have suggested that those new moves higher might finally be peaking. That sent markets upward after a brief decline near the open. Just after 11 a.m. EDT, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) was up 130 points to 26,794. The S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) had risen 8 points to 3,302, and the Nasdaq Composite (NASDAQINDEX:^IXIC) had gained 12 points to 10,915.
The move higher on Wall Street came even though some companies announced news that wasn't entirely in line with an upbeat mood. Oil giant BP (NYSE:BP) finally did something that shareholders had feared for some time was inevitable. Meanwhile, Virgin Galactic Holdings (NYSE:SPCE) announced its latest quarterly results, sending the stock sharply lower despite some hopes for the future.
BP slashes its dividend
Shares of BP were up 7% Tuesday morning. That's an unusual reaction after a company gives what many would see as bad news, but investors seemed to like the acknowledgement that the oil giant faces significant challenges ahead.
The second-quarter numbers from BP were truly ugly. The oil giant reported a massive $16.8 billion loss for the quarter, which included huge asset impairments and write-offs stemming from adverse conditions in the oil patch. Operationally, underlying production eased higher by 1% as BP emphasized major projects, but the unit has delayed its exploration and appraisal activities in low-margin areas due to low oil prices. Weakness in refining hit BP's downstream segment as well.
BP therefore chose to cut its dividend in half. Shareholders can now expect to get $0.315 per share, down from the $0.63 per share the oil giant paid previously. That still leaves BP's yield at nearly 6%, but that's a far cry from the 11.4% yield prior to the announcement.
BP's move comes after rival ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) went a different direction strategically. ExxonMobil chose to sustain its dividend, even though it faces many of the same challenges. For both companies, recovering oil prices are what it'll take to generate a lasting recovery for the oil stocks.
Branson's looking up even as Virgin Galactic's stock moves down
Virgin Galactic Holdings saw its stock fall by almost 13%. The space tourism company reported its latest quarterly results, and even though there was no reason to expect anything earth-shattering from the company in its pre-launch phase, news of a new stock offering didn't make current shareholders very happy.
Virgin Galactic's financials came as no surprise. The company had no revenue during the period, letting just about all of its $63 million operating loss fall down to the bottom line. Cash on hand, however, remained at solid levels, with $360 million representing almost a year and a half of reserves at the quarter's cash burn rate.
What likely prompted the decline was Virgin Galactic's decision to sell about 20.5 million shares of stock in hopes of generating roughly $460 million. Proceeds will go toward working capital, administrative costs, and similar general corporate purposes. Secondary stock offerings often lead to at least temporary moves lower for share prices as markets adjust to the greater supply of shares.
Long-term investors should focus on news that Virgin Galactic's test flight program continues to move forward, with expectations for its first powered spaceflight from the Spaceport America complex in New Mexico coming this fall. Sir Richard Branson expects to ride on a flight in the first quarter of 2021, and that could generate the publicity that could send Virgin Galactic's stock skyward as well.