Investors apparently aren't interested in seeing another stock market correction -- at least not this week. The S&P 500 Index (SNPINDEX:^%GSPC) gained 51.9 points, or 1.6%, on Sept. 25. Today's move higher gets the index, which is broadly representative of the U.S. stock market, a little further away from correction territory. After Wednesday's close, the S&P 500 had fallen 9.6% since the high on Sept. 2, putting stocks on the verge of an official correction (the threshold for which is typically 10%).
Today's gains were broad, with more than 425 of the index's individual components closing higher. Tech and cruise line stocks in particular were the biggest gainers. Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and NVIDIA Corporation (NASDAQ:NVDA) shares gained 3.8% and 4.3%, respectively, becoming the best performers of the mega-cap tech giants on a great day for the tech sector. Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NYSE:NCLH), up 13.7%, and Carnival (NYSE:CCL), up 9.7%, climbed the most of any S&P 500 stocks today after a Wall Street analyst's bullish note.
Analyst: Maybe early, but cruise stock turnaround is coming
Joining Norwegian and Carnival today, shares of Royal Caribbean (NYSE:RCL) closed up almost 8%. This put all three near the top of the S&P in gains today, following a note from a Barclays analyst who raised her price targets for all three. The analyst, Felicia Hendrix, thinks the industry is approaching an "inflection point." She expects that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will soon provide a light at the end of the tunnel by updating the "no sail" order barring cruise ships from operating in U.S. waters.
All three stocks have gained sharply from the bottom in late March and early April. Still, over the past two weeks, they've given up some of those gains. Even with today's boost, they're all still down by double digits from their September highs:
I expect Hendrix is correct on two points. First, the cruise industry will eventually recover. Second, it's probably too early to call this a turnaround. I'm just not convinced the time to jump back in on cruise stocks has arrived. Anticipating the CDC's update of the no-sail order could cost investors if the recovery takes as long as I expect -- and I expect it will take much longer than Hendrix thinks.
Apple upgrade leading tech stocks back higher
The tech sector has driven the three-week sell-off that almost pushed the market into a correction. For example, shares of Apple lost 20% at one point. The company is no longer a member of the $2 trillion market cap club.
But at least one analyst thinks it's time for investors to start buying the king of mega-cap tech once again. In a note to investors issued on Friday, Katy Huberty of Morgan Stanley reiterated her "overweight" rating on Apple shares and her $130 price target, helping boost shares almost 4% in a great day for the whole sector.
The Technology Select SPDR ETF (NYSEMKT:XLK), which tracks the tech components of the S&P 500, gained 2.4%, easily became the best-performing sector on the day. While the mega-cap tech stocks did a lot of heavy lifting, they weren't the only gainers. Of all the 72 tech sector stocks, 70 closed higher today. Only memory giant Micron Technology (NASDAQ:MU) and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (NYSE:HP) saw their shares fall.
Tech stocks are still off about 10% since the Sept. 2 high, and Apple shares are down more than 14%. Some observers say the sector is still overvalued.
Whether tech stocks bounce back further or sell off in the near-term is uncertain. Still, technology underpins much of the global economy's future. The sector has crushed the market over the long term. These sector qualities are likely to remain true in the years ahead, if not the weeks or months.
Oil stocks lag thanks to excess supply
Apache and National Oilwell weren't the only oil stocks on today's worst-performer list. Seven of today's bottom 10 were companies that operate in the oil patch. While the Energy Select Sector SPDR ETF (NYSEMKT:XLE), which tracks the oil and gas stocks in the S&P 500, finished up very slightly today, most energy stocks closed lower. These stocks include independent oil producers like Apache and Occidental Petroleum (NYSE:OXY), down 4%, along with equipment and services companies like National Oilwell and Schlumberger LTD (NYSE:SLB), down 4.2%.
Crude oil prices have taken another beating after petrostates like Saudi Arabia and Libya turned their attention on global markets. After being closed down for much of 2020, Libya recently reopened its oil exports and could add as much as 1 million barrels per day to an already-oversupplied global market. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia recently started discounting oil to U.S. refiners for the first time since the coronavirus crisis hit oil demand this spring.
Oil producers and related companies -- like equipment manufacturers -- face a painful and uncertain path forward. So long as global oil demand remains below prior levels, U.S. independent producers could be forced to fight an oil price war they can't win.