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Why Wednesday's Stock Market Drop Might Be Just the Beginning

By Dan Caplinger – Updated Oct 15, 2020 at 8:38AM

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Outside tech, things look ugly -- and even some tech stocks are feeling pressure.

The stock market gave up more ground on Wednesday, although it wouldn't be fair to characterize the drop as a rout. Investors seemed concerned that there might not be any action from the federal government to boost spending until well into November at the earliest. That helped send major market benchmarks down, with losses limited to less than 1%.

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Data source: Yahoo! Finance.

Yet there were some signs of greater trouble inside the market on Wednesday. Outside of tech, which has driven much of the gains in 2020, conditions continue to look questionable at best. Meanwhile, there was an after-hours disappointment that could spur greater selling on Thursday and beyond.

Big drops among old-economy stocks

A couple of companies were good examples of how old-economy stocks have been lagging behind the market. Navistar (NAV) is a giant in the trucking industry, and its stock plunged 19% as an M&A deal came into question.

A brown bear growling, with a forest behind.

Image source: Getty Images.

Volkswagen approached Navistar back at the beginning of 2020, offering to buy the truck company for $35 per share. In September, VW made a move to try to get a deal done, boosting its offer to $43 per share. Nevertheless, that didn't get Navistar to budge, and shareholders hoped that meant that the company would try to get VW or another bidder to pay even more.

However, Volkswagen finally had enough of being taken for granted. Today, the German automaker said that Navistar could take its offer or leave it, giving Navistar until Friday to make up its mind. That sent the stock plunging to eliminate the premium above the $43 per share deal price, and a significant discount now reflects a very real possibility that no deal will happen at all.

There's no guarantee that Navistar will give in to VW's demands. Activist investor Carl Icahn has been involved in Navistar for a while, and he reportedly wants more. If he can't get it from Volkswagen, then Icahn might hold out for someone else -- which is bad news for those looking for an immediate payday.

Meanwhile, AMC Entertainment (AMC) was down 22%. The movie theater chain has said that it might run out of liquidity by the end of 2020, and that has some worrying about a potential AMC bankruptcy.

It's no surprise that AMC is struggling. Movie theaters were closed for much of the year, and even as economies have reopened, mass entertainment venues have been among the last to get the go-ahead to reopen in some states. Moreover, even before the COVID-19 pandemic, AMC faced the problem of more people staying home to watching streaming videos on their own TVs. The coronavirus might be the straw that breaks AMC's back, but it won't be the only reason for its demise.

Fastly has a quick descent

After the close of regular trading, Fastly (FSLY -4.87%) saw its stock drop 27% in the after-hours session. The edge-computing specialist warned that its revenue wouldn't meet its expectations, blaming its largest customer for the shortfall.

Fastly said that it's now projecting third-quarter revenue to come in between $70 million and $71 million. That represents just 40% to 42% growth from year-ago levels, which is a considerable deceleration for the tech company.

Specifically, Fastly said that its biggest user -- known from past disclosures to be TikTok operator ByteDance -- didn't use its service as much as anticipated. With Fastly charging its customers based on volume of use, that meant the shortfall fell through to the company's sales for the period.

Fastly won't stop being a growth stock, but its pricey valuation assumed a steeper growth path than investors will get. With Fastly pulling back from its past guidance for the full 2020 year, tech investors might well take the company's disclosure as an opportunity to reassess the prospects for other popular high-performing stocks. If that happens, then the stock market as a whole could hit an air pocket in coming sessions.

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

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