It's a tough investing choice. On the one hand, beaten-down shares of Boeing (NYSE:BA) could be ready to rebound now that its troubled 737 MAX jet has been (re)cleared for takeoff. On the other hand, the pre-election and post-election environment may be best navigated with the relative safety of deep diversification. An exchange-traded fund like the SPDR Dow Jones Industrial Average ETF Trust (NYSEMKT:DIA) offers 30 different blue-chip stocks spanning most major sectors.
As it stands right now, it would seem that the smart-money move is an investment in every Dow Jones stock rather than a gamble on Boeing's rebound. But the odds are also good that the aerospace company will eventually turn itself around.
Is now the time for even risk-oriented investors to take a flyer on Boeing?
Boeing appears to be taxiing to the runway
Technically speaking, the 737 MAX has not yet been certified for use as a passenger jet in the U.S. by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). It's close enough and likely enough, however, that American Airlines Group has put the aircraft back on its flight schedule beginning in late December. Europe's Union Aviation Safety Agency said last week it was pleased with the passenger jet's updates, further clearing the way for the aircraft to fly within the continent before the end of 2020.
It would be the first time the plane has flown anywhere since it was grounded in early 2019 following two crashes that claimed a total of 346 lives. A handful of successful flights should encourage other carriers to put the jet back in their active fleets, which in turn should prompt new and renewed orders for the aircraft.
That's a mighty big bet for investors to make right now, however, for a couple of reasons.
Two ways a takeoff could be aborted
While regulators may be satisfied, consumers and lawmakers alike seem to remain cautiously reticent in the wake of what was described in a scathing congressional report as a "horrific culmination of a series of faulty technical assumptions by Boeing's engineers, [and] a lack of transparency on the part of Boeing's management." The language reflects the depth of the distrust Boeing must now address. Not even the company is looking for a quick end to the debacle.
It's also not inconceivable that a Joe Biden-led White House could enact tougher accountability standards early on in his presidency. A recently unveiled bill now in front of the Democrat-led House of Representatives suggests granting the FAA greater authority over U.S.-based aircraft manufacturers.
In the meantime, the coronavirus pandemic has done as much lasting damage to Boeing and its peers as the 737 MAX's woes have. The company warned investors earlier this month that demand for new passenger jets for the coming decade would be about 11% less than Boeing had previously predicted.
And this outlook is likely predicated on a quelling of the virus in the near future. That may not be how things pan out, however. Coronavirus cases in Europe are soaring again, and by some measures breaking records set early this year. The U.S. Center for Disease Control reports domestic cases are on the rise as well, with new cases approaching July's peak levels.
The point is, there are still plenty of ways Boeing could get its wings clipped, in the near and not-so-near future. These ways are unique to Boeing, however, and don't apply to the other 29 components of the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
Indeed, despite all the recent economic turbulence and uncertainty related to this year's presidential election, blue chip companies as a group are holding up nicely. All but one of these 30 stocks are expected to improve this year's bottom line in the coming year, and the outlier -- Intel -- is only expected to see earnings slump by single digits. And no matter who's in the White House come late January, both parties want all American companies to start thriving again, sooner rather than later.
This won't always be the case. But the current scenario is one that calls for a simple, straightforward strategy rather than reliance on luck for one particular company.