Earnings season has reached its peak, and on Friday, the Nasdaq Composite (NASDAQINDEX:^IXIC) didn't like what it saw from the latest reports of its most important constituents. As of 1 p.m. EDT, the Nasdaq was down 2.5%, doubling the declines in a couple of other prominent stock market benchmarks.
If you're wondering about the best performers among top Nasdaq stocks, you might be in for a shock. You won't find any of the big tech names that have dominated the headlines for years. Instead, some of the biggest gains on Monday came for decidedly old-economy stocks. Among the top Nasdaq-100 gainers were CSX (NASDAQ:CSX) and Kraft Heinz (NASDAQ:KHC), both of which climbed more than 3% as of 11 a.m. EST.
CSX was higher by more than 3% on Monday. That pushed the railroad giant's share price above where it had traded in February prior to the coronavirus pandemic, marking a key milestone in CSX's recovery.
The railroad industry has gone through a massive upheaval, but fortunately for CSX, it has rebounded just as quickly as it got hit. In CSX's quarterly conference call in late October, CEO Jim Foote noted the second quarter featured the largest and most rapid quarterly volume declines the company had ever seen. The third quarter, by contrast, saw record increases from levels three months earlier, rising at more than double the best pace ever seen before.
CSX has worked on several fronts to boost efficiency and make the most of its opportunities. Low fuel costs have helped to bolster the company's bottom line at a difficult time, and efforts to improve on-time performance and safety have shown significant progress. Moreover, CSX has taken advantage of the recent lull in shipping activity to implement much-needed infrastructure improvements that will pay off for years to come.
For CSX to be trading near all-time highs is a testament to its staying power. Despite all the attention tech stocks get, shipping goods to where they need to go is a key driver of the entire global economy.
Meanwhile, Kraft Heinz was also up 3% on Monday. The food company's stock has had a more turbulent ride in 2020, but being in a defensive industry like consumer staples gives Kraft Heinz some natural protection against major economic downturns.
From a business standpoint, Kraft Heinz has held its own lately. Third-quarter results included a 6% rise in sales, and earnings were down largely because of one-time issues related to its proposed sale of global cheese business assets. Kraft Heinz is optimistic about its future prospects regardless of what happens with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Longer-term, Kraft Heinz has been a much-debated stock. It's been a favorite of Warren Buffett, and its high dividend yield is appealing to income investors. Yet many stock analysts see better alternatives in the food space, pointing to Heinz's acquisition of Kraft as being ill-timed and coming at too high a price tag.
It's easy to lose sight of exactly what stocks you'll find on the Nasdaq. It's true that technology companies dominate the top players on the exchange, and the influence that tech has on the Nasdaq in particular is extraordinarily high. Yet on days when tech plays only a supporting role, it's worth it to look at stocks like Kraft Heinz and CSX to see what's happening elsewhere in the broader market.