What happened

Shares of Marriott International (NASDAQ:MAR) were climbing last month after the world's biggest hotel operator posted a surprise profit in its third quarter earnings report and jumped on news of a coronavirus vaccine after Pfizer and BioNTech said that their candidate had a 95% efficacy rate in Phase 3 trials. 

That news lifted the stock 37%, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence, and as the chart below shows, the vast majority of those gains came early in the month.

MAR Chart

MAR data by YCharts

So what

Marriott charged higher in the first few days of November, in line with a surge in the broad market as investors cheered the election results and hoped that Congress would get back to the work of passing another coronavirus relief package, though that has yet to happen.

A woman relaxing by the hotel pool

Image source: Getty Images.

At the end of the week, on Nov. 6, the stock rose 3% on its third quarter earnings report. RevPAR, or revenue per available room -- the key metric in the hotel industry -- plunged 66%, showing that Marriott, like much of the hotel industry, is still reeling from the coronavirus pandemic. Overall revenue was down 57% to $2.25 billion, as the company's franchise model eased some of the pressure, and that figure was slightly ahead of analyst estimates at $2.23 billion. Still, the company managed the decline in the business reasonably well, slashing costs and delivering an adjusted profit of $0.06 per share. That was down from $1.47 per share a year ago, but still better than expectations of a loss of $0.08 per share.

CEO Arne Sorenson said, "While COVID-19 is still significantly impacting our business, our results for the third quarter showed continued improvement in demand trends around the world."

The real fireworks for Marriott stock came on Nov. 9 when shares jumped 14% as the Pfizer news set off a gold rush toward "recovery stocks" like those in the travel sector and other areas hit hard by the pandemic, that are sure to benefit from the vaccine.

Now what

The fourth quarter is likely to be a tough one for Marriott given the spikes in coronavirus cases in the U.S. and Europe, but investors will be closely watching plans for the vaccine distribution, as the company should see a wave of pent-up demand once the pandemic ends.

However, the upside may be limited, as much of the recovery already seems priced in. The stock is now down just 12% year to date.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.