The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) was down 0.3% by 1:20 p.m. Tuesday as consumer confidence wavered in the face of a surging pandemic. The Conference Board reported a decline in consumer confidence for December, driven in part by vacation intentions being reined in as cases of COVID-19 soar.
Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) stock managed to rise on Tuesday as investors reacted to a report suggesting the tech giant is working on a consumer vehicle set for a 2024 launch. Shares of Boeing (NYSE:BA) were also up after the company secured a significant order for its 737 MAX planes.
Apple car rumors are back
Shares of Apple were on the rise Tuesday after Reuters reported that the tech giant is aiming to produce a passenger vehicle featuring self-driving technology and a next-generation battery by 2024. Apple's Project Titan car initiative has been in existence since 2014.
Reuters sources say Apple has now made enough progress that it plans to actually produce a vehicle for consumers. The plan hinges on a new battery design that has the potential to greatly reduce costs and increase range.
It is unlikely that Apple would manufacture a car on its own. The company relies on third-party manufacturers for its iPhone, and cars are one of the most complex products to produce at scale. Tesla, which is now 17 years old, relies on the sale of regulatory credits to turn a consistent profit. And the auto industry as a whole is cyclical and prone to brutal downturns.
If Apple does eventually offer a car for sale, it will almost certainly rely on partners for manufacturing. Reuters sources say that Apple has already decided to use partners for certain elements, including lidar sensors.
While Apple has been wildly successful in the smartphone, tablet, and smartwatch markets, some of its products have been duds. The company's HomePod smart speaker had a market share below 5% last year; even Apple's extensive ecosystem and loyal customer base couldn't convince many people to buy the device. Whether any of Apple's existing advantages translate into demand for an Apple-branded car remains to be seen.
Shares of Apple were up about 3.3% by early Tuesday afternoon. A successful car would provide Apple with a big source of new revenue, but it would also be very much outside of the company's circle of competence.
Boeing wins 737 MAX order
Boeing received a much-needed order for its 737 MAX planes on Tuesday as the global travel industry continues to reel from the pandemic. Alaska Airlines (NYSE:ALK) has expanded an earlier order by committing to 23 additional 737 MAX planes. Alaska now has orders and options for 120 737 MAX planes.
Alaska placed an original order for 32 737 MAX planes in 2012. The airline announced last month that it would lease 13 additional planes. Following the new order, Alaska has 55 planes on order and options to buy an additional 52 planes.
This is the second major 737 MAX order Boeing has received this month. Previously, European discount airline Ryanair ordered an additional 75 planes as it prepares for the return of travel after the pandemic is over.
Shares of Boeing were up about 0.2% by early Tuesday afternoon. While the stock has rallied from its pandemic lows, shares of the aviation giant are still down about 32% so far this year.