The stock market was mixed on Wednesday, and the Nasdaq Composite (^IXIC 0.00%) got the short end of the stick. The Nasdaq was down 0.25% as of 1:30 p.m. EDT, failing to share in gains for other major market benchmarks.
Yet there were still some winners on the Nasdaq, and several of them involved plays on the reopening economy. Specifically, Booking Holdings (BKNG -1.80%) and Expedia Group (EXPE -1.11%) both managed to see gains on Wednesday as investors look forward to more people having the ability to travel again. By the time summer rolls around, shareholders could see a lot more travel activity helping to bolster Booking's and Expedia's fortunes.
All-time highs for Booking Holdings
Shares of Booking Holdings were up nearly 3% on Wednesday afternoon, and that was enough to send the online travel website provider to an all-time high. Booking's market cap topped the $100 billion mark as a result of the gain.
The move was in part a delayed reaction to bullish comments from Wall Street analysts. Jefferies upgraded Booking Holdings from hold to buy, boosting its price target by $500 per share to $2,800. Analysts are seeing a lot of signs that there's a huge amount of pent-up demand for travel. Moreover, even as some hot areas like airlines and cruise ship stocks have moved sharply higher in anticipation of the economy reopening, Booking hasn't seen the same level of gains.
Part of the problem with Booking is that a huge portion of its business is international. Even as the U.S. moves forward with coronavirus vaccination rollouts, the rest of the world has taken a generally more cautious pace. That in turn threatens the pace of a recovery in Booking's overseas business.
Nevertheless, Jefferies is optimistic that global travel destinations will start to open back up by the second half of this year. If that happens, then the Northern Hemisphere's summer could be busy indeed for Booking.
Expecting more from Expedia
Expedia Group is in much the same boat, but its stock has lagged behind Booking's. Shares were up 2% on Wednesday afternoon, but that still leaves Expedia more than 7% below its record levels last month.
Expedia also got favorable comments from Jefferies on Tuesday, with a boost in its price target from $145 to $175 per share. However, the analysts didn't change their hold rating on the stock, and today's gain pretty much puts Expedia at the new target.
Both Expedia and Booking face competition from Airbnb (ABNB -1.94%), but Expedia has a better answer in the form of its Vrbo and HomeAway platforms. Vrbo in particular offers many of the same advantages as Airbnb with respect to single-family vacation homes that help those seeking alternatives to hotels and other crowded environments.
A thin margin of safety
Both Booking and Expedia now trade well above where they did before the pandemic started. That raises concerns about whether growth hopes are overhyped.
For now, though, investors remain completely optimistic about the prospects for a full return to pre-pandemic economic conditions. Everyone hopes that will prove to be the case, but there's a lot of room for disappointment in these two travel stocks if it doesn't.