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2 Stocks Making Waves as the Market Treads Water

By Dan Caplinger – Oct 18, 2021 at 1:55PM

Key Points

  • Markets were mixed on Monday at midday.
  • Shares of Baidu moved higher as Chinese regulators gave it an advantage over media companies.
  • Zillow Group sagged after announcing it would pause its Zillow Offers iBuying program.

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Mixed performance shows the uncertainty among investors.

After a strong week last week, the stock market is taking a bit of a breather on Monday. Major market indexes are mixed, with some forging still higher in an effort to reach their record levels from earlier in the summer. As of 12:30 p.m. EDT, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI 0.52%) was down 11 points to 35,284. However, the S&P 500 (^GSPC 0.76%) had gained 11 points to 4,482, and the Nasdaq Composite (^IXIC 1.51%) had picked up 71 points to 14,968.

As you'd expect on an up-and-down day for the market, there were big stocks moving in both directions on Monday. Baidu (BIDU 1.00%) managed to buck a trend that has hurt Chinese stocks lately with good news on the regulatory front, but online real estate specialist Zillow Group (Z 2.89%) (ZG 2.75%) fell to levels it hasn't seen in more than a year as it made a business move that investors didn't like much.

Chinese e-commerce pain is Baidu's gain

Shares of Baidu were higher by 4% early Monday afternoon. The Chinese search giant got good news from Chinese regulatory agencies for a change, as a new policy will work to its benefit even as it puts restrictions on some of its internet peers.

The Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology is reportedly looking at making new rules that would force media companies like Tencent Holdings and TikTok parent company ByteDance to make their content available to third-party search engines. The move would take away a key competitive advantage that media companies have had in defending their ecosystems from companies like Baidu, which could potentially profit from being able to show content from those platforms.

To be clear, Baidu has had its own share of difficulty with regulators in China. The company faces antitrust scrutiny over its proposed purchase of the YY Live streaming platform of JOYY, which would help Baidu diversify its business beyond its core search arena.

Fear about Chinese stocks more broadly has hurt Baidu as well, but today's move suggests that investors are willing to move beyond such concerns if they see new profit opportunities. Opening up more media to search engines is far from a done deal, but just the hope of a positive move was enough to push shares of Baidu higher Monday.

Person carrying moving box in front of home.

Image source: Getty Images.

Zillow presses pause on iBuying

Meanwhile, shares of Zillow were down 9%. The online real-estate specialist announced that it would slow down on a key growth initiative, calling into question a major component of its long-term strategic thinking.

The company's Zillow Offers service has been a big success and driven confidence in the stock, but Zillow said Monday morning that it would not sign any additional contracts to purchase homes from interested sellers for the remainder of 2021. Zillow cited a backlog of properties needing renovation along with operational capacity constraints for the move.

In essence, Zillow's pause reveals a reality that homeowners already know quite well: a lack of available labor for construction and renovation work. Contractors have gotten hit hard by the pandemic, and as deferred maintenance needs have come back into the pipeline, demand for their services has risen sharply.

The big question is whether rivals like Redfin and Opendoor Technologies will end up having to make similar moves. If not, then Zillow's news could expose a competitive disadvantage that could give a longer-term edge to Opendoor and Redfin in the future.

Dan Caplinger has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Baidu, Opendoor Technologies Inc., Redfin, Tencent Holdings, Zillow Group (A shares), and Zillow Group (C shares). The Motley Fool recommends the following options: short November 2021 $65 puts on Redfin. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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