This week's bearish attitude among stock market investors continued on Tuesday, as market participants chose to focus on macroeconomic concerns across the global economy and their impact on key sectors of the market like commodities and energy. Major market benchmarks were down less than 1%, but Southwest Airlines (NYSE:LUV), John Wiley & Sons (NYSE:JW.A), and Rio Tinto (NYSE:RIO) all suffered much larger losses during the day.
Southwest Airlines dropped 9% after the company reported its November traffic statistics. Southwest said that revenue passenger miles of 9.7 billion for the month rose 13.9% from year-ago levels, with available seat miles climbing 9.7% to 11.7 billion. Yet even though load factors reached a November record of 83.2%, the airline still believes that revenue per available seat mile would be flat to down 1% compared to the fourth quarter of 2014. Last month's prediction had been for a gain of 1% in that metric, showing how November has changed Southwest's outlook substantially. Airlines have benefited greatly from falling fuel prices, yet Southwest's results serve as a reminder that there are still challenges that it and its rivals throughout the industry have to overcome in order to improve on already impressive results in recent years.
John Wiley & Sons fell more than 10% in the wake of the publisher's fiscal second-quarter financial results. Revenue dropped 9%, sending net income down by 19%. Although foreign currency impacts played a key role in depressing Wiley's results, certain parts of the company's overall business also performed poorly on a fundamental basis. For instance, revenue from the Education segment was down, with print textbooks and custom materials sales down more than 20% and more than offsetting gains in online program management and digital book sales. Similarly, in the Professional Development category, online test preparation revenue jumped 13%, but a 6% decline in the Books area held back overall growth. Wiley is just one of many companies struggling to adapt to the digital world, and investors are nervous about Wiley's ability to do so efficiently and effectively.
Finally, Rio Tinto declined 8% on the day. The mining giant said that it would reduce its capital spending in 2016 to $5 billion, which is almost $1 billion less than its previous forecasts. With commodities prices having fallen so far, the move is designed to conserve cash and focus on its highest-potential prospects. Yet some are concerned that Rio Tinto has chopped capital expenditures too far, with previous spending levels in the range of $8 billion as recently as last year. Prices of key materials like iron ore have kept falling, and other competitors in the industry have taken the extreme measures of suspending dividends in order to remain in a position to make future strategic moves. Until the commodities markets start to turn, Rio Tinto will stay under pressure to survive and put itself in the best possible position to profit once conditions improve.