Stocks performed poorly to finish the week, as continued weakness in the commodities markets worried investors that the moves are signaling a potential global recession. Some hoped to see a year-end Santa Claus rally start to take shape, but many market participants think that the nearly seven-year-old bull market is showing signs that it could come to an end. Some of the worst-performing stocks on Friday were JetBlue Airways (NASDAQ:JBLU), Seadrill Partners (NYSE:SDLP), and Container Store Group (NYSE:TCS).
JetBlue fell 8% after announcing its monthly traffic numbers for November on Thursday afternoon. Traffic figures jumped more than 14% from year-ago levels, as capacity increased by 10.7%, and load factors climbed by 2.5 percentage points. However, JetBlue said that in the fourth quarter, the airline expects its passenger revenue per available seat mile, a key metric in the industry, to fall between 2% and 3%.
The company blamed the calendar effect of the timing of December holidays by day of the week for some of the decline. JetBlue also said that a lack of winter weather contributed to a higher completion factor than expected, which somewhat counterintuitively had a negative impact on its key operating metric.
Seadrill Partners plunged 17%, representing one of the worst performances on a day in which most energy companies fell sharply in concert. The continued downward move in oil prices into the mid-$30s hasn't done any company in the business any favors, but Seadrill Partners is particularly vulnerable to low oil prices because the more-expensive process of drilling in deep water requires higher commodity prices to make production economically viable. Seadrill Partners has thus far not made any moves to cut its dividend, but many now believe that it's just a matter of time before the company has to join its many peers by reducing or suspending its payout to conserve cash through the tough times in the industry.
Finally, Container Store Group dropped nearly 20%. The organizational products retailer got a downgrade from analysts at Merrill Lynch, cutting the company all the way from buy to underperform. The firm cut its price target on Container Store stock by more than half, to $9 per share, and investors dutifully sent the market price for shares down beyond that level.
Despite having shown signs of strong potential in the run-up to its initial public offering in late 2013, Container Store hasn't been able to generate the growth that investors had expected. The company only managed to grow revenue by 1.2% in its most-recent quarter, and although currency impacts have played a role in holding it back, Container Store has also felt it necessary to invest heavily in major strategic initiatives that it hopes will put the retailer back on a growth path in the near future. Until that happens, though, shareholders might well remain skeptical about Container Store's staying power in a tough environment for the retail industry more broadly.