Stock Markets Sink on Cruise Ship Stock Sales; Online Travel Shares Fall

Tuesday was an off day on Wall Street, as investors hit the pause button in what has been an amazing upward move for the overall stock market in recent weeks. Losses weren’t all that significant, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) and S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) losing just enough to give bullish market participants the idea that indexes are setting up for another big push higher.

Today’s stock market

Index

Percentage Change (Decline)

Point Change

Dow

(0.55%)

(158)

S&P 500

(0.63%)

(22)

Nasdaq Composite

(0.10%)

(12)

Data source: Yahoo! Finance.

Yet there were some really big losers on Tuesday, and they largely came from the travel industry. In particular, cruise ship operators saw their share prices drop significantly as the hard-hit companies got even more bad news about their immediate prospects. Meanwhile, more broadly, online travel giants like Booking Holdings (NASDAQ:BKNG) and Expedia Group (NASDAQ:EXPE) didn’t fare particularly well, either. Below, we’ll look at the factors hitting these stocks in more detail.

Taking on more water

The losses in the cruise ship industry were substantial. Royal Caribbean (NYSE:RCL) saw the biggest declines, falling 13% on the day. Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NASDAQ:NCLH) and Carnival (NYSE:CCL) both followed suit with drops of 8% on Tuesday.

Cruise ship in a harbor with an island and beach nearby.

Image source: Getty Images.

The industry has been in trouble for a long time. At the end of September, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention extended the no-sail order governing U.S. cruises by a month, and many believe that the regulatory agency would have preferred to move forward more aggressively with an extension all the way through the first month of 2021.

Carnival got off to a bad start on Monday by announcing it would cancel its November cruises. Royal Caribbean and Norwegian had already taken that step. That now makes it a very real possibility that the industry won’t end up having any activity at all through the end of 2020.

The latest news sinking cruise stocks came from Royal Caribbean, which decided to cancel its Australia and New Zealand cruises through the end of the year. Moreover, the company once again turned to the capital markets for money, raising $1 billion with sales of $500 million in stock and $500 million in three-year convertible debt.

Investors have been willing to keep cruise companies afloat, providing them more cash even without firm prospects for a restart. How long that will last is anyone’s guess, but shareholders have to be losing patience with the companies and their lack of certainty about what the future will hold.

Travel sites face huge uncertainty

Elsewhere in travel, Expedia and Booking Holdings were both down more than 3%. The pains in the cruise ship industry were only one factor weighing on the online travel booking sites.

Airline earnings started coming out today, and Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL) had a lackluster performance that included huge losses. It’s likely that the rest of the airlines will see similar issues.

To be fair, Booking and Expedia get more of their business from hotels than from airline tickets. Yet the one follows from the other, and although there have been some reports that travelers are staying closer to home but still traveling far enough to need overnight accommodations, the most-recent financials from Expedia and Booking show a lot of pressure on hotel booking volumes.

Moreover, Airbnb is now looking to an IPO in the near future. Health-conscious travelers feel more comfortable booking an entire house than dealing with shared hallways in hotels, and that could pose a longer-term threat even after the COVID-19 pandemic ends.

Booking and Expedia have been growth stocks for a long time, so the transition to a more defensive posture is a tough one for shareholders to swallow. Until people are willing to travel again, though, it could be tough for the online travel portals to return to their former glory.

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