The main reasons why local stocks have suffered more than most are simple. We have a major presence in industries hit hardest by the sharpest economic contraction in modern memory, such as aviation, manufacturing, finance and retail. And we're not well represented in sectors that have soared above the wreckage, like tech.
The top local performer among Chicago's large-capitalization companies—those with a market value exceeding $10 billion—was drugmaker AbbVie, which saw its shares rise 10.9 percent. Pharmaceuticals have done well during the pandemic, with a group of big drug stocks tracked by Bloomberg climbing 3.8 percent. The same goes for medical device makers such as Abbott Laboratories and Baxter International, which have seen strong demand for some of their products. Abbott's shares rose 5.3 percent and Baxter's were up 3.0 percent, both trailing an increase of 9.1 percent for medical device stocks generally.
Also bucking the downturn was the area's biggest publicly traded tech company, Paylocity. Shares of the web-based payroll services provider jumped 20.8 percent, outpacing a 16.1 percent gain for S&P's software and services index.
With air travel hitting record lows on coronavirus fears, Chicago's cluster of aviation companies suffered more than most. The worst-performing local large-cap stock was United Airlines, down 60.7 percent. Jetmaker Boeing, bedeviled by slumping orders and the grounding of its mainstay 737 Max airliner after two fatal crashes, saw its shares tumble 43.7 percent. Aircraft parts and maintenance specialist AAR and onboard Wi-Fi provider Gogo both lost just over 50 percent of their stock market value. Collapsing demand for travel-related stocks also hit Hyatt Hotels, which fell 44 percent.
Steep declines hit financial shares, too. Lenders face myriad threats, from slackening economic activity to historically low interest rates, a potential rise in loan defaults and dividend caps. Northern Trust fell 25.3 percent, Wintrust Financial 38.5 percent, Discover Financial 41 percent and First Midwest Bancorp 42.1 percent.
A wide range of manufacturing stocks tumbled as shrinking demand in various sectors sent the S&P 500 industrial index down 15.5 percent. The biggest local manufacturers fared slightly better than the sector as a whole, with heavy-equipment giant Caterpillar off 14.3 percent, agricultural equipment maker Deere down 9.3 percent and diversified manufacturer Illinois Tool Works falling 2.7 percent.
Traditional brick-and-mortar retailers were hit hard as stay-AG亚洲国际游戏home orders drove shoppers to their laptops. Ulta Beauty, a top-performing retail stock in recent years, fell 19.6 percent. Drugstore chain Walgreens dropped 28 percent, after a sharp decline in sales followed an initial surge from customers stocking up ahead of lockdowns.
Restaurant stocks sank when states banned dine-in service. Sub sandwich chain Potbelly, which sells a lot of salami to workers on lunch break, plummeted 46 percent. Even McDonald's, which does most of its business at drive-up windows that remained open, saw its shares drop 6.7 percent as a decline in commuting hurt breakfast sales. Restaurant supplier US Foods suffered along with its customers, dropping 52.9 percent.
A notable exception among retailers was recreational vehicle seller Camping World, with an 84.3 percent rise. RV demand is up from customers looking to hit the road without breaking quarantine.
Local food makers, like their industry as a whole, got little credit from investors for a sharp sales increase. The S&P 500 packaged-foods index sank 5 percent even as some companies posted growth of 30 percent or more. Kraft Heinz, maker of comfort-food staples such as American cheese and ketchup, edged down 0.8 percent, while Oreo cookie maker Mondelez International dropped 7.2 percent. Conagra, with a varied lineup including Orville Redenbacher popcorn, Birds Eye frozen vegetables and Slim Jims, managed a 2.7 percent rise.
If there's any good news on local stocks, it's their recovery from March lows. The Bloomberg Illinois Index is up 35.4 percent since bottoming out on March 23, trailing a 38.6 rise for the S&P 500. Where Chicago-area shares go from here depends in large part on the future course of the pandemic and its economic aftershocks. Recent stock market gains came as COVID-19 ebbed in initial hot spots and more states started reopening their economies. But a sudden resurgence of the virus in new areas rattled investors, underscoring the continuing vulnerability of equities to an illness for which there is no vaccine or cure.
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