KANSAS CITY — Amid the breathtaking economic uncertainty and disruption prevailing because of the coronavirus pandemic, the mid-week peak reached by the stock market was hailed by many as a highly promising milestone. Skeptics described the rally as overly optimistic, an artificial reaction to weak interest rates and generous fiscal stimulus.
It’s true that before plunging on June 11, the S.&P.500 closed a day earlier at 3,190.14, unchanged for the year. Anyone holding an S.&P.500 index fund indeed would have been made whole. But the most superficial glance “under the hood” revealed tremendous performance variances between and even within industry sectors. Among businesses hit hard by the pandemic, shares of The Boeing Co. were down 39% year-to-date as of June 10; Marriott International, Inc., was down 32%; and Macy’s, Inc., was down 51%. Each was further pummeled on June 11.
Similarly, within grain-based foods wide disparities have been recorded. Four companies in the Grain-Based Foods Share Index compiled by Milling & Baking News have sustained double-digit declines year-to-date — Bunge Ltd. (-18.4% through June 10); J&J Snack Foods Corp. (-23.9%); Post Holdings, Inc. (-11.5%); and Seaboard Corp. (-11.4%). Six companies had share price gains in excess of 20% — Bridgford Foods Corp. (43.6%); Conagra Brands, Inc. (20.6%); General Mills, Inc. (20.1%); The Hain Celestial Group, Inc. (22.5%); MGP Ingredients, Inc. (23.2%); and Treehouse Foods, Inc. (24.2%). Most grain-based foods companies face a dramatically different business landscape than on Dec. 31, 2019. The stock market is painting an accurate picture of the economy. It just requires close examination.