Foodservice Struggles, Packaged Food Sales Up

Dow Jones futures plunged on March 9, along with S&P 500 and Nasdaq futures as a crude oil price war adds to coronavirus fears, reported Investor’s Business Daily (March 9).

The Dow Jones futures, which were halted to limit the drop, suggest that the coronavirus stock market correction will hit new lows.

Guggenheim Securities slashed its sales outlooks across the board for the U.S. restaurant industry citing the rising risk of the coronavirus keeping U.S. diners at home, reported Yahoo! (March 9).

The investment bank sees fast food and quick-casual brands experiencing 0.9% and 0.2% “domestic [sales] slowdowns” in the first quarter. Full-service restaurant sales are expected to get hit by 1.3% in the quarter.

Guggenheim analyst Matter DiFrisco believes Starbucks, Wendy’s, Domino’s Pizza, and Dunkin’ Brands are some of the better positioned restaurants to weather the coronavirus due to their delivery platforms.

“Our outlooks now assume a retrenchment in domestic consumer demand in March and April with a return to ‘normal’ behavior in late spring. We view this trajectory as practical but not overly conservative. While near-term demand lacks visibility and consensus outlooks will likely follow us down, we continue to view COVID-19 impact to demand as transitory and maintain our investment opinions based on underlying fundamentals and long-term outlooks,” wrote DiFrisco.

However, shares of Campbell Soup Co. and other packaged food companies are rising as consumers are stocking up, reported Bloomberg (March 2). Campbell rose 6.3% on March 2, the stock’s biggest daily gain in almost nine months. Most packaged-food makers also rose and outpaced the gain of the S&P 500, including Conagra, General Mills Inc., and Kellogg Co. The S&P 500’s packaged food index, which also includes companies such as Hershey Co. and Mondelez International Inc., rose 4.7%, the most since 2016.

“We believe U.S. consumers are preparing to be able to stay at home for extended periods, and some food categories may benefit more than others,” said Piper Sandler analyst Michael Lavery.

Meanwhile, President Trump is reportedly seeking a payroll tax cut and relief for hourly workers as part of a coronavirus response package, reported The Washington Post (March 9). He also said he was seeking to provide assistance to the struggling airline, hotel, and cruise industries.

Congressional Democrats are planning a proposal that would provide free coronavirus testing, expanded food subsidies, paid leave for those affected by the epidemic, and an expansion of the federal unemployment program.