As I continue my quest to see how retailers are faring as consumers stock up at unprecedented levels, I visited a couple of stores over the weekend. The local Walmart (WMT) was in decent shape stock-wise, and the checkout lines were not during my late Sunday morning visit. The most notable product depletions were cereal and frozen foods; interestingly (to me anyway) the candy aisle was well stocked. Our local CVS Health (CVS) , which I visited later the same day, was well-stocked, and not crowded. CVS has not curtailed distribution of its infamous and lengthy coupon-infused receipts; the one I received was 41 ½ inches long (or 3 inches per dollar I spent). As annoying as those receipts have been, it was actually refreshing to receive one - oddly a reminder of normalcy.
Now for the mindless S&P 500 stat of the day: in the past 12 trading sessions, the Index has closed up or down at least 1% 11 times, and is down 13% during that period. Seven of those days it closed up or down at least 4%, with four of those days in positive territory. Absent those days of mini-euphoria - including Friday's +9.4% performance, the Index would be in much greater peril. As of Friday's close, it was at the same level as January, 2019.
The situation just got a bit worse for restaurant names as of Sunday evening, with Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf ordering all bars and restaurants closed for dine-in services in five counties (including ours) for two weeks, starting today. That is in addition to California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Ohio and Washington states that have also closed restaurants to varying degrees. The duration of these shutdowns, and whether more states will follow, are the key issues at this point, but restaurant names will likely suffer more damage until there is more clarity.
That's why it is not time to buy at this point. Everyday brings new information, new repercussions, and new fallout. My two current restaurant targets had good days on Friday, as Dine Brands Global (DIN) (+22%) and Bloomin' Brands (BLMN) (+10%) recouped a bit of recent losses. However, today is a new day, with new information. As I've stated before, I am looking for names that are "stupid cheap", and I'm not sure we are there yet. Life, as we knew it, is up in the air at this point. This too shall pass, but we don't know when. I am still of the opinion that the panic is worse than the virus, but markets and consumers don't like uncertainty, and that's what's driving.
All of the market upheaval has also smoked out two new qualifiers for my modified Ben Graham Stocks for the Defensive Investor screen; that's since Wednesday's column by the way. The new kids on the block include Snap-on (SNA) , and Standex Intl (SXI) .