Airlines, Jet Fuel and The Market Meltdown: What The Heck Is The Problem?


It’s Friday and it’s already been another rough day in the financial markets.

You guys are smart folks. You knew this was going to be the case.

The Dow Jones Industrials are now down another 275 points or so, after a sharp drop of almost 700 points at the open.

Okay, enough of the bad news.

Yesterday analysts Jamie Baker and Mark Streeter with JP Morgan issued a research note in which they wrote, “We’ve never witnessed such a disconnect between fundamentals & equities. True, AMR & CAL treaded water for a month after DAL & NWA filed, despite Ch11 plans to cut capacity by an amount sufficient to restore industry profitability. But nothing we’ve experienced comes close to explaining a recent $5 share price for United, considering we expect it to earn something similar (untaxed) in 2009.”

As I talked about in PBB this week, with the price of oil dropping like a rock, there is no logical reason for the corresponding battering of airline stocks.

And yes today, the price of oil continues to drop like a rock. As of this posting, the price of crude is trading at around $80 bucks and change. Yes, $80.

And no, this is no mystery. If the world is heading into a recession, the price of oil has to come down. It’s simple economics. No voodoo speculative manipulation involved in this drop whatsoever.

In Jamie and Mark’s note, they also said, “Sure, oil could ruin the forecast – We readily admit that unprecedented demand declines coupled with $140 oil would support multiple bankruptcies. But it is difficult for us to reconcile the implied global economic backdrop of this scenario with sharply higher oil. Always a risk, but a poor base-case assumption, in our view.”

They continued, “Simply put, we are having a tough time modeling losses – Fundamentals appear to be going one way, equities the polar opposite. Perhaps seasonality comes to the rescue, perhaps the flight to quality eases and redemptions moderate, or perhaps investors simply need more time to accept the profit implications of an industry rolled back to its 1998 size while enjoying fuel prices below those of last year. In any event, our conviction in 2009 profitability and bullishness for legacy equities has yet to waver and exceeds that of any prior point in our career.”

I agree.

Then again, with what is going on with Wall Street right now, maybe the thought of airline stocks being a potentially screaming “buy” opportunity is the least of what is top of mind of most investors right now.