By Francesca Fontana
Amazon.com Inc .
Big tech keeps getting bigger despite concerns about their size and influence. Amazon.com, Facebook Inc. and Apple Inc. delivered soaring quarterly sales and profit Thursday, highlighting the resiliency of their operations during the pandemic. The results came a day after their CEOs faced scrutiny from Congress about their business practices. Amazon shares gained 3.7% Friday.
Altria Group Inc.
Smoking is making a comeback. Marlboro maker Altria said Tuesday that Americans are lighting up more during the pandemic, enough to slow the yearslong decline in U.S. cigarette sales. People are spending more on cigarettes as they spend less on travel and entertainment and have more time to smoke at home, Chief Executive Billy Gifford said. Stimulus checks and increased unemployment benefits also helped ease the financial hardship for low- and middle-income cigarette smokers. Adult smokers are making fewer trips to the store, but they are stocking up on packs when they go. Altria shares added 0.9% Tuesday.
McDonald's investors aren't "loving it." The fast-food giant said its profit suffered a deeper-than-expected drop during its most recent quarter, as the coronavirus shut restaurants around the world. The company said it spent $200 million to help franchisees advertise their restaurants and boost sales, while restaurant margins fell 25% as owners spent on personal-protection equipment for workers and free meals for first responders. To-go sales have helped McDonald's U.S. operations, where nearly 95% of locations have drive-throughs. As coronavirus cases rise, the company will likely continue to depend on drive-throughs for the near future. McDonald's shares fell 2.5% Tuesday.
Procter & Gamble Co.
Now more than ever, consumers want to keep their houses clean. That was evident in numbers released Thursday by the maker of household staples from Bounty paper towels to Tide laundry detergent. P&G posted its strongest annual sales gain since 2006 as the pandemic kept the world's consumers at home and vigilant about cleanliness. Demand in the U.S. surged through the spring and early summer, while the reopening of China, P&G's second-biggest market, drove sales there. Chief Financial Officer Jon Moeller expects consumers' hygiene needs have changed forever, saying it's "hard to imagine we'll snap back to the old world." P&G shares rose 2.4% Thursday.
The pandemic hoarding may be over, but consumers still can't get enough of certain favorites. Cereal and snack maker Kellogg said its North American cereal sales increased more than 15%, and 26% for its Eggo frozen breakfast items. Kellogg and fellow food maker Kraft Heinz Co. said they have increased their production capacity and continue to sell essentially everything they can make. The two companies are increasing advertising for the rest of the year in hopes of keeping their sales momentum going beyond the coronavirus pandemic. Kellogg shares fell 0.5% Thursday.
United Parcel Service Inc.
The online shopping boom delivered a surprise surge in demand for UPS. The delivery giant said on Thursday that its average daily shipping volume rose a record 21% in its June quarter. Shipments to homes increased 65% as well. Chief Executive Carol Tomé said UPS was planning for demand to pull back after the early days of the pandemic. The sudden growth does come at a cost: Carriers incur greater expenses from more miles driven and fewer packages delivered per stop as they deliver more to homes instead of businesses. Ms. Tomé said she sees room to raise rates on large retailers, who she said can pass them along to consumers by raising prices. UPS shares surged 14% Thursday.
The tank is emptying at some of the world's oil giants. Chevron said Friday that it lost $8.3 billion in the second quarter, as the pandemic continues to sap global demand for fossil fuels. Chief Executive Mike Wirth said his company faced an uncertain future for energy demand and couldn't predict commodity prices with confidence right now. The dismal results from Chevron and its peers are exacerbating their existing struggles to attract investors, which many of the companies have sought to retain by paying out hefty dividends that are proving hard to sustain during the pandemic. Chevron shares fell 2.7% Friday.
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(END) Dow Jones Newswires
July 31, 2020 19:59 ET (23:59 GMT)Copyright (c) 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.