Bank stocks took worst hit on Apple’s coronavirus warning

The bank stocks ironically got the shortest end of the stick on Apple‘s coronavirus warning that rattled Wall Street, CNBC’s Jim Cramer said Tuesday.

The stocks of J.P. Morgan Chase and Citigroup declined more than 1%, one day after the iPhone maker’s market-moving announcement that the outbreak of the coronavirus, known as COVID-19, would lead to a revenue shortfall.

“The worst performers — ones that there was no news whatsoever — [were] the banks,” the “Mad Money” host said. “Why? Because of a sudden drop in interest rates caused by a worldwide slowdown that could get into a full-blown recession. The banks do better in a rising interest rate environment, not a lower one.”

Institutional investors move cash from the riskier stock market to the safer bond market when they are concerned about an economic slowdown. Interest rates fall when demand for U.S. Treasuries goes up.

The yield on the U.S. 10-year treasury, which banks use to calculate mortgage rates, was down about 2 basis points late Tuesday. The SPDR S&P Bank ETF (KBE), which tracks bank stocks, also fell 1.3% in the session.

The silhouette of a pedestrian holding a mobile device is seen walking past a Citigroup bank branch in San Francisco.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Stocks of Apple semiconductor suppliers, including Qorvo, Skyworks Solutions, Broadcom and Cirrus Logic, were all hit big by the news due to production delays and weak demand in China. Apple assembles most of its iPhones and other products in the country. The coronavirus outbreak has caused Apple facilities to close in China, though some retail stores have reopened on limited schedules.

Most other chipmakers, however, did not feel the impact, Cramer said.

“An Apple preannouncement drives interest rates down, which hurts the banks, but not most of the semiconductor stocks or most of its colleagues in tech, of all places,” he said. “Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.”

Many companies with exposure to China, where COVID-19 originated, may be forced to cut their forecasts as Apple did because the outbreak has caused factories and workplaces to shut down operations to help combat the spreading disease.

Apple stock dropped more than 3% at its session lows before finishing the trading day down 1.8% to $319 per share. Apple previously forecasted revenue to come between $63 billion and $67 billion for the current quarter, but the company has yet to provide an updated range.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average, which declined more than 281 points at one point, closed down almost 166 points at 29,323.19. The S&P 500 slid 0.29%, while the Nasdaq Composite recovered its losses to inch up 0.02%.

This was a “tough day for the averages … but I’d argue it could’ve been much, much worse,” the host said. “And, honestly, it probably should’ve been worse.”

Disclosure: Cramer’s charitable trust owns shares of Apple, J.P. Morgan Chase and Citigroup.


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