Wall Street’s meltdown isn’t over yet. On the heels of Monday’s wild market swings, stock watchers are predicting the investor enthusiasm that powered the equities surge in recent years is headed for a brutal reality check.
Monday’s market turmoil, spurred by concerns about the health of China’s economy, metastasized into a panic that shows no sign of abetting.
“This is the first stage of the unwinding of the dreamland that we were in for a long time,” said media analyst Hal Vogel. “From my study of crashes, probably the best time to panic is right now. In my view, we have a long way to go down.”
In a day of global economic pain so pronounced it was dubbed “Black Monday,” shares of companies like Netflix, Apple, Disney, CBS Corp., Viacom, Time Warner and 21st Century Fox all opened down sharply, clawed their way back and then fell again as a mass selloff hobbled the major exchanges. The timing could not have been worse for entertainment players, many of whom were already facing investor skepticism over the long-term prospects of their businesses.
There are fears that cable subscribers are abandoning pay-TV packages for cheaper streaming services like Netflix and that a sluggishness in the ad market for broadcasters signals systemic problems for the industry. However, Netflix was not spared in the carnage — it ended the day down 7%, on the heels of a 5% drop on Friday.
“The sector was already predisposed to weakness because of fears about the impact of new technologies,” said Marla Backer, an analyst with Research Associates. “We’re going to have to wait until the dust is settled and see where some of these shares wind up.”
The bleeding in the entertainment sector was a perfect storm of specific sector-related concerns, as well as larger macroeconomic fears stemming from a slowdown in China. Making matters worse, China and its burgeoning population of moviegoers has been seen as a potential avenue of growth for entertainment players, given that the domestic audience for their products has declined or flatlined in recent years.
“We always knew a potential correction was imminent and that those are usually quite dramatic,” said Tuna Amobi, an analyst at S&P Capital. “It appears to be that a confluence of specific and broader concerns could result in a shift in sentiment [about media stocks] this is longer and more painful.”
Institutional investors, like pensions and hedge funds, believe they are over-weighted in terms of their media investments and as they unwind those plays, it could lead to greater volatility.
“Investors will be moving out,” predicted Vogel. “It’s quite certain that the margins for these businesses will be lower and that lower margins will lead to lower operating results.”
One bright spot is that if stocks continue to slide, some investors could see companies as being undervalued, prompting them to buy shares.
“People always try to take advantage and buy into the dips,” said Amobi. “But it’s hard to imagine a scenario where this could be the bottom.”
In other words: buckle up.