U.S. airline shares headed for a record weekly gain as investors bet that travel demand was poised to rebound.American Airlines Group Inc. and United Airlines Holdings Inc. climbed for a fifth straight day on signs that passengers were returning after the Covid-19 pandemic devastated demand. Friday’s surge — amid a broad rally on encouraging economic news — was big enough to spur President Donald Trump to tease billionaire Warren Buffett for dumping airline shares.
“He’s been right his whole life, but sometimes even somebody like Warren Buffett — I have a lot of respect for him — they make mistakes,” Trump said in a White House news conference. He also touted a surprise gain in payroll jobs last month. “They should have kept airline stocks, because the airline stocks went through the roof today and others did too.”
American ignited the gains Thursday after boosting its July schedule and signaling that passengers were returning, while United also added flights. Airlines are still bracing for years of pain. But more robust summer schedules suggest that the worst has passed — and that the rebound in demand has a chance of outpacing the dire expectations the industry was outlining as recently as last month.
A Standard & Poor’s index of the five biggest U.S. airlines jumped 5.7% at 2:39 p.m. in New York, putting it on pace for a 36% weekly gain. That would be the biggest in data going back to 1989. American led Friday’s advance, climbing 12% to $18.73 while United rallied almost as much. Delta Air Lines Inc. and Southwest Airlines Co. also rose.
The S&P 500 advanced 2.9% on the unemployment report.
Buffett abandoned his investments in all four major U.S. airlines as the coronavirus pandemic curbed travel across the globe, saying in May that the “world changed” for the airline industry.
American’s red-hot advance “reflects the elimination of bankruptcy fears” as investors mull the potential for a faster recovery, Raymond James analyst Savanthi Syth wrote in a note. A short squeeze could also be pushing the stock higher, she said.