After suffering a steep decline to start the week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI) continued heading lower on Tuesday. The Dow was down 0.26% at 1:10 p.m. EDT today, underperforming the other major stock indices.
This sell-off comes as the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus crossed the 200,000 mark. A second wave of the virus in the winter could push that number substantially higher and prompt stricter measures to control the spread, potentially undermining the economic recovery.
While the Dow was down, shares of Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) and Walmart (NYSE: WMT) were up on Tuesday. Microsoft stock jumped after the company rolled out some new cloud computing services, and Walmart stock rose as an analyst predicted big subscriber numbers for the retailer's new membership program.
Microsoft launches new cloud services
Microsoft's Azure cloud platform is the No. 2 provider of cloud infrastructure services behind Amazon Web Services. While Azure's growth has slowed recently, the business still increased sales by 47% in the latest quarter. Microsoft doesn't disclose Azure's revenue, but an analyst estimate pegs it at around $13.5 billion for fiscal 2019.
On Tuesday, Microsoft announced a new cloud service that puts it in direct competition with Twilio. Azure Communication Services is a fully managed communication platform that supports voice and video calling, chat, and SMS. Microsoft claims that it's the first such offering from a major cloud provider.
Businesses that use the service will also be able to easily use other Azure capabilities, such as translation and sentiment analysis provided by Azure Cognitive Services. Microsoft also emphasized that all communications are encrypted to meet privacy and compliance needs.
In addition to Azure Communication Services, Microsoft announced Azure Orbital, a platform for satellite data processing that will go head-to-head with Amazon's Ground Station. Speaking to GeekWire, Mark Russinovich, Azure's chief technology officer, said that Microsoft is essentially building a "ground station as a service."
While the bread-and-butter of Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services is their core computing and storage offerings, high-value services built on top of that infrastructure offer differentiation, likely higher margins, and increased lock-in for customers that use multiple services.
Shares of Microsoft were up 0.9% by early Tuesday afternoon. The stock has soared nearly 30% so far this year.
Walmart+ expected to be a hit
Walmart's latest foray into membership programs has a good chance at succeeding, at least according to analysts at UBS (NYSE: UBS). Launched last week, Walmart+ offers free same-day delivery of groceries and a selection of general merchandise for $98 annually. The service comes with some other minor perks, and Walmart plans to add to the list of benefits as time goes on.
Walmart+ doesn't replace Amazon Prime due to the limited selection. Instead, it leverages Walmart's store base to get products from stores to customers quickly. UBS believes Walmart+ will rack up 10 million subscribers by the end of 2021 under its base-case scenario. Although this will likely hurt profitability in the short run as the service scales up, UBS sees the incremental spending from subscribers driving e-commerce growth for the retail giant.
With a possible second wave of the coronavirus hitting the U.S. in the coming months, demand for grocery delivery could soar as shoppers look to limit risk. That could drive adoption of Walmart+ and help the retailer win over customers who would have otherwise shopped elsewhere.
Shares of Walmart were up about 0.7% by early Tuesday afternoon. The stock has gained 16% year to date.
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