Gunmaker stocks have ended near recent lows amid a flurry of headlines that in prior years would have led to elevated volatility.
It’s been a frequent refrain on Wall Street that gun stocks such as Sturm Ruger & Co. and American Outdoor Brands Corp. tend to outperform after mass shootings, and in many cases this has been backed up by market reactions.
The theory is that the high-profile nature of such events could lead to a crackdown on gun ownership rights, creating a pull-forward of demand for products ahead of any legislation that may restrict use.
That thesis seems to be breaking down. Three of the five deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history occurred since June 2016 and yet over that time period, gun stocks have lagged peers in the Russell 2000 Leisure Time Index.
Sturm Ruger is down 15 percent, American Outdoor is down 52 percent and ammunition maker Vista Outdoor Inc. is down 59 percent compared to the index’s 41 percent rise -- a far cry from the outperformance seen from 2009 through mid-2016 when gunmakers outpaced the index by more than 50 percent.
Tuesday’s headlines underscored that the trade in gun stocks in becoming more nuanced with more moving parts and greater uncertainty.
On one hand, the Trump administration advanced a ban on "bump stocks" (but not guns) and Florida legislators voiced opposition to reviving any attempt to ban assault rifles.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court handed down a pair of adverse decisions for the gun lobby and a Quinnipiac poll showed support for gun control at the highest ever in the poll’s history.
It remains to be seen how the lack of a major legislative threat could affect gun sales. Sturm Ruger on Wednesday reported fourth-quarter revenue and earnings this missed the sole analyst estimates. 2017 sales fell 21 percent from the prior year, to $522.3 million.
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