Stock investment – What Happened in the Stock Market Today — The Motley Fool



Stock investment

Despite several swings during the trading session on Thursday, stocks barely moved as investors digested fresh data pointing to sluggish economic growth ahead of a key monthly jobs report on Friday morning. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) managed a tiny daily gain and the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) index finished flat.

Today’s stock market

Index

Percentage Change

Point Change

Dow


0.1%

18

S&P 500

0%

0

Data source: Yahoo! Finance.

Yet earnings news drove large price swings in a few individual stocks on Thursday, including Campbell Soup (NYSE:CPB) and Vera Bradley (NASDAQ:VRA).

Campbell Soup’s fresh food stumbles

Campbell Soup was one of the worst-performing stocks on the S&P 500 after the food and snack giant posted disappointing quarterly earnings results. Overall revenue was flat, as management predicted, but organic sales fell despite executive’s prior forecast of a slight increase. “I am not pleased with the results,” CEO Denise Morrison said in a press release.

Image source: Getty Images.

There were execution issues in the fresh food business, Morrison explained. That division shrunk by 12% thanks to a large decline in carrot sales and a voluntary recall on Bolthouse Farm branded protein drinks. Segment operating revenue sank by 62% — mainly because of charges related to that recall.

On the positive side, overall profits were strong (adjusted earnings rose 11% over the past 12 months), and healthy cash flow gains helped convince Campbell to boost its dividend by 12%. Meanwhile, the company has a plan to fix the execution problems that sank its fresh food business this quarter.

However, executives said that sales growth, which remains a top priority, will be hard to come by in the next fiscal year. The company projected a revenue improvement of less than 1% for fiscal 2017, which helps explain why the stock took a step back on Thursday. 

Vera Bradley’s growth slump

Vera Bradley’s 9% daily jump put the handbag and accessories specialist back in positive territory for the year following modestly upbeat quarterly results. Revenue came in as management predicted — flat against the prior-year period. Vera’s comparable store sales fell by 6%, representing a slight improvement over the prior quarter’s 7% drop, as customer traffic fell both in stores and online. The company’s gross profit margin rose by 2 percentage points, which was just below guidance, due to increased costs and price cuts.

Image source: Vera Bradley.

“Although the overall retail environment certainly remains challenging, we are pleased that we achieved total revenues within our guidance range,” CEO Robert Wallstrom said in a press release. “We are also pleased with our 230 basis point gross profit expansion, primarily related to sourcing and operational efficiencies.” 

The current quarter will include a major relaunch for the Vera Bradley brand, including a new e-commerce push, which Wallstrom and his team believe will put the company back on a positive sales growth trajectory by the end of 2016. Yet the company lowered both its sales and profitability forecasts slightly. Revenue should tick up to nearly $515 million from $503 million last year. Gross profit margin will show a similar improvement, rising to 58% of sales from 57%. Those aren’t exciting prospects on either the top or bottom lines, but the possibility of a turnaround was enough to spark investor interest in a stock that was down nearly 30% since early April.

– Stock investment

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