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Stocks Finish the Week Strong Thanks to Improving Consumer Data

Stocks held their gains today, logging a fourth straight week of increases. The indexes moved higher on a pair of upbeat economic reports. Consumer sentiment improved to 83.7 in May according to the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan index. That's the highest level since July, 2007 and above expectations of 78. Separately, the Conference Board says leading indicators rose .6% in April to 95.0. That's the highest level in nearly five years and suggests a predicted slowdown in growth will not last long.

JC Penney (JCP) closed the day down over 4% down. The company released earnings, or a lack of them, after yesterday's closing bell. It lost $1.58 a share, more than twice the amount a year ago. In addition, revenue fell to $2.64 billion, a drop of 16%. Some other fast facts for you: sales at stores open more than a year are down 17%; gross margins were 30.8%, down nearly 7%; and the company is still paying for its bungled overhaul, shelling out $72-million dollars in restructuring and management transition charges. Recently reinstated CEO Myron Ullman is asking for time and patience getting the store back on track. Ullman assumed the post again last month after the ouster of Ron Johnson.

Dell's (DELL) quarterly earnings were similarly disastrous. The PC maker reported an 80% plunge in profits. Even when you exclude items the company fell far short on earnings posting 21-cents a share when the concensus was for 35-cents. Dell actually beat on revenues but gross margins shrank and operating expenses rose 12%. Despite the report, Dell's share price remained stable above $13. That's because company founder and current CEO Michael Dell wants to take the company private again for $13.65 a share. Activist investor Carl Icahn is still pushing a counter offer, and other hedge funds may be readying their own proposals.

Shares of Nordstrom (JWN) dipped a little less than 1% today in the wake of its earnings report. The luxury retail chain had a rare miss for the quarter, making 73-cents a share on $2.75-billion. Nordstrom says sales of seasonal products have been down. The chain is also lowering its outlook for revenues, though it's maintaining expectations for earnings. So far this year Nordstrom pretty much performed in line with the market, rising about 14%.

Autodesk (ADSK) spent part of the day down more than 10% but gained a little traction before the close ending the day down close to 7%. The software maker missed estimates when it reported earnings last night. The company says it made 42-cents a share when concensus was for 45-cents. Perhaps even more troubling to shareholders, Autodesk is now lowering its full year forecast, despite the fact that its primary rival Adobe Systems has raised its outlook.

Finally, fasten your seat belts: (TSLA) moved lower after starting the day in the green. That was a reversal of yesterday's action when the stock began the day lower but then moved up more than 9%. Over the past week the stock is up more than 29%. Year-to-date shares of Tesla are up 160%. The company is issuing more shares to raise money so it can repay government loans ahead of schedule.

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