Jack in the Box has best day since '08

Chris Nichols
Jack in the Box has best day since '08

Jack in the Box (JACK) shares were having their strongest session since late 2008 on Thursday, with a 9.3% post-earnings gain that had them back near their best-ever level recorded in March.

In recent trading, the stock was up $5.18 to $60.63, and earlier it was as high as $61.25. The best price ever was $62.90. So far in 2014, it's gained 21.4%.

Shares were rising after the San Diego-based owner of the Jack in the Box burger chain and Qdoba Mexican Grill topped analysts' quarterly estimates and offered an improved outlook, one that likely means earnings for the year will exceed the consensus view that's increased from $2.24 a share in January to $2.39 currently.

With the advance, it keeps Jack in the Box trading well above its normal levels, as a result of nearly tripling from the beginning of 2012. Its forward price-to-earnings multiple is 22.4, surpassing the 15.5 five-year average, though that is slightly below the 22.6 it had when Yahoo Finance profiled the stock in June.

As for its latest results, the company earned 65 cents a share before items in the third quarter, 8 cents better than expected, according to FactSet. Same-store sales rose 2.4% at corporate-owned Jack in the Box stores, whereas a 2.3% increase was estimated. Meanwhile, total revenue of $348.5 million exceeded the $343.3 million Wall Street was looking for.

Fiscal-year earnings should be $2.38 to $2.45 a share, the company now believes, above the prior $2.25 to $2.35 range. A year ago, it earned $1.82.

With its two brands, Jack in the Box combines fast food with fast casual, and its stock is now in the third year of a solid rally. Last year, it rose 74.9%, making it one of the leading publicly traded restaurants in a group that climbed more than 50%. The same set has been weaker overall in 2014, but Jack in the Box is a continuing outperformer. Among burger chains, its shares have been better than competitors such as McDonald's (MCD) and Sonic (SONC).