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What Happened in the Stock Market Today

Jim Crumly, The Motley Fool

Stocks rose Thursday as investors turned their attention to a spate of positive earnings reports. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI) and the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC) both gained about a percentage point.

Today's stock market

Index Percentage Change Point Change
Dow 0.99% 238.51
S&P 500 1.04% 27.54

Data source: Yahoo! Finance.

Technology stocks led the market today; the Technology Select Sector SPDR ETF (NYSEMKT: XLK) jumped 1.8%. The consumer sector was also strong, with the Consumer Discretionary Select SPDR ETF (NYSEMKT: XLY) adding 1.6%.

As for individual stocks, Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) reported huge growth despite recent controversy, and Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE: CMG) rose on investor optimism for a turnaround.

Upward stock graph.

Image source: Getty Images.

Facebook reports massive revenue growth

Investors shrugged off Facebook's issues with mishandled user data when the company announced first-quarter results that blew away expectations, and the stock surged 9.1%. Revenue grew 49% to $12 billion, accelerating from 47% growth in the previous two quarters, and beating analysts' expectations for a 42% increase. Earnings per share soared 63% to $1.69 while Wall Street was looking for $1.35.

Daily active users and monthly active users both jumped 13% from Q1 last year, with user totals increasing from last quarter in all geographies. Average revenue per user was up 38% in the U.S. and Canada to $23.59, and up 31% worldwide. Operating margin expanded to 46%, compared to 41% in the period a year earlier.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg used his prepared remarks in the conference call to comment on the efforts the company is making to protect user data and remove harmful or deceptive content from the platform. "For most of our existence, we've focused on all the good that connecting people can bring," Zuckerberg said. "But it's clear now we didn't do enough to prevent these tools from being used for harm as well -- whether that's foreign interference in elections, fake news, hate speech, or app developers and data privacy."

CFO David Wehner said that revenue growth rates will decelerate on a constant currency basis throughout the year and that European user numbers may be flat to down next quarter due to the new European Union privacy law. Those cautionary statements weren't enough to dampen renewed investor enthusiasm for the stock, though.

Chipotle's new CEO impresses investors

Shares of Chipotle Mexican Grill rocketed 24.4% higher today after the company announced first-quarter profit that beat expectations handily and new CEO Brian Niccol impressed investors on the earnings call. Revenue increased 7.4% to $1.15 billion, which was right on the analyst consensus. Earnings per share grew 33% to $2.13, well above expectations for $1.58.

Comparable sales grew 2.2%, with a 4.9% benefit from price increases offsetting a 3.3% decline in traffic. Restaurant-level margin increased to 19.5% from 17.7% a year ago, thanks mostly to the price increases and lower promotional and marketing spending.

What likely powered the stock today was that Niccol, formerly with Taco Bell, pushed all the right buttons in his first conference call, assuring analysts that he won't be making big, risky changes but will bring some needed innovation to the chain. In the Q&A period, Niccol praised the fundamentals of the business as they stand today, while vowing to strengthen the brand, which he said has been "invisible." When an analyst suggested that the company's supply chain hindered menu innovation, Niccol said he sees no barrier to that, stating that the great ingredients could create even more distance from competitors.

Customers may not be seeing quesalupas from Chipotle anytime soon, but change is in the wind for the struggling burrito specialist. And while the new CEO is admittedly enjoying a honeymoon period with investors, they were willing to bet big on him today.

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Jim Crumly owns shares of Chipotle Mexican Grill and Facebook. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Chipotle Mexican Grill and Facebook. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.