Progress for the GOP's tax plans and better-than-expected earnings from Walmart Stores Inc. (WMT) - Get Report and Cisco Systems Inc. (CSCO) - Get Report saved Wall Street from another day in the red.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 187 points, or 0.80%, driven by Walmart and Cisco. The S&P 500 increased 21 points and the Nasdaq rose 87 points, or 1.30%. Benchmark indexes closed with gains for the first day in three. The Nasdaq finished with a new record of 6,793.
Enough GOP leaders in the House voted in support of a tax reform bill on Thursday afternoon, pushing the bill through to the Senate. The House GOP's $5.5 trillion tax package attracted 227 votes in support and 205 in dissent, including 13 Republicans. The GOP could only afford 22 nay votes from its own party.
The House GOP's plan cuts the corporate tax rate to 20%, down from 35%, limits the number of income brackets to four from seven, and proposes a top income tax rate of 35% for the highest earners making up to $1 million.
The affirmative vote in the House is the first step in pushing Republicans' tax reform plans into law. But it won't be a process without hurdles -- the Senate GOP's bill diverges from the House's in key aspects. Among the largest, the Senate bill has proposed repealing the Obamacare mandate.
Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin has already come out against the Senate GOP's tax bill, the first Republican senator to say he opposed his party's tax legislation. Johnson has said the bill does not do enough for small businesses. The Senate is expected to vote on its tax plan early next month.
Dow component Walmart rocketed nearly 11% higher, trading at records, after reporting its ninth consecutive quarterly earnings beat. Revenue surged 4.2% to $123.2 billion over the quarter, higher than consensus of $121 billion. Adjusted earnings of $1 a share beat by 3 cents.
U.S. same-store sales rose 2.7%, while same-store traffic increased 1.5%. U.S. e-commerce sales, an area of focus for the company, grew 50%.
Other supermarket and consumer staples stocks followed Walmart higher, including Costco Wholesale Corp. (COST) - Get Report , PriceSmart Inc. (PSMT) - Get Report , Target Corp. (TGT) - Get Report , Dollar General Corp. (DG) - Get Report and Kroger Co. (KR) - Get Report . The Consumer Staples Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLP) - Get Report rose 1.3%.
Best Buy Co. (BBY) - Get Report was shut out of retail gains after missing third-quarter sales estimates and issuing a weak forecast. Earnings of 78 cents a share rose from 61 cents a year earlier and matched analysts' estimates. However, revenue of $9.32 billion fell short of $9.36 billion consensus. Domestic same-store sales gained 4.5%, below targets of a 4.9% rise.
For its fourth quarter, Best Buy expects sales of $14.2 billion to $14.5 billion, in-line with estimates. Adjusted earnings guidance of $1.89 to $1.99 a share fell short of $2.03 consensus.
Cisco was on a tear after the networking giant posted stronger-than-expected earnings in first fiscal first quarter and said revenue will likely snap a long streak of declines as customers spend more on products such as security solutions.
Earnings of 61 cents a share beat out analysts by a penny. Cisco said revenue in its first quarter was led by its "security" sales, which rose 8%, and that it closed its purchased of privately held network forensics security applications provider Observable Networks Inc. The company anticipates second-quarter sales growth of 1% to 2% and adjusted earnings of 58 cents to 60 cents a share.
- Cisco Shares Set to Open at 16-Year High After Security Business Boosts Q1 Sales
- Cisco's Stock Hasn't Been This High Since 2001
Other tech stocks on the rise included Apple Inc. (AAPL) - Get Report , Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL) - Get Report , Facebook Inc. (FB) - Get Report , and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. (BABA) - Get Report . The Technology Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLK) - Get Report gained 1.3%.
Viacom Inc. (VIAB) - Get Report was lower on Thursday after a weaker-than-expected fiscal fourth quarter. U.S. revenue from its key Media Networks business declined, with the group losing subscribers to its MTV and Comedy Central cable networks.
Adjusted earnings of 77 cents a share were up 12% from the same period last year but shy of the FactSet consensus forecast of 86 cents. Revenue was largely in-line with estimates at $3.319 billion, Viacom said, up 3% from last year and taking the full fiscal year tally to $13.263 billion.
J.M. Smucker Co. (SJM) - Get Report increased more than 9% after topping quarterly profit and sales estimates. The owner of coffee brand Folger's earned an adjusted $2.02 a share over its recent quarter, 12 cents above expectations. Revenue increased 0.5% to $1.92 billion, $30 million above estimates. By segment, U.S. retail coffee sales were flat, and consumer foods fell 5%, while retail pet foods increased 4%.
In economic news, Initial jobless claims increased to a six-week high in the past week, according to the Labor Department. The number of new claims for unemployment benefits rose by 10,000 to 249,000. The less volatile four-week claims average increased 6,500 to 237,750.
Import price growth slowed in October and came in at half of what analysts expected. Prices rose by 0.2%, driven by increases in the cost of petroleum, though food prices declined. Analysts expected an increase of 0.4% after a 0.8% gain in September.
Industrial production in the U.S. rose at a faster pace than expected last month. The Federal Reserve reported a 0.9% rise in production in October, faster than an expected 0.5% increase. The gain was also three times the growth rate in September.
Procter & Gamble (PG) - Get Report rose 1.1% after activist investor Nelson Peltz claimed victory in his battle to win a seat on the company's board, though its leaders vowed to review the results of a shareholder vote.
Preliminary results issued last month by P&G showed that Peltz had just under 50% of the vote, or roughly 49.8%. Final result tabulations by IVS Associates Inc., P&G's inspector of elections, however, showed that Peltz narrowly won.
RH (RH) - Get Report surged 25% after upping its third-quarter and full-year guidance, crediting its "dramatically more efficient" operations. The company anticipated third-quarter net revenue to rise by 8% and for adjusted earnings of $1.02 to $1.04 a share, up from its previous range of 68 cents to 80 cents. For the full year, the home goods company anticipates net income of $82 million to $87 million, above a previous range of $70 million to $77 million.
T-Mobile US Inc. (TMUS) - Get Report added 5% after chief financial officer Braxton Carter said the company would put forth a "significant" share buyback plan for the board to decide on this month. Buybacks could begin as early as December. Speaking at a conference in Barcelona, Carter said the company was "excited about the potential in a rational way to start returning cash to shareholders." Shares had been under pressure since early November when merger talks with Sprint Corp. (S) - Get Report came to an end.
Time Inc. (TIME) was higher on Thursday on reports the publisher is discussing a sale to Meredith Corp. (MDP) - Get Report . The Koch brothers are reportedly putting up more than $500 million in equity to back a Meredith offer. Both companies have yet to comment on the reported discussions.
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