Stocks returned to the green in jittery trading Thursday, Aug. 24, as a rally in retail names and anticipation over a three-day economic summit overwhelmed Wall Street.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.05% and the S&P 500 added 0.06%, while the Nasdaq gained 0.02%.
Retail names were in rally mode after a string of positive earnings. Department store chains such as Kohl's Corp. (KSS - Get Report) , J.C. Penney Co. (JCP - Get Report) , Macy's Inc. (M - Get Report) and Target Corp. (TGT - Get Report) were higher, while the SPDR S&P Retail ETF (XRT - Get Report) added 1.9%.
Williams-Sonoma Inc. (WSM - Get Report) added almost 4% following a solid earnings beat. The homewares retail chain earned net income of 61 cents a share, 3 cents higher than a year earlier. Analysts had expected earnings of 59 cents a share. Revenue of $1.2 billion matched estimates. The company expects to earn 80 cents to 87 cents a share on revenue of $1.27 billion to $1.31 billion over the third quarter, wrapping analysts' estimates of 82 cents a share in earnings on $1.28 billion in sales.
Dollar Tree Inc. (DLTR - Get Report) increased 9% after a better-than-expected second quarter and solid guidance for its third quarter and full year. The discount chain earned 98 cents a share over the quarter, higher than 72 cents a year earlier, and above estimates of 87 cents. Sales increased nearly 6% to $5.28 billion, exceeding consensus of $5.27 billion.
For the third quarter, Dollar Tree anticipates earnings of 83 cents to 90 cents a share on $5.2 billion to $5.29 billion in sales. Analysts anticipate earnings of 87 cents a share on $5.24 billion in sales. Full-year guidance also wrapped estimates.
Sears Holdings Corp. (SHLD) surged 8% after a narrower loss overshadowed sharp declines in sales. A net loss of $2.34 a share was far narrower than $3.70 a share a year earlier thanks to cost-cutting efforts. Revenue slid 23% to $4.37 billion. Sears also said it would close 28 more Kmart stores.
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Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (ANF - Get Report) rocketed 15% higher after reporting a narrower loss than expected over its second quarter. The teen apparel retailer reported a net loss of 23 cents a share, wider than 19 cents a year earlier, but narrower than consensus of 33 cents. Sales of $779.3 million came in higher than estimates of $759 million. Same-store sales decreased 1%, weighed on by a 7% drop at its namesake brand, though Hollister sales rose 5%.
Tiffany & Co. (TIF - Get Report) , however, slipped despite reporting a better-than-expected second quarter. The jewelry retailer earned 92 cents a share, higher than 84 cents a year earlier and above estimates of 86 cents. Revenue increased 3% $959.7 million, surprising analysts looking for a slight decrease. Same-store sales fell by 2%.
Central bankers convened in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, for the highly anticipated annual Economic Policy Symposium. The event runs from Thursday to Saturday, Aug. 26, with speeches from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen and her European counterpart Mario Draghi, European Central Bank president, on Friday, Aug. 25, to be of particular interest.
Draghi will speak just two weeks before the ECB's meeting on Sept. 7, and Yellen more than three weeks from the Fed's next meeting on Sep. 19-20.
Investors will comb through the speeches for any hawkish commentary. Yellen's language, in particular, will be analyzed to determine whether September is a go for the Fed to begin unwinding its balance sheet. The Fed had previously said it would implement that move "relatively soon" should the economy continue to grow at the pace expected. Unloading mortgage-backed securities and other assets would likely tighten monetary conditions in the same way an interest-rate hike would. Another rate increase isn't expected until December at the earliest.
Sears is still dying. Watch this timeline.
However, weak inflation trends could delay the Fed's timing on reducing its balance sheet and hiking rates. In minutes from the last meeting, Fed members were split on whether slowing inflation trends were transient or not. A number of Fed officials have said that even with a series of interest rate hikes forecast over the next 18 months, the long-term federal funds rate will likely remain below historical averages.
"More hawkish members of the Fed hold the position that waiting to raise rates could lead to excess future inflation, while the more dovish contingent feels that the Fed can wait until inflation accelerates before aggressively raising interest rates," said Matthew Peterson, chief wealth strategist at LPL Financial. "This discussion isn't new and is likely to continue at future Fed meetings."
Weekly jobless claims edged higher, though held near multi-year lows. The number of new claims for unemployment benefits in the U.S. increased by 2,000 to 234,000, according to the Department of Labor. The less volatile four-week average fell by 2,750 to 237,750. Continuing jobless claims held steady at 1.95 million.
Existing home sales came in at a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 5.44 million in July, according to the National Association of Realtors. That marked a 1.3% decline and its lowest level of the year. Economists had expected a 0.9% increase.
HP Inc. (HPQ - Get Report) rose despite quarterly profit dipping from a year earlier. Net income of $696 million, or 41 cents a share, fell from $783 million, or 45 cents, in the same quarter a year earlier. Excluding one-time charges, adjusted earnings of 43 cents a share beat consensus by 1 cent. Revenue rose by 10% to $13.1 billion and came in higher than an estimated $12.3 billion. For the fourth quarter, HP anticipates earnings of 42 cents to 45 cents a share, wrapping estimates of 44 cents.
Updated from 10:08 a.m. ET, Thursday, Aug. 24.
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