Watch stocks you care about
The single, easiest way to keep track of all the stocks that matter...
Your own personalized stock watchlist!
It's a 100% FREE Motley Fool service...
The market has been chugging along nicely this year, and investors are sending signs that they believe the recovery could be gaining momentum, bidding up the S&P 500 Index (INDEX: ^GSPC ) more than 14% year to date. The underlying economy has sent a few positive signs, as well, from job creation (however slight) to an ostensible rebound in the housing market. But are consumers spending? Let's have a look at a few earnings reports in the past week; perhaps they can indicate whether we're in a healthy recovery, or whether the results are harbingers of worse times to come.
Bed Bath and Beyond
Bed Bath and Beyond (Nasdaq: BBBY ) reported Q2 2012 earnings on Wednesday. Investors weren't exactly impressed. The $14 billion home furnishings store reported earnings of $0.98 per share, while analysts expected EPS to come in at $1.02. As a result, shares were bid down more than 8% when trading resumed on Thursday.
The company completed the acquisition of two businesses, Cost Plus and Linen Holdings, in the second quarter. Cost Plus is very similar in scope to the core Bed Bath and Beyond business, selling a variety of home decorating items. Linen Holdings is a bit more focused, and is mainly a business-to-business distributor of textile products.
Chief Executive Steven Temares noted in the company's conference call that these acquisitions drove down operating margins by about 2% in the second quarter, due to ongoing deleveraging in the wake of consolidating the businesses, as well as increased SG&A expenses from the acquisitions.
Admittedly, Rite Aid (NYSE: RAD ) is not the greatest stock in the investment universe and, as fellow Fool Rick Munarriz noted earlier this week, the drugstore hasn't posted a quarterly profit in a full five years. Keeping that in mind, the company did post narrower losses in the second quarter, as Rite Aid took customers from rival Walgreen (NYSE: WAG ) with its loyalty rewards program, Wellness+. Pharmacy CVS Caremark (NYSE: CVS ) is also trying its best to lure customers with its own rewards program. Both Rite Aid and CVS have succeeded at the expense of Walgreen, which left the Express Scripts prescription network earlier this year, though the companies will resume their relationship this month.
Rite Aid, for its part, failed to grow same-store sales in its most recent quarter. Longer-term same-store sales growth is positive, however, fueled mainly by its loyalty rewards program and benefits from store renovations. The number of prescriptions filled at Rite Aid locations increased 4% in the last quarter, boosted by the Walgreens-Express Scripts breakup.
The real takeaway, however, was in Rite Aid's sales forecast, which was lowered to reflect continued introductions of generic drugs. The company now expects to have revenues of $25.1 billion to $25.4 billion for the year. Its prior estimate had been $25.3 billion to $25.7 billion. Investors sold off the stock on Thursday, and shares closed more than 5% lower for the day, ending at $1.27.
I'm not sure broad economic conclusions can be reached by examining the results of these two companies in isolation. At the end of the day, both had disappointing results, but they were due to mergers and acquisitions in the case of Bed Bath and Beyond, and the rise of generic drugs in the case of Rite Aid.
It's often hard to get a good readout on the economy, but one thing remains clear: It's not where it needs to be. There's no doubt the economy will be a major factor in the presidential election come November, and investors can benefit if they invest wisely before the next president takes office. A special free report prepared by Motley Fool analysts lays out a few specific stocks that could skyrocket after the election. Position yourself to profit from the decision in November by reading through your free copy today.