Major Food Stocks Making Waves Today

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over daily movements, we do like to keep an eye on market changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

This afternoon, the Federal Reserve's most recent meeting minutes were released and investors quickly noticed that the members of the central bank are making it clear that if the economy continues to move along as it has been; they will soon begin tapering their $85 billion-a-month bond-buying program. With that news, the major indexes turned lower for the day and the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) finished the session down 66 points, or 0.41%, while the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq closed the day down 0.36% and 0.26%, respectively.

While the major indexes all fell today, one industry in particular experienced some major moves itself. The food industry had a number of companies that dropped by more than 1% today. Shares of J.M. Smucker (NYSE: SJM  ) fell 6.54%, while Campbell Soup (NYSE: CPB  ) dropped 1.53%, and Hormel Foods (NYSE: HRL  ) declined 2.7%. So what caused the declines?

J.M. Smucker's dropped after the company reported earnings this morning and posted a revenue decline of 4% from $1.63 billion last year to $1.56 billion during the most recent quarter, which also missed estimates of $1.61 billion. That led to earnings that rose from $1.36 per share last year to $1.46 per share, but EPS also fell short of expectations of $1.59. Furthermore, the company said that it expects revenue to drop by 2% during 2014 when compared to 2013, which is lower than the 1% decline management had previously forecasted. Also while the company reiterated it previously stated full-year earnings-per-share range of $5.72 to $%.82, Wall Street had been forecasting $5.83.  

Campbell Soup lost ground today after analyst Christopher Growe of Stifel Nicolaus Equity Research released a statement to clients that painted a poor picture of the soup company in the coming months. Growe believes Campbell will only report earnings or $2.47 per share during 2014, despite the company forecasting a range between $2.53 to $2.58 per share. He believes that the company will have a hard time matching its performance from last winter, which was unseasonably cold. Furthermore, Growe said based on the company's sales declines over each of the last four-week periods, he doesn't believe Campbell will hit its stated EPS. Lastly, although the soup company is on track with new products, they are unlikely to drive large enough growth to make a meaningful difference this year.  

And finally, Hormel. The stock fell after the CEO of Hillshire Brands (NYSE: HSH  ) said that his company will look to make some acquisitions in the coming year and focus more on chicken products as consumers begin to demand healthier options. It is clear that the competition will continue to intensify for Hormel in the coming months and years and, as Hillshire is still a smaller company, it could change very quickly if the acquisition-happy CEO goes on a shopping spree. With many of these food brands, it is all about shelf space and location within a store and, more times than not, the bigger the player, the better the location. Hormel investors shouldn't be overly concerned today, but need to watch how things play out in the future.  

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