Why Macy's, Nordion, and Acuity Brands Soared 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.

The stock market fought mostly to a draw on Thursday, with investors hesitant to bid the overall market higher from record levels after an extremely strong 2013, but also seeing few alternatives to justify selling off. Yet, even though the Dow dropped slightly, while the S&P 500 posted a tiny gain on the day, Macy's (NYSE: M  ) , Nordion (NYSE: NDZ  ) , and Acuity Brands (NYSE: AYI  ) all managed to score much more substantial gains from company-specific news.

Macy's rose 8% after announcing sales results for the November-December period, and guidance for the 2014 fiscal year. Comps rose 3.6% for the holiday period, although the retailer expects full fourth-quarter comps to come in up just 2.3% to 2.5%. The company also said that 2014 comps would rise 2.5% to 3%, with earnings per share up 15% to 16% from current full-year 2013 projections. But what really sent shares soaring was Macy's decision to implement new cost reductions as part of a broader restructuring to save $100 million annually. The retailer expects to lay off 2,500 employees and close some underperforming store locations in an effort to amplify its positive results.

Nordion climbed 10% after the supplier of radioactive isotopes for medical research and treatment purposes announced its latest earnings. The company's adjusted net income of $0.15 per share was down by 44% from year-ago levels, and fell short of what investors had hoped to see from Nordion. Nevertheless, what seemed to motivate investors was Nordion's assurance that it continues to work toward evaluating strategic alternatives for the business. After having completed its sale of its Targeted Therapies business, Nordion has investors convinced that it can find similar success in divesting its remaining businesses, and reaching good results for investors. With more than half its market cap in cash, Nordion has investors interested in what the next phase of its strategic review will bring.

Acuity Brands jumped 12% after the lighting specialist posted strong sales growth of nearly 20% and gave favorable guidance for 2014. The big question for Acuity is the extent to which clients will seek to do various renovations and retrofits in order to take advantage of new technology. But if the economy keeps getting stronger, there'll be more incentive to take advantage of greater efficiencies, potentially driving more growth for Acuity going forward.

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