Zale Sails, Sears Fails on Holiday Sales

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.

When we think of publications that help us to understand the stock market, names like Barron's, The Wall Street Journal, and, hopefully, the Motley Fool come to mind. Call it heresy, but perhaps Psychology Today should be thrown into the mix, as well. After all, Wall Street's cognitive dissonance -- a "psychological conflict resulting from incongruous beliefs and attitudes held simultaneously," according to Merriam-Webster -- was on full display Friday.

U.S. nonfarm payrolls growth of 74,000 in December fell far short of expectations, which called for growth of nearly 200,000. "No matter," Wall Street shrugged. "That just means the Fed won't be in a rush to taper too quickly!" Two stocks gained for every one that fell today, though the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) finished slightly lower, shedding seven points, or less than 0.1%, to end at 16,437. 

Optimistic Walt Disney (NYSE: DIS  ) shareholders bid the stock slightly higher, as it added 0.7% Friday. The U.S. Supreme Court officially agreed to hear a case that could squash the disruptive potential of Aereo, and other companies like it. Aereo allows subscribers to watch live and recorded broadcast TV over the Internet, without paying $0.01 to the broadcasters (read Disney, Comcast, CBS, etc.) themselves. By cleverly assigning each subscriber his or her own unique antenna, Aereo claims that no two subscribers are watching the same broadcast, and the company isn't violating any laws. Opening arguments may begin as early as April, according to The Wall Street Journal

Shares of Texas-based jewelry retailer Zale (UNKNOWN: ZLC.DL  ) rocketed 14.7% higher today, as same-store sales grew 2% in the last two months of 2013 from the final two months of 2012. While gross sales in the holiday period actually fell by $11 million, to $556 million, a revenue slip was already anticipated in the wake of Zale's overall store count declining by 91 locations. Same-store sales growth is the holy grail of retail metrics because, once the number of locations reaches a saturation point, same-store sales growth is the only way to boost revenues without involving the Internet.

Sears (NASDAQ: SHLD  ) shareholders, on the other hand, would love to see same-store sales growth of 2%. In fact, the stock probably would've been one of the day's best performers if it had mimicked Zale's modest numbers. Instead, same-store sales slumped 7.4% over the holiday months, causing the stock to plummet 13.8% to finish the week. Sears' projected fiscal year 2014, which comes to a close on Feb. 1, may see upwards of $1.3 billion in losses. This would put the beleaguered retailer's losses at more than $5.3 billion over just three years. With no compelling reason to believe a turnaround is in effect, investors are having a hard time figuring out where the upside could be with this stock.

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