Why Big Lots and Foot Locker Jumped

Investors seemed to get what they were looking for out of today's jobs report, but stocks still held steady as the Dow Jones Industrial Average  (DJINDICES: ^DJI  )  gained 31 points, or 0.2%, while the S&P 500 moved up a point, or just 0.05%. The Department of Labor reported that 175,000 jobs were added in February, better than estimates at 163,000, while the unemployment report ticked up to 0.1%, to 6.7%, above estimates at 6.6%, a reflection of more people looking for work as the number of long-term unemployed increased 203,000, to 3.8 million. The Department also revised December and January job counts upward by a total of 25,000, showing job growth earlier in the winter was not as poor as suspected. Still, any positive bump from the jobs report could have been neutralized by rising tensions in Ukraine, as the Russian government said it had the right to annex Crimea, rebuffing threats of sanctions from the U.S. and other western powers. European stocks were also down sharply on the military standoff, as the German DAX fell 2%. 

The employment report and continuing concerns in Ukraine dominated headlines, but there were still some individual stocks making news. Big Lots  (NYSE: BIG  ) shares exploded today, moving up 23% on a strong earnings report. The closeout retailer posted earnings of $1.45 per share, down from a profit of $2.08, but better than estimates at $1.40. Revenue fell 6%, to $1.64 billion, above expectations of $1.41 billion, and same-store sales dropped 3%. Big Lots also said it would complete the closure of its Canadian stores in the current quarter, and projected EPS of $0.40-$0.45, below estimates at $0.50, and full-year per-share profit of $2.25-$2.45, within the range of estimates at $2.44. Same-store sales are projected to be flat to 2%. Big Lots' surge seems to speak to the market's low expectations for retailers this quarter, but Big Lots' flat growth makes it unlikely that investors will see many more days like this.

Big Lots wasn't the only retailer soaring today. Foot Locker  (NYSE: FL  ) finished the day up 8.8% after beating estimates in its fourth-quarter report. The sneaker retailer turned in a per-share profit of $0.82, ahead of expectations at $0.76, as revenue improved 4.6%, to $1.79 billion, topping the consensus at $1.77 billion. Comparable sales were up 5.3%. CEO Ken Hicks credited his team's execution for the strong quarter, and said there were a number of opportunities, including the expansion of shop-in-shops, its children's business, and banner.com, which would allow for mid-single-digit comp growth and double-digit earnings-per-share growth. Considering the environment that many retailers have been facing over the holidays, Foot Locker's report was particularly impressive. 

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