Stock Market Today: Why Walgreen and McCormick are on the Move

Look for a positive beginning to the stock market today: The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) has gained 74 points in pre-market trading. U.S. stocks could take some positive cues from overseas markets, as Europe's STOXX index rose by as much as 1% overnight.

Closer to home, investors will get two fresh data points on the health of U.S. consumers this morning: consumer confidence is expected to show slight improvement in the month of March, while the pace of new home sales in February should have come down a bit from the five-year high the industry set in January. Both reports are due out at 10 a.m. EDT.

New home sales. Source: Federal Reserve Economic Data.

Meanwhile, news is breaking this morning on several stocks that could see heavy trading in today's session, including Walgreen (NYSE: WAG  ) , McCormick (NYSE: MKC  )  , and G-III Apparel (NASDAQ: GIII  ) .

Walgreen today announced that sales for its fiscal second quarter rose by 5% to a record $19.6 billion, on par with Wall Street's expectations. Adjusted profit for the pharmacy retailer, at $0.91 a share, came in just below analysts' estimates. Walgreen cited a few factors in that profit dip, including a less severe flu season, fewer generic drug introductions, and rough winter weather. Still, the company managed to book solid comparable store-sales growth of 4.3% through all of those headwinds. Walgreen's stock was up 3% in pre-market trading.

Spice maker McCormick this morning posted strong earnings results for its fiscal first quarter. Sales grew by 6% to $993 million, and profit improved by 9% to reach $0.62 a share. The company's international business is reaping big rewards from its 2013 expansion into the Chinese market: sales in the Asia/Pacific region were up 74% in the quarter. Meanwhile, McCormick's U.S. sales also managed to tick higher, boosted by extra marketing spending that helped offset continuing weakness in demand from quick-service restaurants. The company confirmed its outlook for its full fiscal year, which calls for sales growth of between 3% and 5%. McCormick stock was unchanged in pre-market trading.

Finally, clothing manufacturer G-III reported weaker than expected earnings results. Sales for its fiscal fourth quarter spiked higher by 26% to $473 million, but that was below the $490 million that Wall Street had estimated. Earnings improved by 55% to $0.62 a share. G-III also gave a conservative outlook for its next fiscal year, calling for earnings of about $4.10 a share, below analysts' target of $4.30. The stock is up almost 100% over the last year, but gave 7% of that back in pre-market trading.

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