Williams-Sonoma Enjoys Hot "Weddings Season" Earnings, Sears Sees the Light, and Housing Data Rebounds

Take your time to review some recent innovations in burger patties before you try to impress friends at the grill this Memorial Day weekend. Plus, you can look smart by explaining why the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) gained 10 points Thursday.

1. Williams-Sonoma earnings look as good as their appliances
It must be wedding season, because the quarterly earnings from Williams-Sonoma (NYSE: WSM  ) looked pretty to Wall Street. The craft home appliances designer reported a 9.7% rise in revenue from last year to $974.3 million for the first three months of 2014, with profits of $46.2 million that beat analysts' expectations like they were egg whites.

What's impressive is that cool cool outdoor-bar/smoothie-making/charcoal-fired-grills (those aren't actually a real thing, but they should be) and other appliances aren't the only thing attracting customers to the flagship Williams-Sonoma stores. The company's other brands are dominating, too -- Pottery barn sales gained 9.7% and West Elm sales jumped 18.8% last quarter.

The takeaway is that while the winter had been harsh for most big-box retailers (we're looking at you, Wal-Mart, Staples, and Target), the painful weather didn't really hurt luxury retailers. Bag designer Kate Spade enjoyed its best first-quarter sales growth in a few years, while Tiffany saw a 13% sales jump. The enthusiasm around fancy goods sent Williams-Sonoma stock up 8.16% Thursday.

2. Sears Holdings stock sees light at the end of the tunnel
Can this old department-store owner catch a break already? Sears Holdings (NASDAQ: SHLD  ) announced first-quarter earnings ... sorry, losses ... of $402 million, even worse than last year's $279 million loss. The company highlighted one big positive, though -- Sears stores open at least a year actually grew sales by 0.2% from the year before. Investors were so surprised by the minuscule growth they celebrated with a 4% rise for the stock Thursday.

Sears and Kmart are the assets of the company (we know what you're thinking -- those places still exist?). Once the largest department-store companies in the world, Sears will close 80 more stores this year as most consumers continue to opt for online shopping on their couches (and the rest are at Wal-Mart). To combat this trend, the store has a Costco-style club membership now called "Shop Your Way." These shoppers who push VIP shopping carts (with only one crooked wheel) now account for 74% of sales.
 
The focus of the past few years has been closing unprofitable stores, selling their snazzy Lands' End brand, selling the decent shopping strip real estate it has, and creating the rewards program. None of these quick fixes will stop the bleeding, which explains why the stock has fallen from over $100 in 2010 to $38.10 on Thursday.

3. Existing-home sales get first win of 2014
The number of the day is 1.3%. That's the increase in home sales in April, to a seasonably adjusted rate of 4.65 million houses changing hands. Although that's slightly below Wall Street's expectations and nearly 7% lower than last April (back when Justin Bieber didn't have a criminal record), investors were pumped for the stat's first rise of this year.

The takeaway is that spring is big for boring baseball "highlights" on ESPN and U.S. home sales -- that's because Mom and Dad like to have moved into a new town and school district before the end of the summer. After all the momentum gained by the housing market in 2013, investors like to see the housing market regroup after the slow, cold-affected winter.

As originally published on MarketSnacks.com

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