Big Luxury Retail Earnings, Urban's Ugly Quarter, Housing's Rebound, and the Week in Review

Time to start rocking your khaki-shorts game. Not only is summertime around the corner, but stocks were mostly up during the quiet, pre-holiday week.

1. Stock market winners ...
We'll take watching an NHL playoff hockey game over shopping for home appliances pretty much any day of the week -- but that doesn't mean we're not big fans of Williams-Sonoma's (NYSE: WSM  ) first-quarter performance. In its earnings report, the home-goods retailer announced a 9.7% rise in revenue from last year to reach $974.3 million, with a solid side order of profits of $46.2 million, which firmly topped Wall Street's projections.

Yes, appliances are what's driving the sales at the store that your mom and newlywed couples can't get enough of, but Williams-Sonoma's other brands are enjoying plenty of love as well -- sales at Pottery Barn popped 9.7% over the period, while West Elm sales gained nearly 19%.

Keep in mind that this past winter was brutal for the major retail chains nationwide, from Staples to Wal-Mart, as storms and blizzards kept folks inside (aka "not shopping"). But it looks like this wasn't the case for more luxury-oriented shoppers -- and Wall Street rewarded Williams-Sonoma stock with a healthy 8.2% gain Thursday on the news.
2. ... And stock market losers
If you're reading this in your skinny jeans, then we have some bad news -- shares of Urban Outfitters (NASDAQ: URBN  ) suffered last week as the company reported earnings that pretty much looked out of style. On the bright side for the questionably trendy clothing retailer, revenue rose 6% in the first quarter of 2014 compared with the same period of last year, for a total of $686.3 million.

But on the not-so-bright side, that figure was below analysts' expectations. So what was the problem? It looks like the designers working for Urban's flagship brand (aka Urban Outfitters), just haven't hit the mark recently. During the earnings call, execs admitted that the company has "missed fashion calls," and as a result, sales at the stores fell 6% last quarter.

The key here is that Urban isn't just one brand -- it's got a few good-looking ones under its belt. Despite the poor performance of the Urban name, sales at its retail chain Live Free gained 8% over the quarter, while Anthropologie sales jumped 25%. It wasn't enough to encourage investors to jump on the stock, but it did help Urban save some face.
3. The U.S. housing market had spring pep
U.S. housing data is officially more exciting than the first half of the MLB season. Sales of existing homes rose 1.3% in April for their first gain of the year, and new home sales popped 6.4%, beating analysts' expectations. Housing data started 2014 poorly thanks to that brutal winter weather -- but spring is key for the real estate sector, since most families like moving before the school year. Investors were just happy to see the housing market get back on track after such a strong 2013.

4. The Fed's minutes showed stimulus love
America's central bank opened itself up to the world, revealing the minutes from Federal Reserve policymakers' big meeting last month. It turns out that Fed officials think the economy is still "gradually improving" so they won't change interest rates right now. Over the past few months, as the economy has shown life, the Fed has scaled back its stimulus policies that keep interest rates low to encourage borrowing -- and since Wall Street loves the stimulus juice, investors rejoiced that stimulus will stay a bit longer.
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8/31/2015 4:00 PM
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