If you're feeling good about the market, you're not alone. Take my hand as we go over some of this week's more uplifting headlines.
1. Cheese whiz strikes again
Is there anybody spinning the flavor wheel as feverishly as Taco Bell? Yum! Brands (NYSE: YUM ) turned heads with Doritos Locos Tacos two years ago, and it has gone on to sell 825 million of those Doritos-dusted taco shells. Earlier this year, it dove headfirst into breakfast with a daring menu that features a taco served in a waffle shell and a morning twist of its Crunchwrap that includes scrambled eggs and an actual hash brown patty for the promised crunch.
This week, it was the Quesarito making its national debut. A burrito wrapped in a quesadilla seems like a no-brainer given Taco Bell's target market where decadence prevails over calorie counts. It also comes at an ideal time. After several quarters of positive comps, Taco Bell saw its same-restaurant sales dip 1% during this year's first quarter. The new breakfast menu coupled with the Quesarito should keep things positive for the next few periods.
2. Tesla sets the patents free
Tesla Motors (NASDAQ: TSLA ) turned heads after revealing that it won't defend its patents against companies using them "in good faith" to increase the popularity of electric vehicles. The market didn't necessarily like Elon Musk's kind gesture. Tesla trades at a healthy multiple to the market, and a good chunk of that is tied to its technological advantages.
However, let's not dismiss that Tesla's biggest advantage is that it's the cool brand in an otherwise-stagnant market. If electric sedans grow more popular, it's easy to see why Tesla will benefit as the high-end brand that matters. Tesla likely scored more points with the folks who actually own Tesla vehicles with this move than it did with the market, but that's still the smart long-term play here.
3. Joe meets dough
Keurig Green Mountain (NASDAQ: GMCR ) is making a bigger play in foodservice. It is teaming up with Subway to place its single-cup brewers in its nearly 30,000 sub shops across the U.S. and Canada.
Roughly half of the Subway stores currently have a Keurig brewer already. It's a simple solution to making coffee available throughout the day without having to brew an entire pot every time. However, making it official provides validation for Keurig Green Mountain. Subway is the country's largest restaurant chain based on the number of actual eateries, making this another big win for one of this year's better-performing large-cap stocks.
4. Amazon pumps up the volume
Amazon.com (NASDAQ: AMZN ) isn't afraid to disrupt digital distribution, and it's at it again with the new Prime Music it introduced on Thursday. Making a digital catalog that is initially 1.2 million tracks deep available to Amazon Prime members at no additional cost is a pretty big deal.
There are already at least 20 million Amazon Prime members, and the appeal of a commercial-free music streaming service is a logical expansion of its offerings. Prime Music is limited in its scope. Participating labels are holding back on their new releases. This may limit the appeal, but it could also help Amazon's long-term ambitions by encouraging the outright purchase of new releases to go along with its streaming songs and playlists.
5. Beauty is in the eye of the shareholder
Ulta Beauty (NASDAQ: ULTA ) came through with blowout quarterly results. Net sales rose 22.5% as a result of brisk expansion and a robust 8.7% spike in comps. Earnings climbed 19.4% higher to hit $50 million or $0.77 a share.
Analysts expected less on both ends of the income statement, but that isn't really much of a surprise. Ulta Beauty has now come through with better-than-expected earnings in 21 of the past 22 quarters. It's a testament to both the all-weather nature of selling beauty products and Ulta's own winning execution.
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