Why Alcoa Gained and The Container Store Tumbled As Earnings Season Kicks Off

Stocks fell for the second straight day as momentum names got creamed ahead of the start of earnings season. By the end of the session, the Dow Jones Industrial Average  (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) had lost 118 points, or 0.7%, while the S&P 500 was down 0.7%, and the Nasdaq plummeted 1.4% as Internet stocks fell sharply. Among them, Twitter and Yelp both dropped 7%. 

In today's economic reports, the Department of Labor said job openings increased 3.8% to 4.63 million in May, beating expectations at 4.35 million, and that figure improved 19.8% from a year ago, adding yet another data point to many that show the labor market quickly improving. The tally was highest since June 2007, perhaps the best evidence that the job market is approaching normal. Elsewhere, consumer credit rose more than expected in May, increasing $19.6 billion to $3.19 trillion. Auto and student loans increased by more than they had in a year, and economists interpreted the report as a sign that the improving economy was giving consumers confidence to borrow more money.

In the unofficial signal that earnings season has begun, Alcoa  (NYSE: AA  ) released its quarterly results after hours today, gaining 1.1% on the news. The aluminum manufacturer posted an adjusted profit of $0.18 a share, following a loss of $0.11 a year ago, and beat estimates of $0.13. Revenue was essentially flat, edging down from $5.85 billion to $5.84 billion, but that managed to top expectations at $5.63 billion. With aluminum prices still low because of a production slowdown in China, Alcoa has reduced capacity at some of its older plants and has focused more on the finished-goods side of the business. The strategy seems to be paying off, as the stock has rallied 90% in the past year. The manufacturer also confirmed its forecast for a 7% increase in demand this year and said prices had gone up 2.4% in the past year. 

Elsewere, shares of The Container Store  (NYSE: TCS  ) were getting squeezed after hours, falling 18% after another disappointing earnings report. The newly public retailer said same-store sales fell 0.8% in the quarter, and CEO Kip Tindell blamed an industrywide "funk," noting that other retailers had struggled in the quarter. Overall, sales improved 8.6% to $173.4 million, just shy of estimates at $174.2 million, while on the bottom line the company reported a per-share loss of $0.07, a penny worse than estimates. What really seemed to shake investors, however, was the company's dialed-down guidance for the year, as it now sees EPS of $0.49-$0.54 versus a previous range of $0.56-$0.61. Tindell noted that the first quarter has little impact on the year's profits, 60% of which come from the fourth quarter, but the lowered guidance is a warning sign for the high-priced recent IPO. The company expects comps to turn positive for the rest of the year, but the expansion story seems overhyped, as its 2014 P/E is still lofty, sitting above 40. I wouldn't expect shares to return to their $36 IPO price anytime soon.

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