Stocks posted moderate losses on Friday to finish out the week essentially flat. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) shed 120 points, or 0.7%, and the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) lost 19 points, or 0.9%, to take a small step back from all-time highs.
Consumers are less optimistic about growth, according to a fresh report from the University of Michigan that showed consumer confidence ticking down this month. While the overall figure declined slightly, rising wages pushed consumers' rating of their current financial condition to a nine-year high.
H&R Block beats low expectations
H&R Block rose 12% to become the S&P 500's best performing daily mover after its quarterly results beat Wall Street expectations. The tax prep specialist had warned investors in late April that it was suffering from declining customer volumes, but the final results weren't as bad as the early figures suggested. Full quarter sales slipped by 1%, and earnings jumped to $3.15 per share from $2.68 in the year-ago quarter.
Tax prep volumes ended up declining 4%, marking an improvement over the 6% volume drop from the heat of tax season. Most of that dip was offset by higher prices, but management wasn't happy with the loss of market share to low-cost competitors. "As I said in April, this season's results are not acceptable," CEO Bill Cobb said in a press release.
Executives are working on initiatives aimed at ending the market share slide by the time this year's tax season heats up. These will likely include do-it-yourself style solutions along with a beefed up mix of lower-priced options. Meanwhile, cost cuts should also contribute to improving profitability. With its business trends outperforming investors' low expectations, it's no surprise the stock jumped in trading on Friday.
Mattress Firm Holdings lowers its outlook
Mattress Firm sank 12% after the retailer announced surprisingly weak results for its fiscal first quarter. Comparable-store sales growth slipped into negative territory, swinging to a 1.1% decline from a 1.3% uptick in the prior year quarter. Adjusted earnings also fell to a net loss of $0.10 per share, below management guidance. "We are disappointed in our first quarter results," CEO Steve Stagner said in a press release.
Stagner said the underperformance stemmed from a few unrelated challenges that "have been resolved and are largely behind us." Yet, because the issues impacted results in both the first and current quarter, they'll lead to significantly lower earnings. Mattress Firm is now projecting a 14% profit decline to $2.03 per share (midpoint of the range) for fiscal 2016, while consensus estimates pointed to about $2.36 per share.
If management is right that this recent sales decline was a temporary issue, then the long-term future could be bright for this company as it makes progress integrating the recently purchased Sleepy's business into its operations to create the nation's largest mattress retailer.
That hefty scale should ultimately help Mattress Firm generate market-leading profitability. However, as the latests results show, it doesn't guarantee consistent sales and profit growth. Shareholders can expect plenty of volatility as the company works to consolidate its huge store footprint under one brand banner.