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What Happened in the Stock Market Today

By Demitri Kalogeropoulos - Apr 4, 2017 at 5:11PM

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Staples and Acuity Brands stood out as indexes climbed slightly.

Stocks bounced along between slight gains and minor losses on Tuesday before closing in positive territory. Both the Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI 0.06%) and the S&P 500 (^GSPC 0.23%) indexes finished higher by less than 0.25%.

Today's stock market

Index

Percentage Change

Point Change

Dow

0.19%

39.03

S&P 500

0.06%

1.32

Data source: Yahoo! Finance.

Financial stocks led all sectors in trading volume, but the Financial Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLF 0.11%) again trailed the broader market by logging a a 0.1% decline. On the other hand, an uptick in gold prices sent the volatile bullish bet on the precious metal, Direxion Daily Gold Miners Bull 3X ETF (NUGT 0.40%), up nearly 4%.

As for individual stocks, Staples (SPLS) and Acuity Brands (AYI 0.51%) made significant price moves.

Outside the stock exchange in New York.

Image source: Getty Images.

Acuity Brands sees weak demand

Shares of Acuity Brands fell close to 15% after the company missed growth expectations for the second straight quarter. The lighting products specialist posted fiscal second-quarter sales of $804.7 million, good enough for a 3.5% increase over the prior-year period. Adjusted net income slipped 1.7% to push earnings to $1.77 per share from $1.80 a year ago. Consensus estimates were targeting significantly higher numbers on both the top and bottom lines.

Executives pointed to a weak selling environment in the U.S. lighting market as the key driver behind the weak expansion pace. Profits, meanwhile, were hurt by rising expenses, they said, including on higher wages. The company also suffered from a slight drop in average selling prices.

Still, management was pleased to achieve revenue gains in a falling market. "Acuity Brands continued to deliver sales growth while initial industry data suggests that the North American lighting market declined modestly," CEO Vernon Nagel said in a press release.

The management team is optimistic about conditions improving over the coming years, but warned that the softness they've seen recently should persist at least through next two quarters. Acuity Brands plans to continue grabbing market share during the slump, before stronger growth returns in fiscal 2018.

Staples shops for bidders

Staples stock bounced higher by almost 10% following news that the office supply retailer is working on a potential sale. It's in talks with several private equity bidders less than a year after its attempt to merge with Office Depot was blocked on antitrust concerns, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The retailer's $6.1 billion market capitalization could be enticing to a well-funded buyer given that it is just one-third of the peak that Staples hit a about decade ago. Shares have been punished recently as sales declined in each of the last four fiscal years thanks to a shrinking store base and falling traffic at existing locations. Staples generated an operating loss of $459 million last year and boasted a 1,600-store footprint -- down from 1,900 in 2013.

Executives believe they are close to stopping the sales slide now that many of the least-profitable store locations have been removed from the system. The company has also made encouraging strides in its delivery initiatives and in a push to grow the business-heavy contract division. That segment was flat last quarter even as total comparable-store sales fell 0.9%.

Going private might be the company's best path forward at this point, since it would free management up to make strategic moves outside of the pressure of public markets. And since it's unlikely to include a merger, such a deal wouldn't raise the antitrust worries that torpedoed its last buyout attempt.

Demitrios Kalogeropoulos has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Stocks Mentioned

Acuity Brands, Inc. Stock Quote
Acuity Brands, Inc.
AYI
$186.80 (0.51%) $0.94
Staples, Inc. Stock Quote
Staples, Inc.
SPLS
Dow Jones Industrial Average (Price Return) Stock Quote
Dow Jones Industrial Average (Price Return)
^DJI
$33,999.04 (0.06%) $18.72
S&P 500 Index - Price Return (USD) Stock Quote
S&P 500 Index - Price Return (USD)
^GSPC
$4,283.74 (0.23%) $9.70
Direxion Shares ETF Trust - Direxion Daily Gold Miners Index Bull 3X Shares Stock Quote
Direxion Shares ETF Trust - Direxion Daily Gold Miners Index Bull 3X Shares
NUGT
$29.94 (0.40%) $0.12
The Select Sector SPDR Trust - The Financial Select Sector SPDR Fund Stock Quote
The Select Sector SPDR Trust - The Financial Select Sector SPDR Fund
XLF
$35.67 (0.11%) $0.04

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

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