Stocks posted strong gains on Thursday, with both the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) and the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) indexes finishing almost 1% higher.

Today's stock market

Index

Percentage Change

Point Change

Dow

0.85%

174.22

S&P 500

0.76%

17.67

Data source: Yahoo! Finance.

Financial stocks led the way up, and that allowed the Financial Select Sector SPDR ETF (NYSEMKT:XLF) to beat the broader market by a wide margin with a 1.7% increase. Gold prices held steady, which didn't stop Direxion Daily Junior Gold Miners Bull 3X ETF (NYSEMKT:JNUG) -- the volatile leveraged bullish bet on the precious metal -- from falling 2.5%.

As for individual stocks, American Express (NYSE:AXP) and CSX (NASDAQ:CSX) both beat the market following quarterly earnings news.

Outside the stock exchange in New York.

Image source: Getty Images.

American Express sees momentum

American Express shares gained almost 6% after first-quarter results pointed to a building rebound in the credit services giant's business. As expected, the loss of the co-branded partnership with Costco continued to weigh on the company's headline numbers. The U.S. consumer segment logged an 8% sales decline, in fact, and endured a 32% slump in operating profit. That pinch led to a 13% overall earnings dip as revenue ticked down by 2%.

However, American Express managed a healthy expansion after excluding the Costco losses. Adjusted revenue grew 7% to mark an uptick over the prior quarter's 6% pace. Adjusted card member spending bounced 8% higher, loans were up 11%, and the company added 2.6 million new cards across its global network.

Executives were pleased with the results. "Our first quarter performance marks a good start to the year," CEO Kenneth Chenault said in a press release, "with momentum in the consumer and commercial businesses in the U.S. and in key markets internationally."

Looking ahead, investors can expect the company to invest in marketing and promotions in a bid to accelerate sales gains back toward overall growth. The company's 2017 forecast projected earnings of $5.60 to $5.80 per share, with the midpoint of that guidance falling just ahead of the $5.65 per share that Wall Street had been targeting.

CSX boasts big sales gains

CSX stock jumped 5.6% after the railroad titan announced surprisingly strong first-quarter results. Sales spiked nearly 10% to $2.87 billion, which put the company well ahead of consensus estimates of just $2.76 billion. Earnings also came in above estimates at $0.51 per share compared to the $0.43 per share Wall Street was expecting. The growth came from a healthy mix of volume gains and higher pricing, with the biggest increase tied to its coal segment, which saw revenue spike by 31%.

A CSX train moving down the track.

Image source: CSX.

Incoming CEO E. Hunter Harrison expressed optimism that he's settling into the leadership spot at an opportune time for the business: "I am pleased to join the CSX team and working together we are going to make this company the best North American railroad, capable of consistently meeting and exceeding the expectations of our customers and our shareholders," he said.

Executives forecast continued growth ahead thanks to a strengthening outlook in key industries like minerals, forest products, and agriculture that should more than offset flat results in the automotive sector and losses in the local coal market. Looking further out, CSX is aiming to make operating and efficiency upgrades that improve service, lower costs, expand margins, and boost earnings over the long term.

Demitrios Kalogeropoulos owns shares of COST. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends COST. The Motley Fool recommends American Express and CSX. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.