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What Happened in the Stock Market Today

By Demitri Kalogeropoulos – Updated May 23, 2017 at 4:52PM

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Bunge and AutoZone stocks stood out as indexes rose.

Stocks climbed on Tuesday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI -0.38%) and the S&P 500 (^GSPC -1.03%) indexes each finishing higher by less than 0.25%.

Today's stock market


Percentage Change

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S&P 500



Data source: Yahoo! Finance.

Financial stocks led all sectors in trading volume, and the Financial Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLF -0.19%) beat the broader market with a 0.8% increase. A decline in gold prices, meanwhile, helped push the VanEck Vectors Gold Miners ETF (GDX -4.41%) down 2.3%.

As for individual stocks, Bunge (BG -0.64%) and AutoZone (AZO -1.84%) saw heavy trading following market-moving news.

A ticker screen showing a mix of winning and losing stocks.

Image source: Getty Images.

Bunge is a takeover candidate

Bunge shares shot up nearly 17% after the company was identified as an acquisition candidate. The grain and oilseed trader has been approached by commodities giant Glencore for a buyout, according to The Wall Street Journal. No pricing was listed in the report, which noted that a merger would quickly grant Glencore a major presence in the U.S. agriculture market.

As for Bunge, a buyout could take pressure off its agribusiness segment to quickly return to profit growth. That division is suffering from a chronic lack of product lately, especially grains, as farmers hold on to inventory in response to weak commodity prices.

A tractor at work on a farm.

Image source: Getty Images.

"The slow pace of farmer selling in South America compressed margins in Agribusiness and led to a lower than expected first quarter," CEO Soren Schroder told investors in early May after the company posted a sharp dive in net income as its grain business shrank to $17 million from $144 million in the prior-year period.

Schroder and his team still think Bunge will rebound to show growth for the full year because farms are reaching their holding capacities even as producers have generated record bean and corn crops that have yet to hit the market. That optimistic outlook will likely give the company leverage to seek a significant premium in any negotiations with merger candidates.

AutoZone takes a step backwards

AutoZone was the single worst performer in the S&P 500 today. Shares of the auto parts retailer fell almost 12% after the company announced surprisingly weak fiscal third-quarter results showing comparable-store sales growth decelerating for the second straight quarter. Comps shrank 0.8% compared to the prior quarter's flat result.

Thanks to the revenue pressure, AutoZone's earnings expanded by 6.2% to mark only the second time in 11 years in which earnings per share didn't rise by double digits. Management wasn't thrilled with that result. "Our sales performance for the first five weeks of our quarter was significantly below our expectations," CEO Bill Rhodes said in a press release, and mentioned that the quarter's earliest days were impacted by delays in IRS tax refunds. "The last seven weeks of sales demonstrated improvement, but not enough to make up for our soft start," he added.

With comps basically flat over the past nine months, compared to a 3% boost in the prior-year period, AutoZone's stellar growth streak is at risk of stalling this year. Some of that slump can be pinned on things outside of management's control, like weak industry dynamics and the tax refund delays.

Yet the business is also facing spiking competition from online-focused rivals, which presents a different type of challenge. AutoZone's e-commerce segment makes up a small portion of its operations, and that channel isn't showing robust growth right now, which means it may be losing ground to online specialists.

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

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