Some positive economic and consumer data hit the news cycle Friday, as both the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 ended up 1.3% and 1.4% for the week. The latest reading of first-quarter GDP was revised higher, bouncing from 0.7% to 1.2% -- still not at the level investors would like, but at least growth appears better than initially expected. Next, The University of Michigan's consumer-sentiment rating checked in at 97.1 in May, which was a little better than expected.
But not all the news was that positive in the markets this week. Here are some companies that made big moves or big headlines.
Monday morning brought a surprise announcement from Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F), when it appointed Jim Hackett as CEO to replace Mark Fields. Hackett was formerly the head of Ford Smart Mobility, and the board of directors is hoping he'll be the second coming of Alan Mulally.
It's an intriguing move, and there are reasons for investors to be optimistic. Consider that Hackett was previously credited with turning around Steelcase as its CEO, and he even helped revive an iconic athletic department at the University of Michigan. Those are wildly different turnarounds, and if the processes, procedures, or simply management style is the root of these success stories, this may be the right move for Ford to make.
Significant moves are already being made. Hackett is narrowing Ford's operating committee to seven direct reports, compared with Fields' 18-19 reports, according to RBC analysts Joseph Spak and George Clark. Then on Thursday, Ford announced another slew of global executive changes in hopes that the company will become less bureaucratic and more focused on adapting quickly toward a future of smart mobility and driverless-vehicle technology.
Back from the dead?
Only a few years after most of the investing community left it for dead, and thanks to concerns over its business model and the threat Amazon.com poses, Best Buy Co. (NYSE:BBY) soared nearly 20% in intra-day trading Thursday, after the company released its first-quarter results.
The company's revenue recorded a modest 1% gain to $8.53 billion but managed to beat analysts' estimates by about $220 million. Perhaps even more positive was that comparable-store sales grew by 1.6% during the first quarter, which was a turnaround from declining comparable sales during the prior year's first quarter. Also helping to battle against Amazon concerns, Best Buy is proving it has online ambitions of its own and posted a 22.5% gain in domestic sales on the web.
Best Buy's adjusted earnings per share checked in at $0.60, which was a drastic $0.17 higher than the prior year's result and $0.20 better than analysts' estimates. Gross margin improved by 60 basis points, up to 23.6%. It was a strong quarter overall for a company left for dead years ago.
Not back from the dead
On the same day Best Buy rebounded with a strong quarter, another retailer left for dead years ago also jumped more than 10% after releasing its own first-quarter results. But that's where most of the similarities end.
Sears Holdings (NASDAQ:SHLDQ) posted first-quarter results that weren't as poor as analysts had expected, but that's not to say they were good. Revenue dropped 20% from the prior year's quarter, down to $4.3 billion, which still managed to best analysts' estimates calling for a meager $3.96 billion. In a similar fashion, Sears' bottom line checked in with a big loss of $2.15 per share, beating the $3.05 loss analysts were anticipating.
Chairman and CEO Eddie Lampert put his best spin on the first quarter in the press release: "While this was certainly a challenging quarter for our company, it was also one that clearly demonstrated our commitment to return Sears Holdings to solid financial footing."
Despite the minor bounce in the stock price Thursday, trying to revive its business model in decaying malls seems akin to climbing Mount Everest at this point. If management can pull it off, it would be a story for the business books over the next two decades. But chances are this is merely a speed bump on the way to an inevitable bankruptcy.