What happened

Shares of food retailer Smart & Final (NYSE:SFS) popped on Thursday, rising as much as 16.4%. The stock's gain follows Smart & Final Stores second-quarter earnings release. As of 3:30 p.m. EDT, the stock is up 9.9%.

The stock's rise follows a challenging year for the company. Shares were down 36% year to date before Smart & Final reported its second-quarter results Wednesday afternoon. When a stock has been beaten like this, sometimes results in line with consensus analyst estimates are all that is required to make the Street more optimistic about shares. This is mostly what happened with Smart & Final, as revenue and earnings per share matched analyst estimates. But, notably, the company did also report a slight acceleration in comparable store sales growth. 

A stock chart showing a stock price moving higher

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So what

Smart & Final reported second-quarter non-GAAP earnings per share of $0.16 on net sales of $1.3 billion, matching consensus analyst estimates for the two metrics. Non-GAAP EPS and net sales were up 14% and 4%, respectively, from the year-ago quarter.

Overall, comparable store sales increased 1.3% year over year -- up from 1.2% growth in Q1. In addition, Smart & Final achieved positive comparable store sales growth for both its Smart & Final and Smart Foodservice Warehouse store banners. In Q1, comparable store sales were flat on a year-over-year basis for Smart Foodservice Warehouse banners.

Now what

Also helping restore some investor confidence, Smart & Final maintained its outlook for the year. Management expects full-year fiscal 2018 net sales to rise 4% to 5%. In addition, management expects positive comparable store sales growth for the full year, guiding for a 1% to 2% increase in the key metric. Smart & Final continues to expect its full-year non-GAAP earnings per share to be between $0.42 and $0.47.