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What Happened in the Stock Market Today

By Steve Symington – Sep 27, 2018 at 4:23PM

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Learn why Apple led the broader market higher while Conagra Brands plunged.

U.S. stocks rebounded on Thursday as investors digested the Federal Reserve's decision to increase interest rates for the third time this year. When all was said and done, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI 0.41%) and the S&P 500 (^GSPC 0.56%) finished with small gains.

Today's stock market

Index Percentage Change Point Change
Dow 0.21% 54.65
S&P 500 0.28% 8.03

Data source: Yahoo! Finance.

Tech stocks led the broader market higher, with the Technology Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLK 0.26%) rising 0.6%. Oil stocks also continued to surge along with the price of crude oil, sending the SPDR S&P Oil & Gas Exploration & Production ETF (XOP 1.05%) up 0.8%.

As for individual stocks, Apple (AAPL 0.83%) rallied after a notable vote of confidence from Wall Street, while Conagra Brands (CAG 1.75%) fell hard on earnings news.

Colorful stock market charts and arrows showing gains

Image source: Getty Images.

Is Apple underappreciated?

Shares of Apple jumped 2.1% -- an enormous move for the $1.09 trillion tech juggernaut -- making it best-performing Dow component today after JPMorgan analyst Samik Chatterjee initiated coverage on the stock with an overweight rating and $272-per-share price target. For perspective, shares closed today at just below $225.

To justify his bullishness, Chatterjee noted that Apple is "transforming from a hardware company to a services company faster than investors had expected, which is driving financial and valuation upside."

Revenue from Apple's higher-margin services segment -- which includes Apple Music, Apple Pay, and the App Store -- climbed 31% year over year last quarter to a company-record $9.548 billion, representing just under 18% of its total sales.

"We expect increasing appreciation of acceleration in growth," Chatterjee added, "along with greater visibility into earnings and cash flow with increasing mix of services."

ConAgra's earnings disappointment

Conagra Brands stock fell 8.5% in the wake of the packaged foods leader's announcement of underwhelming fiscal first-quarter 2019 results. Conagra's quarterly net sales grew 1.7% year over year to $1.834 billion, which translated into 2.2% growth in adjusted earnings from continuing operations to $186.4 million, or $0.47 per diluted share. Analysts, on average, were anticipating higher earnings of $0.49 per share on revenue of $1.85 billion.

Still, CEO Sean Connolly called it a "good start" to the fiscal year in spite of a "challenging inflationary environment," adding that its results were roughly in line with the company's expectations. Connolly also noted that Conagra is on track to complete its $11 billion acquisition of Pinnacle Foods by the end of next month, and continues to explore strategic alternatives for its Wesson oil business.

In the meantime, Conagra expects fiscal second-quarter organic net sales growth to be flat to slightly down year over year, which should mean adjusted earnings per share of $0.57 to $0.60. That guidance fell below consensus estimates for earnings of $0.65 per share on a modest 1% increase in sales.

Given its quarterly miss and disappointing guidance, it's hardly surprising Congra shares fell today.

Steve Symington has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple. The Motley Fool has the following options: long January 2020 $150 calls on Apple and short January 2020 $155 calls on Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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