What happened

Shares of consumer products specialist Newell Brands (NASDAQ:NWL) outpaced the market last month, gaining 47% compared to a 1.8% increase in the S&P 500, according to data provided by S&P Global Market Intelligence.

The surge helped investors claw back a portion of the losses they've seen this year, but the stock is still trailing the market by a wide margin, down over 20% so far in 2018.

Plastic containers in a refrigerator.

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

November was a busy month for the company. In third-quarter results announced on Nov. 2, Newell Brands posted a 4% sales decline but managed to boost adjusted profitability as it cut costs and sold noncore portions of its consumer goods portfolio. Days later, management announced plans to sell its Pure Fishing and Jostens franchises for $2.5 billion.

Now what

The brand sales and cost-cutting programs are part of management's transformation plan that aims to create a steadier business, with stronger operating profit margins and healthy cash flow. To that end, November's news represents significant progress in Newell's turnaround.

However, while the company's cash position is improving as it sells pieces of itself to private buyers, it's still unclear how productive its remaining portfolio -- which includes brands like Rubbermaid, Yankee Candle, Mr. Coffee, and Sharpie -- will be. That's why investors will be watching metrics like sales growth and operating margin closely over the next few quarters.

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