The stock market made solid gains early Tuesday, continuing the upward momentum from Monday's moves. As of 11:45 a.m. EST, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) was higher by 158 points to 25,397, while the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) picked up 9 points to 2,734. The Nasdaq Composite (NASDAQINDEX:^IXIC) rose 47 points to 7,395.
The consumer economy plays a key role in driving overall economic growth in the U.S. and around the world, and the health of higher-end consumer companies can give investors a lot of information about how the typical American consumer is feeling about things. In that light, the good news on the earnings front from cosmetics giant Estee Lauder (NYSE:EL) and fashion retailer Ralph Lauren (NYSE:RL) bodes well for how 2019 is shaping up for consumer stocks.
Investors laud these numbers
Estee Lauder shares jumped 13% during the morning hours on Tuesday, following the release of its fiscal second-quarter financial report. Revenue was higher by 7% from year-earlier levels, topping the $4 billion mark for the first time, and net income more than quadrupled over the period.
Estee Lauder's growth came from several sources. The skin care segment, which includes not only the namesake Estee Lauder brand but also well-known names like Clinique and La Mer, showed strong gains on both the top and bottom lines. New product launches such as the Treatment Lotion Hydrating Mask and Luminous Lifting Cushion Foundation were successful. MAC, Tom Ford Beauty, and BECCA did particularly well in the makeup arena, and modest gains in the hair care segment helped offset weakness in fragrance sales. Regionally, Estee Lauder did relatively poorly in the Americas, but double-digit sales gains in Europe and in Asia-Pacific helped salvage good results.
Best of all, Estee Lauder sees continued strong consumer demand. That has investors excited about the prospects for long-term growth.
Ralph Lauren ponies up a win
Meanwhile, Ralph Lauren saw solid gains in its fashion niche as well, sending its share price up 8%. Sales were higher by 5% in its fiscal third quarter compared to the prior-year period, and adjusted earnings per share climbed 14%.
Executive Chairman Ralph Lauren himself pointed to the drivers of the company's gains. "Our passionate teams are focused on staying true to the authentic expression of the Ralph Lauren lifestyle while evolving with the changing consumer and global retail landscape around us," he said. CEO Patric Louvet added, "Solid execution on our key initiatives, especially during the important holiday period, delivered better-than-expected results." Louvet pointed to success in pulling in a new generation of shoppers through smart marketing as instrumental in Ralph Lauren's results, and like Estee Lauder, the company managed to grow sales by double-digit percentages in the key Asia and Europe markets even as results in North America remained more sluggish.
What's especially important about the way that both Ralph Lauren and Estee Lauder have performed is that it stands in contrast to how many investors thought the holiday season would go for higher-end consumer companies. Early on, it appeared that shoppers were getting nervous about the future of the economy, and pulling back from high-ticket items seemed like a natural move. Yet this appears not to have happened at Ralph Lauren and Estee Lauder -- and that could be a great sign of the staying power of these luxury brands even if tougher economic conditions lie ahead.