Stocks fell Thursday on reports of a drop in sales of existing homes in January and a slowdown in manufacturing in Europe. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) and the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) snapped three-day winning streaks.
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Energy shares led the market down, with the SPDR S&P Oil & Gas Exploration & Production ETF (NYSEMKT:XOP) losing 2.7%. Defensive utility stocks were rare bright spots; the Vanguard Utilities ETF (NYSEMKT:VPU) closed up 0.7%.
Albemarle rides strong demand for lithium
Albemarle, the world's largest lithium producer, reported fourth-quarter results that exceeded expectations and gave optimistic guidance for the year ahead, propelling shares up 7.8%. Net sales were up 7.5% to $921.7 million and adjusted earnings per share grew 14.2% to $1.53. Analysts were expecting the company to earn $1.47 per share on sales of $895 million.
Lithium sales, which account for 37% of revenue and 55% of adjusted EBITDA, grew 18%, thanks to a 14% jump in volume and 4% increase in price. Bromine specialties, 26% of sales, grew revenue 9%. The catalyst segment, at 33% of sales, had a decline of 2.1%, but excluding the effects of a divestiture, increased sales by 7%.
Looking forward, Albemarle forecast sales growth of between 9% and 15%, compared with the 8% Wall Street has been expecting. Guidance for 2019 adjusted EPS is between $6.10 and $6.50, better than the $6.14 analyst consensus. Albemarle, riding a wave of battery demand for electric vehicles, said growth will be driven by increased volume in its lithium business, and stated, "We are not forecasting any significant macroeconomic headwinds and have not seen any decline in our customer demand forecasts."
A beer for runners?
Investors raised their glasses to Boston Beer's fourth-quarter results, sending shares up 14.3% thanks to increased sales of beverages that aren't beer. Revenue rose 9.2% to $225.2 million and earnings per share of $1.86 exceeded the analyst consensus of $1.70.
Depletions, which measure the shipment of products from distributors to retailers, jumped 11%. The company attributed that growth to increases in Truly Hard Seltzer, Twisted Tea, and Angry Orchard brands. Depletions of the company's Sam Adams craft beer brand decreased in the quarter, continuing a recent trend.
Boston Beer is thinking outside the box and pivoting toward health-oriented drinks. This year the company expects to launch a craft beer aimed at runners, a craft hard tea with lower calories and sugar, and an alcoholic kombucha with live probiotics.