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Stock Market News: Kimberly-Clark Cleans Up; Intuitive Surgical Deals With Profit Pressure

By Dan Caplinger - Apr 22, 2019 at 11:47AM

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Stocks got off to a slow start on Monday morning.

The stock market returned from a three-day weekend Monday morning, and investors seemed to be slow out of the gate to begin the week. Absent any substantial news on the geopolitical or macroeconomic fronts, market participants appeared content to look forward to earnings season kicking into full gear over the next couple of weeks. As of 11:30 a.m. EDT, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI -2.99%) was down 22 points to 26,537. The S&P 500 (^GSPC -3.42%) was down less than a point to 2,905, but the Nasdaq Composite (^IXIC -4.05%) posted a modest gain of 4 points to 8,002.

Consumer products giant Kimberly-Clark (KMB -3.76%) didn't waste any time in seeing its stock vault higher, with investors reacting favorably to its latest quarterly results announced this morning. However, Intuitive Surgical (ISRG -3.91%) gave up ground as shareholders finally got a chance to respond after the surgical system developer and manufacturer released its own financial report late Thursday before the Good Friday holiday.

Kimberly-Clark takes care of business

Shares of Kimberly-Clark climbed 6% after the maker of Kleenex tissues and Huggies diapers reported its first-quarter results. Even though overall sales fell 2% from the year-ago period to $4.6 billion, Kimberly-Clark would have seen substantial top-line growth were it not for 5 percentage points of downward pressure from the strong U.S. dollar. Similarly, a slight decline in adjusted earnings compared to year-earlier levels was nevertheless better than what most investors had expected from the company given a tough economic environment in the industry.

Large package of Scott paper towels.

Kimberly Clark makes the Scott brand of paper towels. Image source: Kimberly Clark.

In particular, Kimberly-Clark saw good results in the personal care segment, where rising sales volumes in the North American market reflected gains in adult care and showed the positive impact of increased marketing efforts. Even though other areas, including consumer tissue and the company's professional segment, didn't see the same level of performance, investors weren't concerned about what they see as temporarily declines.

CEO Mike Hsu celebrated the news, pointing out that Kimberly-Clark's efforts to boost selling prices in order to offset the rising costs of commodities that go into manufacturing the company's products have largely proven successful. At the same time, Kimberly-Clark found $115 million in cost savings during the period, and it remained on track with its long-term "K-C Strategy 2022" initiative to ensure it stays competitive and responds quickly to changing industry conditions.

Intuitive Surgical feels the pain

Meanwhile, shares of Intuitive Surgical were down 7% following the company's release of first-quarter results late last Thursday. The maker of the da Vinci surgical system said that it shipped 235 da Vinci units during the period, up from 185 systems in the year-ago period and bringing the total installed base to 5,114 systems. Procedure growth came in at 18%, with greater use in general surgery and urologic procedures.

However, investors weren't entirely pleased with the financial numbers. Revenue was up 15% to $974 million, but adjusted net income of $312 million was higher by just 8% from the year-ago quarter.

Those who've watched Intuitive Surgical for a while aren't nearly as concerned about the bottom-line sluggishness. After all, spending on international expansion, new innovation, and adding features to existing systems is a smart business move that will help Intuitive Surgical prosper over the long run. Moreover, with new products having gotten the go-ahead from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Intuitive Surgical will have multiple avenues to drive long-term growth. It might take a while to realize its full growth potential, but Intuitive Surgical is moving in the right direction -- even if shareholders aren't showing it with today's move.

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Stocks Mentioned

Intuitive Surgical, Inc. Stock Quote
Intuitive Surgical, Inc.
$216.38 (-3.91%) $-8.80
Kimberly-Clark Corporation Stock Quote
Kimberly-Clark Corporation
$133.45 (-3.76%) $-5.21
Dow Jones Industrial Average (Price Return) Stock Quote
Dow Jones Industrial Average (Price Return)
$31,676.92 (-2.99%) $-977.67
S&P 500 Index - Price Return (USD) Stock Quote
S&P 500 Index - Price Return (USD)
$3,948.89 (-3.42%) $-139.96
NASDAQ Composite Index (Price Return) Stock Quote
NASDAQ Composite Index (Price Return)
$11,499.74 (-4.05%) $-484.79

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

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