The stock market had a positive session on Thursday, bouncing back from early losses to produce a modest advance. Earnings season has opened with a mixed tone, as many companies are reporting good results but have issued cautious outlooks on the immediate future. That's turning attention to the Federal Reserve, which many investors hope will cut interest rates in an effort to stoke economic growth. Some individual companies reported news that sent their share prices sharply higher. British American Tobacco (NYSE:BTI), Neptune Wellness Solutions (NASDAQ:NEPT), and Union Pacific (NYSE:UNP) were among the top performers. Here's why they did so well.

A rival boosts optimism for British American

Shares of British American Tobacco climbed 7% after the global tobacco giant's investors responded favorably to good news from one of its biggest competitors. Philip Morris International reported its second-quarter financial results this morning, and although its overall revenue was slightly lower compared to year-earlier results, top-line growth amounted to 9% after accounting for various accounting-related shifts, and adjusted earnings were far better than expected. Investors in British American took its rival's results as a sign that the global tobacco market remains healthier than some had feared, and they'll have an opportunity to see if the company can confirm their hopes when it reports half-year results later this month.

Nine cigarettes seen from the end.

Image source: Getty Images.

Neptune gets some cash

Neptune Wellness Solutions saw its shares jump 17% after the cannabis company reported the completion of a private placement of stock. Under the terms of the placement, Neptune issued 9.42 million common shares to a group of institutional investors, raising $41.4 million. The offering priced the stock at $4.40 per share, which was 10% below where it had closed Wednesday afternoon. However, rather than being annoyed about shareholder dilution, investors seemed to applaud the move, apparently believing that raising funds for planned acquisitions is a great way to take advantage of current opportunities in the marijuana space.

Union Pacific chugs higher

Finally, shares of Union Pacific gained 6%. The railroad company said that its second-quarter results set new records for favorable operating performance, and although revenue and business volumes were down slightly, cheaper fuel prices and stronger pricing helped contribute to solid bottom-line numbers. The coal shipping segment saw the weakest performance, but Union Pacific got better results from its agricultural and industrial shipping divisions. With the railroad's strategic plan for 2020 starting to build momentum, investors are hopeful that Union Pacific can keep improving its internal operations and overcome some of the headwinds facing the railroad industry right now.

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