Optimism about trade talks with China fueled a big rally on Wall Street Friday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI -1.24%) and the S&P 500 (^GSPC -1.46%) were up almost 2% during the day but fell in the final minutes of the session. Industrial and material stocks led the market, while utilities, real estate, and consumer staples were the only sectors to decline.

Today's stock market

Index Percentage Change Point Change
Dow 1.21% 319.92
S&P 500 1.09% 32.14

Data source: Yahoo! Finance.

As for individual stocks, Ford (F -3.30%) reported China sales numbers and Fastenal (FAST 0.82%) announced growing sales and profit.

Upward graphs with a container ship in the background.

Image source: Getty Images.

Ford's China sales picked up in September

Ford released third-quarter results for China that showed a continued year-over-year decline in this important market, but there was improvement as the quarter progressed, and shares rose 1.9%.

Sales in China declined 30.3% in Q3 from the period a year ago to 131,060 vehicles, after a 21.7% decline in the second quarter and a 35.8% drop in Q1. Sales of Ford-branded vehicles were down 37.7% to 77,443, Lincoln sales dropped 24.1% to 11,618 units, and JMC indigenous-branded sales were down 13.3% to 41,999.

Ford cited signs that the company's turnaround plan for China is taking hold. Sales of the Ford brand in September were up 5% compared with August, and 25% above July sales. September sales of Lincolns were up 11% compared with August, and 13% compared with July. Ford China launched several new models during the quarter, which the company said contributed to growth.

Ford isn't alone in its struggles in a China market affected by a sluggish economy and talk of a trade war. General Motors said this week that sales in China fell 17.5% in the third quarter.

Fastenal beats expectations despite weakening industrial activity

Fastenal, a distributor of supplies for manufacturing and construction, reported better-than-expected results for the third quarter, and shares soared 17%. Net sales increased 7.8% to $1.38 billion, but would have risen 6.1% without an extra day in the quarter. Earnings per share rose 8.8% to $0.37. Analysts were anticipating EPS of $0.35 on sales of $1.37 billion.

Sales were boosted by new installations of Fastenal's industrial vending machines and new sales locations on customer sites. The installed base of vending machines grew 12.2%, and daily sales through them grew at a mid-teens rate. On-site sales locations increased 30% year over year and daily sales through them grew in the low teens. The company also successfully implemented higher prices to pass on rising product cost from inflation and tariffs, boosting gross margin 30 basis points from a disappointing second quarter.

Fastenal is often seen as a bellwether for industrial activity, and the company reported softness in most industrial sectors except for transportation and steadiness in consumer-related businesses. The rate of sales growth to non-residential construction customers declined, with smaller, local customers weaker than larger ones.