What happened

Shares of Kroger (NYSE:KR) outpaced the market last month by rising 11% compared with a 3.4% boost in the S&P 500, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence. The increase still left shareholders well behind broader indexes for 2019.

A man shops for groceries.

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

Investors were optimistic last month that Kroger might have good news about its operating results in early December. Its chief rival Walmart announced surprisingly strong sales growth, after all, and Target also noted some of its best retailing customer traffic in years. That industry optimism formed the foundation for Kroger's stock price gains.

Now what

The supermarket chain's third-quarter results didn't do much to close the gap between itself and Walmart. Comps are still rising at about 2% for the consumer staples giant, versus Walmart's 3%. On the positive side, the grocer posted its second straight quarter of accelerating growth.

Yet investors will likely have to be patient in watching Kroger's rebound initiatives. Management is still predicting 2020 comps gains of just over 2%, suggesting it still has work to do in making a successful transition to multichannel retailing.