The stock market continued to tread water during the holiday week, as investors seemed content to leave popular market benchmarks at or near all-time highs. Most companies aren't announcing much in the way of news as the year approaches its end, and there wasn't major economic or geopolitical news to move markets, either. As of 11 a.m. EST, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI 0.03%) was up 43 points to 28,665. The S&P 500 (^GSPC 0.23%) gained 2 points to 3,242, while the Nasdaq Composite (^IXIC 0.36%) eased lower by a point to 9,021.
Rite Aid (RAD 2.20%) has been notable in seeing its stock price soar over the past week and a half, and some investors are speculating about what's behind the big rise. Meanwhile, Michaels Companies (MIK) named a new chief executive officer with past experience at Walmart (WMT -0.01%), and the arts and crafts retailer has high hopes that the new CEO can jump-start further growth there.
Is Rite Aid squeezing shorts?
Shares of Rite Aid jumped another 18% Friday morning, adding to recent gains. Since Dec. 19, the stock has almost tripled, with investors seemingly growing ever more optimistic about the drugstore chain's prospects for 2020 and beyond.
The big gains started when Rite Aid announced its third-quarter earnings results last week. Revenue grew more than expected, but the big news came on the bottom line, where Rite Aid posted numbers that were fully six times what most of those following the stock had anticipated. CEO Heyward Donigan pointed to strong cost control discipline as contributing to the results. The stock jumped 42% the day of the release.
Since then, though, the stock has continued to climb, nearly doubling from where it closed the day of the earnings report. Share volume has been extremely heavy, with 10 million to 40 million shares trading each day. Rite Aid recently completed a reverse stock split that left it with just 55 million shares outstanding, and with short interest of 14 million shares, some believe that a short squeeze is contributing to the gains.
If Rite Aid's recent earnings aren't a one-time phenomenon, then the drugstore chain's stock price gains might be fully justified. However, if a short squeeze is the culprit here, then Rite Aid's shares could fall just as quickly as they rose.
Michaels has a new CEO
Shares of Michaels were up 4% following the arts and crafts retailer's announcement that Ashley Buchanan will take over as chief executive officer. Buchanan will also serve on the Michaels board of directors.
Under the transition plan set out by the company, Buchanan will take the role of CEO designate as of Jan. 6, with outgoing CEO Mark Cosby staying on through April 1. Cosby will also remain on the board of directors even after Buchanan takes over as permanent CEO in April.
Michaels has high hopes for Buchanan. His experience at Walmart included serving as a key executive for the big-box retail giant's e-commerce division, as well as holding a variety of merchandising, operating, and financial roles. With the arts and crafts store's business having gone through some trouble lately, many see Buchanan as the key to a turnaround.
The decision to hire from outside the company seemed to leave some internal executives disappointed, as CFO Denise Paulonis decided to take a position at another company and will leave at the end of January. Nevertheless, shareholders are giving Buchanan a vote of confidence, and it'll be interesting to see whether Michaels lives up to its billing as a value stock and will turn things around in 2020.