What happened

Carnival (NYSE:CCL) stock beat a booming market last month by gaining 13% compared to a 3% spike in the S&P 500, according to data provided by S&P Global Market Intelligence.

The increase was enough to put the cruise ship giant into positive territory for the year, but shareholders trailed the S&P 500 by a wide margin by posting a flat result compared to the market's 30% rally.

Two couples playing in front of a cruise ship.

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

Investors cheered the company's fiscal fourth-quarter results, which showed surprisingly strong sales and profit growth. Those metrics allowed Carnival to finish its fiscal 2019 by logging its sixth consecutive year of rising revenue and earnings. However, the growth on both counts was far from the gains that shareholders had seen in previous years. Sales for the consumer stock rose just 3%, for example, compared to double-digit gains in 2018.

Now what

CEO Arnold Donald and his team see a fiscal year ahead that's similar to the one that just closed, with economic challenges in parts of Europe keeping a lid on sales and profit gains. Yet Carnival is still expecting to achieve record earnings in 2020. From there, shareholders are hoping that improving economic conditions will allow the company to return to faster growth as soon as fiscal 2021.