Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

2 Stocks That Won Big on Wednesday

By Eric Volkman - Jan 29, 2020 at 11:16PM

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

Investors were surprised by far better-than-expected results from an apparently fallen blue chip, while a potential CEO departure and corporate breakup juiced another company's stock.

In all likelihood, Wednesday won't go down as a memorable day on the stock exchange.

This doesn't mean it was a bad one by any means. Several top stocks -- including one I'll explore below -- delivered better-than-expected earnings. Also, there were other encouraging developments pushing some of the major indexes slightly higher. Let's take a look at two stocks that rose well above the cautious market on Hump Day.

Two fists bumping against a blue sky background.

Image source: Getty Images

General Electric

Well, this was unexpected.

General Electric (GE -0.74%), a blue chip stock that has fallen on hard times, reported Q4 of fiscal 2019 results that convincingly beat analyst estimates.

For the period, General Electric's total sales dipped by 1% on a year-over-year basis to $26.2 billion. That, however, was comfortably above the average analyst estimate of $25.3 billion.

Non-GAAP (adjusted) net income landed at $1.85 billion, or $0.21 per share; the Q4 2018 tally for the latter was $0.17. Analysts had been projecting $0.17 for this latest quarter. 

General Electric's better-than-expected performance was helped by its traditional area of strength -- industrial products. In particular its aviation division delivered a nearly 6% growth improvement in sales, on the back of a 22% increase in orders.

The company's forecast for the ever-important industrial end of its business was encouraging. Organic revenue should rise in the low-single-digit percentage range in fiscal 2020, with free cash flow of $2 billion to $4 billion -- therefore likely coming in higher than 2019's $2.3 billion. Adjusted per-share net profit should be $0.50 to $0.60.

General Electric's surprise was a happy one for investors -- the stock closed over 10% higher on Wednesday. That's heartening, but we should keep in mind that the company is still struggling with high amounts of debt (despite some admirable "de-leveraging"), among numerous other challenges. I'd be cautious on this stock despite the newfound optimism.

L Brands

Somewhat paradoxically, clothier L Brands (BBWI -3.75%) rose high on Wednesday (by almost 13%) on reports that it might cease to exist in its present form.

According to an article in The Wall Street Journal, citing "people familiar with the matter," long-serving CEO Les Wexner is in talks with private equity firm Sycamore Partners to step down from his position. Additionally, the parties involved are discussing "strategic alternatives" for iconic brand Victoria's Secret; this could mean a spinoff or sale of the famous lingerie retailer.

This isn't the first time that a breakup of the company has been mentioned as a possibility. When activist investor Barrington Group bought into L Brands last year, it called for management to consider not only breaking off Victoria's Secret, but launching an initial public offering (IPO) for another one of its retailers: Bath & Body Works, which Barrington Group correctly described as displaying "exceptional performance."

Additionally, Wexner's reputation has suffered due to his longtime association with the late, controversial financier Jeffrey Epstein.

Wexner has been an effective and capable chief executive at L Brands, but after almost 60 years in charge, it's probably time for some new blood. L Brands' performance hasn't been bad lately, but it hasn't been all that inspiring, either. Bath & Body Works is a successful outlier within the group, so maybe Barrington Group's idea is a good one. We'll see how far it goes.

Until we get some clarity on Wexner's future and what might happen with the "strategic alternatives," though, I wouldn't get excited about any potential changes at L Brands. It's probably best to leave the stock alone, particularly after this overly hopeful pop in its price.

Invest Smarter with The Motley Fool

Join Over 1 Million Premium Members Receiving…

  • New Stock Picks Each Month
  • Detailed Analysis of Companies
  • Model Portfolios
  • Live Streaming During Market Hours
  • And Much More
Get Started Now

Stocks Mentioned

General Electric Company Stock Quote
General Electric Company
GE
$61.57 (-0.74%) $0.46
Bath & Body Works, Inc. Stock Quote
Bath & Body Works, Inc.
BBWI
$26.70 (-3.75%) $-1.04

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

Related Articles

Motley Fool Returns

Motley Fool Stock Advisor

Market-beating stocks from our award-winning analyst team.

Stock Advisor Returns
323%
 
S&P 500 Returns
112%

Calculated by average return of all stock recommendations since inception of the Stock Advisor service in February of 2002. Returns as of 07/07/2022.

Discounted offers are only available to new members. Stock Advisor list price is $199 per year.

Premium Investing Services

Invest better with The Motley Fool. Get stock recommendations, portfolio guidance, and more from The Motley Fool's premium services.