What happened

Harley-Davidson (NYSE:HOG) shareholders outpaced a declining market in October as the stock rose 34% compared to the S&P 500's 2.8% drop, according to data provided by S&P Global Market Intelligence.

That rally erased a portion of recent losses for the stock, but Harley-Davidson remains in negative territory while the broader market is up in 2020.

A motorcycle.

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

Investors were hoping for a good earnings report from the motorcycle giant, and they weren't disappointed. Harley said on Oct. 27 that restructuring efforts and cost cuts helped it achieve some impressive financial wins, including a 39% increase in net profits. Retail motorcycle sales were down 8% worldwide, but that metric represented an encouraging improvement from the prior quarter's 27% slump.

Now what

CEO Jochen Zeitz and his team still have lots of work ahead of them, as highlighted in Harley-Davidson's 22% sales decline through the first nine months of 2020. Those challenges would be amplified if the current recession stretches on into 2021 or deepens further.

That's why investors might want to simply watch this consumer discretionary stock right now before betting big on a quick rebound story.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.