The stock market has made aggressive moves in recent weeks, and so it's not surprising to see some market participants seemingly taking a short pause from the volatility. Investors are still weighing the benefits of positive trial results from various coronavirus vaccine candidates against the fact that COVID-19 case counts continue to reach unprecedented levels.

As of 11 a.m. EST, major stock market benchmarks were all slightly higher. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) led the way with a 117-point gain to 29,900. The S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) rose 7 points to 3,616, but the Nasdaq Composite (NASDAQINDEX:^IXIC) was having the hardest time, picking up just a single point to 11,900.

Even with the pause in major market action, some companies had a lot to say about what they've been going through in recent months. Target (NYSE:TGT) gave shareholders a positive earnings report, but Lowe's (NYSE:LOW) wasn't as fortunate despite similarly strong results.

Round target with multiple arrows poked into the center ring.

Image source: Getty Images.

A bull's-eye for Target

Target's stock climbed more than 5% on Wednesday morning. The department store retailer reported third-quarter earnings that showed amazing growth, continuing the COVID-19-led surge that Target has seen all year.

The numbers were spectacular. Revenue jumped 21% on a 20.7% rise in total comparable sales. Digital revenue soared 155% from year-ago levels, while even the company's physical store locations enjoyed a 9.9% rise in comparable-store sales. Adjusted earnings per share more than doubled year over year.

Target has seen huge adoption of its newest services. Use of same-day offerings like order pickup, drive-up, and the Shipt shipping service more than tripled from the same period last year. That business model is proving itself very well, because even with the demand for online options, Target's store network is fulfilling more than 95% of its overall sales.

Investors were pleased to learn that Target intends to restart its stock repurchase program, which it had suspended early on in the COVID-19 pandemic. Buybacks likely won't come until 2021, but with $4.5 billion in remaining capacity under already-approved repurchase programs, the retailer could give shareholders another nice boost.

Lowe's moves lower despite big sales gains

At first glance, investors might have expected that Lowe's would see the same jump higher. Yet shares of the home improvement retailer fell almost 6% Wednesday morning following the release of its third-quarter financial results.

Sales growth certainly wasn't a problem for Lowe's. Revenue soared 28% on a 30.1% rise in comparable sales. Revenue from the e-commerce site more than doubled year over year, helping to drive top-line growth. Adjusted earnings per share jumped 40% from the third quarter of 2019.

Lowe's also reinstated its stock buyback program, and unlike Target, it already has made substantial purchases. The retailer said it spent $621 million to buy back 3.6 million shares during the third quarter. It also used the same strategy as Target in buying back high-interest debt, using capital to reduce future interest costs and boost earnings.

However, investors weren't happy to see Lowe's reining in expectations for the fourth quarter. The company believes that even as sales climb, spending on supply chain expenses will rise, and dealing with COVID-19 will be more costly. That might be what's sending the stock lower on Wednesday, but those short-term headwinds could give way to a rosier future both for the company and for its shareholders.

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