The Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI -0.14%) couldn't quite find its footing Thursday morning. The index was down around 0.4% at 10:40 a.m. EDT as recent positive news about coronavirus vaccines was outweighed by worries over the recent surge in cases.

Shares of Coca-Cola (KO 0.29%) managed to hold their ground on a down day for the market despite a court ruling that could cost the company billions of dollars. Meanwhile, Walmart (WMT 0.38%) stock was rallying along with rival Target (TGT -0.50%) after an incredible earnings report from the smaller retailer.


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Judge rules against Coca-Cola in tax case

Beverage giant Coca-Cola could be on the hook for billions of dollars after a U.S. Tax Court judge ruled against the company on Wednesday. At issue is Coca-Cola's shifting of profits to foreign operations.

The Internal Revenue Service originally wanted Coca-Cola to pay about $3.3 billion for the tax years 2007 through 2009. The IRS argues that the company has been moving too much profit to subsidiaries in countries like Brazil, Ireland, and Egypt, which pay taxes at a lower rate than the U.S.-based parent.

The ruling didn't include the final amount that Coca-Cola will ultimately have to pay, and the U.S. government could try to extract additional money for tax years after 2009. The judge made it seem like a cut-and-dried case, pointing out in his ruling that some of Coca-Cola's foreign subsidiaries reported profits higher than the company as a whole, despite being little more than contract manufacturers.

Coca-Cola will likely appeal the case. In a Securities and Exchange Commission filing in October, the company warned that it "may be subject to significant additional liabilities for the years at issue and potentially also for subsequent periods, which could have a material adverse impact on the Company's financial position, results of operations, and cash flows."

Shares of Coca-Cola were essentially unchanged Thursday morning despite the court ruling. The stock is down about 5% this year, and down about 12% from its 52-week high. While demand for its products for consumption at home has been strong during the pandemic, the turmoil in the restaurant industry has hurt the company's results.

Walmart keeps rallying

Shares of Walmart surged after the mega-retailer reported its own results earlier this week. While sales trends weakened a bit as stimulus spending dried up, the company still reported a solid 6.4% rise in U.S. comparable-store sales and a 79% increase in U.S. e-commerce sales.

Walmart stock got another boost on Thursday and was up about 1.5% in the morning. One factor could be a sizzling earnings report from fellow big-box discounter Target on Wednesday morning. Target reported comps growth of 20.7%, driven by traffic growth of 4.5% and ticket growth of 15.6%. The stores themselves grew comps by 9.9%, while digital sales soared 155%.

Target also noted that its same-day services, which include curbside order pickup, in-store order pickup, and delivery through Shipt, saw growth of 217%. That may bode well for Walmart, which launched its Walmart+ membership program in September. The main feature of Walmart+ is free same-day delivery of groceries and select general merchandise for orders over $35.

The pandemic does seem to be pushing retail sales to the biggest players, and that trend will likely continue throughout the winter as cases of COVID-19 soar. Shares of Walmart have now gained about 27% since the start of the year.