What happened

Accenture (NYSE:ACN) shareholders beat a booming market last year. Their stock gained 24% in 2020 compared to the 16% increase logged by the S&P 500, according to data provided by S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Shares tracked closely with the wider market through most of the year, but ended on an especially strong note.

A woman signs a document.

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

The consulting giant's business only saw a modest impact from COVID-19 pressures. Global revenue ticked higher in the fiscal third quarter, which ended in late May, thanks to stable consulting revenue and rising sales from the outsourcing segment. Accenture's profitability held steady at 11% of sales, too.

Accenture added to investors' positive sentiment late in the year by revealing surprisingly strong sales and profits to start its new fiscal year. Management also upgraded its outlook while citing record bookings for its software products.

Now what

CEO Julie Sweet and her team now see sales rising by between 4% and 6% in fiscal 2021, up from their prior outlook calling for a boost between 2% and 5%. If the global economy holds and the industry avoids a sustained slump in enterprise spending due to the pandemic, then Accenture should be able to manage another year of solid growth in its digital, cloud, and security services all while increasing direct cash returns to investors.

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