The stock market was mixed on Wednesday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) once again setting a new record high. The S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) and Nasdaq Composite (NASDAQINDEX:^IXIC) fell back slightly, continuing to lag behind the Dow after some strong performance recently.


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Data source: Yahoo! Finance.

As the market has raced ahead in 2021, it's been easy to think that the only winning stocks are in red-hot, overhyped sectors like electric vehicles, special purpose acquisition companies, or cloud-based tech players. But today proved that you don't have to have a complicated business to be a winner. Let's take a closer look at retailer Tractor Supply (NASDAQ:TSCO) and airlines Mesa Air Group (NASDAQ:MESA) and SkyWest (NASDAQ:SKYW) to see why they climbed higher.

Motoring to all-time highs

Tractor Supply stock climbed more than 5% on Wednesday. That was enough to send it to a record high of its own, and it has more than doubled in less than a year.

The gains for Tractor Supply stemmed from its acquisition of retail peer Orscheln Farm and Home. As a privately held retailer, Orscheln has 167 stores in 11 states across the Great Plains and Midwest. Tractor Supply paid $297 million in cash in the deal, acquiring $23 million in future tax benefits as a result of the acquisition.

Orange-red tractor in a field on a mostly sunny day.

Image source: Getty Images.

Tractor Supply is excited to expand its geographical footprint and has high respect for the Orscheln business operation. As Tractor Supply CEO Hal Lawton said, "We look forward to bringing together our highly complementary cultures and teams." Barry Orscheln, who heads up Orscheln Farm and Home as CEO, expressed similar thoughts.

The acquisition should immediately add to earnings. Given how well the retailer has done lately, the strategic purchase is just gravy for Tractor Supply's success.

Flying higher

Meanwhile, in the airline industry, shares of Mesa Air Group and SkyWest were up 11% and 6%, respectively. Those numbers dramatically exceeded the gains in shares of major carriers.

Mesa led the way higher after getting favorable comments from Wall Street analysts. B of A Merrill Lynch upgraded the stock all the way from underperform to buy, boosting its price target from $2 per share to $15. Analysts believe that Mesa is in a good position to rebound by taking advantage of government programs meant to keep airlines in business. Moreover, it has solid contracts with two of the big four U.S. carriers.

SkyWest operates a similar regional service, partnering with a number of bigger airlines in the U.S. The Utah-based airline didn't get the same nod from B of A Merrill, but many investors saw enough similarities to send its share price higher as well.

Airlines have been down and out ever since the pandemic struck a year ago. Now, investors are getting more optimistic that with coronavirus vaccines rolling out around the country and across the globe, a return to typical travel conditions might not be too far behind. That'd be good news for everyone, but Mesa and SkyWest shareholders would be especially pleased to see their airlines get back to business as usual.

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.