Wall Street got off to a relatively positive start on Thursday morning, although not all of the major market benchmarks were able to post gains. At first glance, U.S. employment data that showed continuing high levels of jobless claims might have seemed like bad news, but investors seemed to take it as a reason to believe that the Federal Reserve will remain accommodative in its monetary policy further into the future. As of just before 11:30 a.m. EDT, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) was down 27 points to 33,420. However, the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) had gained 9 points to a record 4,089, and the Nasdaq Composite (NASDAQINDEX:^IXIC) had gotten a 102-point lift to 13,791.
The stock market is often viewed as a single entity, but it's valuable to look at the individual companies that make up the market to see what's driving each of them. Okta (NASDAQ:OKTA) posted big gains on Thursday, lifting the entire software-as-a-service stock group with it on favorable comments about its future. However, Constellation Brands (NYSE:STZ) wasn't as fortunate, as its earnings left shareholders wishing for something a little bit stronger.
Okta's on fire
Shares of Okta were up more than 8% on Thursday morning. The provider of subscription-based identity verification services gained, as investors liked what they heard at the company's annual investor day presentation late Wednesday.
Perhaps the best news overall was that Okta sees a healthy pace of growth continuing well into the future. Okta predicted that it would be able to maintain revenue growth of 30% for at least the next three years. That would bring revenue to as much as $2 billion by the end of its 2024 fiscal year.
New products will provide part of the pathway to higher sales. Okta will offer an identity governance administration package to make sure clients remove access when employees leave their jobs or switch to a different role within a company. Meanwhile, Okta's privileged access management platform will help users set different levels of access, offering maximum protection to particularly sensitive data or IT assets. In addition, Okta discussed its acquisition of Auth0, rebutting critics by saying that it didn't pay too much to join forces.
Wall Street analysts seemed generally upbeat about the presentation, and that was enough to restore faith not only in Okta but in some of its fellow beaten-down SaaS stock peers. Cloudflare (NYSE:NET) rose nearly 5%, while CrowdStrike Holdings (NASDAQ:CRWD) and Datadog (NASDAQ:DDOG) were each up 4%. Further good fundamental news could lift Okta and others even higher.
Constellation loses its luster
Elsewhere, Constellation Brands shares lost 4%. The beer and spirits specialist suffered a profit decline in the fourth quarter, and investors didn't seem satisfied with its projections for the coming fiscal year.
Quarterly revenue for Constellation was up 3% from year-ago levels, driven largely by a 16% jump in beer sales. Wine and spirits sales, however, were down 19% year over year, and overall, earnings per share for the period were down 12% on a comparable basis. Although Constellation's stake in marijuana giant Canopy Growth (NASDAQ:CGC) has been responsible for some past earnings shortfalls, that wasn't the case this quarter, as earnings would've fallen 11% even without including Canopy's results.
The pressure could continue into fiscal 2022. Even after adjusting for extraordinary items, Constellation expects earnings in its core beverage business to come in below fiscal 2021 levels. Plunging wine and spirits sales in the 22% to 24% range will come from strategic decisions not to focus as strongly on that part of its business, and it'll be enough to offset net sales growth of 7% to 9% in the beer segment.
All of this is part of Constellation's longer-term strategy to emphasize higher-margin parts of its business. Nevertheless, the stock's move lower today suggests that Constellation shareholders are getting impatient for results.