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Target and Cisco Tell a Tale of 2 Stock Markets

By Dan Caplinger - May 19, 2021 at 5:43PM

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Wednesday showed the market's risks and resiliency.

The stock market was especially volatile on Wednesday. After falling sharply on the heels of a cryptocurrency crash, stocks recovered most of their lost ground by the end of the day. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI -0.50%) didn't manage to claw its way back entirely to where it started Wednesday, but the Dow, the S&P 500 (^GSPC -0.72%), and the Nasdaq Composite (^IXIC 0.00%) all soaked up a lot of the red ink they spilled early on.

Investors are starting to realize that the stock market  looks bifurcated right now. That's clear in how different stocks are reacting to earnings results. Target (TGT -2.69%) and Cisco Systems (CSCO -0.23%) both released their latest financial reports on Wednesday, but their stocks have moved in different directions.

Three business people watching monitors displaying stock market information.

Image source: Getty Images.

How the market fared on Wednesday

Major stock indexes eased lower on Wednesday. Market participants continue to fear inflationary pressures that could cause the Federal Reserve to take away its accommodative stance toward monetary policy.


Percentage Change

Point Change




S&P 500



Nasdaq Composite



Data source: Yahoo! Finance.

Retailers hit the Target

Shares of Target finished the day up 6%. The big-box department store retailer released its first-quarter financial results Wednesday morning, and shareholders generally liked what they saw.

Target's numbers were outstanding. First-quarter comparable sales jumped 22.9%, doubling their growth from a year ago. Store-based comps rose 18%, while digital comps soared 50%. Target reported that use of its same-day services, which include both its Shipt same-day delivery, and various order pickup and drive-up options, were 90% higher than a year ago. Adjusted earnings of $3.69 per share were up more than sixfold year over year.

Moreover, Target felt comfortable enough about the future to issue full-year guidance. The retail giant expects comps to grow by mid-to-high single-digit percentages in the second quarter, with single-digit percentage growth in the third and fourth quarters of 2021 as well. Although Target is realistic about not being able to match exceptional operating margin levels from the second quarter in 2020, it does expect to top the full-year 2020 rate by the end of the year.

Target's stock has quadrupled since mid-2017 and reached all-time highs on Wednesday. Yet with an economic recovery looming, things have arguably never looked better for the retailer.

Cisco loses ground after hours

Shares of Cisco Systems were lower by about 1% in the regular trading session on Wednesday. However, the stock dropped another 7% as of 5 p.m. EDT after the tech giant released fiscal third-quarter results that disappointed many investors.

Cisco's numbers were solid but lacked flair. Revenue was higher by 7% from year-ago levels. Adjusted earnings came in at $0.83 per share, up 5% year over year. However, this year's period had an extra week in it, and without that positive impact, revenue would've been flat to down slightly, and earnings growth would have been negative.

The outlook for Cisco's fiscal fourth quarter didn't spice things up much. The tech company expects 6% to 8% growth in revenue in the coming quarter. Earnings of $0.81 to $0.83 per share on an adjusted basis are squarely in line with what Cisco has seen recently.

Cisco has come a long way since the tech boom of the late 1990s. However, with investors expecting a lot more from tech stocks in today's market, the networking specialist will have to work even harder to regain its former glory.

Dan Caplinger has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Stocks Mentioned

Target Corporation Stock Quote
Target Corporation
$175.34 (-2.69%) $-4.85
Dow Jones Industrial Average (Price Return) Stock Quote
Dow Jones Industrial Average (Price Return)
$33,980.32 (-0.50%) $-171.69
S&P 500 Index - Price Return (USD) Stock Quote
S&P 500 Index - Price Return (USD)
$4,274.04 (-0.72%) $-31.16
Cisco Systems, Inc. Stock Quote
Cisco Systems, Inc.
$46.66 (-0.23%) $0.11
NASDAQ Composite Index (Price Return) Stock Quote
NASDAQ Composite Index (Price Return)
$13,102.55 (0.00%) $0.00

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

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