What happened

Data and analytics specialist Dun & Bradstreet (DNB 3.01%) trounced the market on Thursday by jumping 9% by 3 p.m. EDT. The company's third-quarter earnings update showed encouraging growth trends and an improving profit outlook.

So what

Sales rose 22% in the quarter that ended in late September. That boost was mostly powered by Dun & Bradstreet's recent Bisnode acquisition, but organic sales also rose 4% in the period. The performance marked a slight acceleration compared to the 3% organic sales uptick in the fiscal second quarter.

A man working beyond a computer screen in an open office.

Image source: Getty Images.

It wasn't all good news in this report. Dun & Bradstreet's costs expanded at a faster rate than sales, leading to falling profitability. Adjusted profit margin is sitting at 38.5% of sales for the past nine months, compared to just over 40% a year earlier.

Still, management is optimistic about adding to the sales footprint over the next year or so. "We have set the stage for a strong finish to 2021, and increasing momentum into 2022," CEO Anthony Jabbour said in a press release. 

Now what

That momentum will come mainly from new product launches, partnerships, and additional acquisitions. Dun & Bradstreet had more news for investors on that final score on Thursday. It announced the purchase of two companies, Eyeota and NetWise, that will help bulk up its portfolio.

Meanwhile, Jabbour and his team affirmed their 2021 sales outlook that calls for revenue to reach roughly $2.2 billion. Adjusted earnings will be slightly higher than previously predicted, too.

That modest upgrade was enough to convince investors to feel more optimistic about this stock, which hasn't participated in the broader market rally this year. Continued evidence of improving growth trends might start to change that sour narrative over the next few quarters.