The stock market managed to find some upward momentum, reversing course from a couple of straight days of losses previously. At this point, investors are getting whipsawed by changing views about the potential threat of the omicron COVID-19 variant and the future course of the global economy.

For today, market participants were generally optimistic. Major market benchmarks like the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI), S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC), and Nasdaq Composite (NASDAQINDEX:^IXIC) finished near their best levels of the day.


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Data source: Yahoo! Finance.

Yet many of the big winners seemed to have justifications that contradicted each other. For instance, both grocery-store giant Kroger (NYSE:KR) and travel-software specialist Sabre (NASDAQ:SABR) were up by double-digit percentages on Thursday, but the bullish cases for both stocks don't seem to fit well together. Let's take a closer look at the two companies below.

Kroger makes it happen

Shares of Kroger were up 11%, bringing the grocery-store chain to within just a few dollars of its all-time record high. The company's third-quarter financial results made investors quite pleased, and company officials believe that favorable trends could keep results looking appetizing well into the future.

Cart in a grocery store aisle.

Image source: Getty Images.

Kroger's numbers added to exceptionally strong performance in the year-earlier period. Identical-store sales, excluding fuel, were up 3.1% in the third quarter from year-ago levels, adding to the strong 10.9% gain Kroger posted a year ago. Adjusted earnings of $0.78 per share rose 10% year over year. Kroger's bottom line has jumped almost 29% in the past two years, showing the strength that the company has seen in catering to customers looking to do more at-home cooking due to the pandemic.

CEO Rodney McMullen attributed the gains to several factors. Digital adoption, an emphasis on fresh foods, and leading innovation are all helping to transform Kroger's business, and that has the CEO more confident than ever in the company's ability to deliver 8% to 11% shareholder returns consistently on an annual basis.

Some investors see Kroger as an inflation hedge, as shoppers are more likely to eat at home if they're having trouble paying higher prices at restaurants. For others, the omicron variant could spur another wave of shutdowns.

Sabre swings higher

Meanwhile, shares of Sabre also picked up almost 11%, regaining some ground that it has lost recently. The travel-industry technology specialist seemed to get a lift from stronger performance across travel stocks on Thursday.

It might seem odd to see travel stocks rise, even as uncertainty about the pandemic's future evolution has grown. After all, the airline industry is among the most vulnerable part of the market if the omicron variant leads to more shutdowns and travel restrictions internationally. That's bad news, not just for travel providers themselves, but also for the companies that provide related services, such as Sabre and its travel information and marketplace products.

Yet Sabre wasn't the only travel stock to bounce back Thursday. Booking Holdings (NASDAQ:BKNG) rose 5% and was just one of many online travel portals to see gains. Hotel-giant Marriott (NASDAQ:MAR) gained more than 6%.

Investors seem optimistic that even if the pandemic continues, people won't be willing to accept the same restrictions they did during much of 2020. That's a risk, but it's one that shareholders seem willing to take, and that's showing up in Sabre and other travel companies today.

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.