Investors spent most of Thursday thinking easy come, easy go as major market benchmarks moved lower after sizable gains on Wednesday. Although the Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI 0.01%), Nasdaq Composite (^IXIC 1.10%), and S&P 500 (^GSPC 0.70%) all finished well above their worst levels of the day, the volatility showed that levels of uncertainty about what 2023 will bring are extremely high.

Index

Daily Percentage Change

Daily Point Change

Dow

(1.05%)

(349)

S&P 500

(1.45%)

(56)

Nasdaq

(2.18%)

(233)

Data source: Yahoo! Finance.

Despite the downbeat mood on Wall Street, some stocks did manage to post solid double-digit percentage gains on Thursday. Both Cleveland-Cliffs (CLF -0.06%) and MillerKnoll (MLKN 1.51%) made their shareholders happy with some positive news about their respective businesses. That gave investors some confidence that even in tough economic conditions, companies that are able to sustain their businesses and keep growing will reward their shareholders.

Cleveland-Cliffs uses its pricing power

Shares of Cleveland-Cliffs rose 11% on Thursday. The flat-rolled steel producer and iron ore pellet manufacturer gave its latest report updating its commercial and operational developments, and shareholders were pleased with the news that Cleveland-Cliffs gave them.

Cleveland-Cliffs has been negotiating with its customers to lock in fixed-price contracts for its output. The company said that it has already successfully renewed a large portion of the contracts that were up for negotiation, and it now believes that it will see higher annual fixed prices for steel in calendar 2023 than it achieved in 2022. That confirms steps that Cleveland-Cliffs has taken recently to boost its spot steel prices for customers who don't lock in supplies through fixed-price contracts.

Specifically, Cleveland-Cliffs expects automotive customers buying direct carbon steel to pay an average of $1,400 per ton in 2023. That would be up roughly $100 per ton from 2022 levels. In addition, more favorable pricing for various types of electrical steel and stainless steel products should also bolster Cleveland-Cliffs' financial health.

The news is welcome for shareholders, but Cleveland-Cliffs stock is still down almost 50% from its best levels earlier in 2022. If the economic environment starts to perk back up earlier than expected, though, it could boost demand in a way that would give Cleveland-Cliffs even more potential upside.

MillerKnoll gets comfortable

Shares of MillerKnoll rose even more sharply, finishing the day 14% higher. The maker of office furniture and home furnishings reported fiscal second-quarter financial results that held up reasonably well even in a tough environment for it and its industry peers.

MillerKnoll's financial numbers were mixed but outpaced what most investors had expected to see. Sales of $1.07 billion were up 4% year over year, but orders were down 12.5% from year-ago levels to $1.01 billion. Adjusted earnings of $0.46 per share were 15% lower than they were in the same period last year, and MillerKnoll's backlog shrank by more than $150 million to $815 million at period-end.

Nevertheless, the company was pleased at how its various business segments offered some valuable diversification. Although supply chain disruptions hurt its global retail unit, margins expanded in the Americas contract and international contract and specialty segments. Both sales and earnings hit the high end of previous guidance.

Looking ahead, MillerKnoll sees more pressure from the slowing economy, with sales for fiscal Q3 likely to be right around $1 billion. Yet by focusing on cutting costs, the furniture specialist sees itself finding ways to enhance near-term profitability, and that's exactly the message shareholders want to see right now.