If you're feeling good about the market, you're not alone. Take my hand as we go over some of this week's more uplifting headlines.
1. Netflix cracks the whip
Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) started a neat practice last year, publishing the monthly average speeds that leading Internet providers achieve in delivering the Netflix streaming experience to subscribers during peak viewing times.
ISP-shaming is an interesting strategy, but we're seeing how it pays off. Monday's March update shows that Comcast is moving up the list since its decision to connect directly to Netflix. The average speed for Comcast's Xfinity customers improved by 65% since January.
It's true that Netflix has to pay Comcast for the improvement. However, Netflix's growing popularity is probably making it pretty hard for the laggards in its monthly Netflix ISP Speed Index to retain their broadband subscribers.
2. We will, we will guac you
Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE:CMG) continues to get more popular. The fast-growing burrito-roller posted a jaw-dropping 13.4% surge in comps for the first quarter. So many casual-dining, fast-food, and even fast-casual operators have been bellyaching about weak traffic trends during the first few months of the year, but along comes the market darling to blow up the industry's scapegoats.
Critics will argue that earnings fell short of expectations despite the pop in revenue. That's true, and it's unfortunately not new. Chipotle merely met Wall Street's profit estimates last time out and fell short the quarter before. Margins are being squeezed here. However, it's hard to quibble about the near-term profitability when the concept's popularity continues to hit new levels. Chipotle sees positive comps in the high single digits for all of 2014.
3. J&J is dy-no-mite
One of better earnings reports this week came from Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ). The company behind Band-Aids, the namesake baby shampoo, and various health-care products posted better-than-expected financial results.
Sales rose just 3% to $18.1 billion, but that was ahead of Wall Street's target. Adjusted earnings rose to $1.54 per share from $1.22 a share a year earlier, clocking in ahead of the $1.48 per share that the pros had forecast.
Johnson & Johnson's good report didn't end there: It boosted its profit projection for all of 2014.
4. Take a hike
The banking giants kicked off this quarter's earnings season last Friday with mixed results. We're generally seeing better results this week, and Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) capped off the action by posting market-thumping profitability this morning.
Revenue also clocked in higher across all three of Morgan Stanley's three banking categories. However, Morgan Stanley makes the cut in this week's list because it also announced that it would be doubling its quarterly dividend. Bumping up its distributions to $0.10 per share may not seem like much. The 1.3% yield won't send income investors racing for the stock. It's still encouraging to see Morgan Stanley sharing more of the wealth with its stockholders after a strong quarter.
5. Pop life
SodaStream (NASDAQ:SODA) moved higher on Wednesday after a report in an Israeli financial newspaper claimed that a beverage giant may be buying as much as a 16% stake in the company that turns tap water into soda.
Rumor-mill chatter rarely makes the cut in this weekly column, but the stock did move 8% on the day because it makes too much sense. Coke, the world's largest soft-drink company, took a 10% stake in a java heavy just because it will have a home soda maker hit the market in its next fiscal year. The market validation is there, and SodaStream is still the undisputed leader that just happens to be trading for half of last year's peak.