Ctas Truck
Image: Cintas.

There are many companies in the stock market that offer useful insight, not just in their own business niches, but on the overall economy. Cintas (NASDAQ:CTAS) is a great example, with sales of its rental uniform and related products often moving in lockstep with the health of the employment picture within its home U.S. market. Coming into Thursday afternoon's fiscal first-quarter financial report, Cintas investors were confident that the company would be able to weather the recent storm in the stock market, with shares only minimally off their all-time highs.

Cintas' results were generally favorable, and although they hinted at some of the strains on economic growth that have arisen recently, the company also sought to paint an optimistic picture for its future. Let's take a closer look at Cintas, and what investors should take from its latest report.

Cintas keeps looking shiny
Cintas' fiscal first-quarter results showed some real signs of life for the first time in a while, giving investors just about everything they had hoped to see. Revenue of $1.20 billion was up 8.8% from the year-ago quarter, and much stronger than the 6% growth that most shareholders were expecting from the company. Similarly, adjusted net income climbed 15%, to $106.2 million, and that worked out to earnings of $0.93 per share, $0.03 above the consensus forecast.

Digging into the numbers at Cintas, you can see that the company enjoyed solid results throughout its business. The key uniform rental and facilities services business, which is responsible for more than three-quarters of Cintas' entire sales, enjoyed revenue gains of more than 7%, with pre-tax income climbing more than 14%.

The First Aid and Safety Services division saw revenue climb by nearly a quarter, but a sharp uptick in overhead expenses actually led to a drop in pre-tax income for the segment. The All Other category, which includes Cintas' fire-protection business, as well as its direct-sale business division, posted revenue gains of more than 8%, and profit jumped by more than a fifth from the year-ago quarter.

CEO Scott Farmer issued his usual reaction to the company's overall gains. "We are pleased to report a good start to our fiscal year 2016," Farmer said, and "we continue to focus on both adding new customers and providing existing customers with additional products and services."

Looking forward to a more prosperous year ahead
Cintas also gave a boost to its guidance for the coming fiscal year, taking into account both recent acquisitions, and its first-quarter results. The company now expects that it will bring in between $4.8 billion and $4.88 billion in revenue, up about $100 million from its previous guidance. In addition, Cintas boosted its earnings projections by $0.05 per share, and now believes it will earn between $3.79 and $3.88 per share during fiscal 2016. Cintas was careful to warn that its guidance doesn't incorporate its expected sale of its remaining interest in the Shred-it business, on which it's still waiting to close.

One key driver for Cintas' growth will come from its ongoing merger and acquisition strategy. At the end of July, Cintas announced that it would buy ZEE Medical from McKesson for $130 million. At the time, Cintas said that ZEE would bring in expected revenue of $110 million to $120 million, which is consistent with the increase in guidance that Cintas made this quarter. Farmer referred to ZEE as "the pioneer in van-delivered first-aid and safety services," and he believed that the acquisition would allow Cintas to broaden its product and service offerings to its clients.

Cintas is also working to increase earnings per share by using stock buybacks. The company said it had bought back 2.9 million shares of stock during August and the first part of September, and Cintas expects the move to boost full-year earnings by $0.05 per share, explaining the increased earnings guidance. The company says it has more than $380 million left in its authorized spending program.

Cintas stock didn't move abruptly as a result of the news, with a drop of less than a quarter-percent in the first 15 minutes of after-hours trading following the announcement. With the company continuing to produce consistent growth, long-term investors have to be happy at signs that Cintas is starting to see sales and earnings gains accelerate to begin fiscal 2016.

Dan Caplinger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Cintas. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.