Stocks stayed in slightly negative territory through most of the session, before slumping into the close to end the day significantly lower. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI -1.29%) lost 208 points, or 1.3%, and the S&P 500 (^GSPC -1.37%) gave up 30 points, or 1.5%:
Corporate earnings announcements continue to send individual stock prices swinging as investors digest fresh data on their companies' operating trends. McDonald's (MCD -1.26%) and Kimberly-Clark (KMB 1.29%) both made notable moves today after revealing fourth-quarter numbers and posting updated projections for the year ahead.
McDonald's customer traffic spikes
McDonald's shares jumped higher by as much as 3% today before settling down to a 1% uptick. The fast food giant's fourth-quarter results that showed sales fell 4% to $6.34 billion, or just ahead of the $6.25 billion that Wall Street was expecting.
At the same time, net income rose 10% as the share count decreased, which helped earnings post an impressive 16% spike to $1.31 per share. Consensus estimates were calling for just $1.23 per share of profit.
Domestically, Mickey D's managed its first solid customer-traffic growth in two years this quarter. Thanks to all-day breakfast being such a hit, comparable-store sales rose 6% in U.S. stores, up from a 1% increase the third quarter. McDonald's ended the year with comps up 0.5%, compared to a 2.1% decline in 2014. The company also posted solid revenue gains in each of its three international geographic divisions. In a press release, CEO Steve Easterbrook called the improving growth pace a "testament to the swift changes we made and the early impact of our turnaround efforts."
Yet McDonald's still has a long way to go to recover its lost ground. Even including this quarter's uptick, customer traffic fell by 3% in the U.S. through all of 2015 -- on top of a 4% slump the prior year. Still, Easterbrook and his team hope to build on the positive momentum through additional customer-friendly changes like menu simplification, food innovation, value pricing, and customer service improvements.
Kimberly-Clark's weak 2016 outlook
Consumer goods giant Kimberly-Clark fell 3% following a fourth-quarter earnings announcement that missed consensus estimates. The owner of global brands including Kleenex tissues and Huggies diapers saw its revenue slip by 6% to $4.5 billion as adjusted EPS came in at $1.42 per share. Analysts were looking for slightly better results on both the top and bottom lines.
The operating figures were strong, with organic sales growth of 5% anchored by 4% volume growth in the key U.S. market. By comparison, larger rival Procter & Gamble last posted negative 1% organic sales as volume fell in all of its five main product categories. "I'm pleased with our execution in a challenging environment," Kimberly-Clark CEO Thomas Falk said in a press release.
But the company's guidance for 2016 left Wall Street wanting more. Falk and his team expect to post organic growth of 4% at the midpoint of guidance, which would be a step down from last year's 5% gain. And that revenue uptick should only power a profit improvement of 5% to $6.05 per share, while analysts had been targeting $6.14 per share of earnings this year.
Yet even with the lower sales and profit growth expectations, the company sees opportunity to improve its financial position through initiatives like cutting costs and improving cash-flow productivity. "We are very optimistic about our future and our ability to generate attractive returns to shareholders," Falk said.