Investors suffered through another difficult day for the stock market, this time stemming from concerns in Europe over the state of its banking system. Losses in key European markets, along with continued weakness in oil prices, took their toll on this side of the Atlantic.
The Dow fell more than 400 points at one point during the day before once again cutting a portion of its losses. Broader measures of the stock market were down about 1.25% after having been far weaker earlier in the day. Still, some stocks managed to produce solid gains, and among the best performers were The Fresh Market (NASDAQ: TFM), CenturyLink (NYSE:LUMN), and Cisco Systems (NASDAQ:CSCO).
The Fresh Market soared 22% after a midday report that suggested it might be in buyout talks with grocery giant Kroger (NYSE:KR). A Reuters report said that Fresh Market was in the process of selling itself in an auction-like process, and Kroger was one of the bidders, along with several major players in the private equity investment world.
Even with today's jump, the stock still trades at barely half the price it fetched less than a year ago, and is down by nearly two-thirds from its 2012 highs. Nevertheless, an acquisition might make sense for Kroger, which has already boosted its natural and organic foods offerings, and could use Fresh Market locations to bolster its own presence in the fast-growing market.
CenturyLink climbed 11% in the wake of unexpectedly good financial performance in its fourth-quarter report released Wednesday night. The telecom company defied expectations for shrinking revenues by posting 1% growth, and its adjusted earnings of $0.80 per share was $0.15 higher than the consensus forecast among investors. In addition, the guidance that CenturyLink gave for 2016 was also favorable, including adjusted earnings of $2.50 to $2.70 per share that compared extremely well against the $2.36 per share that investors were expecting.
Even though the company expects lower revenue in the first quarter because of declines in its less-lucrative businesses, CenturyLink believes that demand for high-bandwidth data services will rise, and CEO Glen Post said that CenturyLink has "a solid funnel of business services opportunities going into 2016, which we expect to help drive network and managed-services revenue."
Finally, Cisco Systems gained almost 10%. The networking giant posted slightly better revenue in its fiscal second quarter than investors had expected, and earnings came in about 5% higher than the consensus forecast among those following the stock. The company said that it saw signs of strong growth in the Asia-Pacific region, but various product lines saw mixed performance.
Enterprise sales fell 2% and data-center products fell 3%, but sales to commercial and service-provider customers were up 4% to 5%. Although Cisco acknowledged that many customers are holding off on purchases because of a questionable macroeconomic future, pent-up demand should eventually release itself and boost Cisco's long-term results. How long that will take is uncertain, but with the stock moving higher, investors seem ready to be patient.