Stock Market Today: Apple Soars and Coca-Cola Drops to Leave the Dow Unchanged

By Markets Fool.com

Offsetting earnings announcements from two of the globe's biggest brands left stocks basically unchanged on Wednesday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average(DJINDICES: ^DJI) fell by 1 point for no change as the broader S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC) lost 3 points, or 0.1%:

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Today's stock market:

Metric

Dow

S&P 500

Point change

2

3

Percentage change

N/A

(0.1%)

Data source: Yahoo! Finance.

The Federal Reserve left interest rates unchanged, but in a statement released at 2 p.m. EDT, it indicated that economic activity appears to be improving while global risks decline. That updated outlook suggests the central bank may increase rates after its next meeting, which ends on Sept. 21.

Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) and Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO) stocks were both in focus on Wednesday following their highly anticipated earnings announcements.

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Apple's surprising iPhone demand

Apple's 7% jump added nearly $40 billion of market capitalization to the stock and made it the Dow's biggest daily mover. The tech titan announced a 15% quarterly sales decline and a brutal 27% drop in earnings, but its report also contained plenty of good news for investors.

The iPhone business, for example, is stronger than Wall Street had feared. Apple sold 40.4 million units of the device, edging consensus estimates calling for 40 million. While that marked a 15% decline year over year, Apple ended the quarter with an unusually low level of inventory. Back out the inventory shift, and iPhone sell-through fell by just 8%. "Customer demand [...] was stronger than we had anticipated at the beginning of the quarter," Chief Financial Officer Luca Maestri said in a conference call with investors, in part because its new SE model proved especially popular across developing and emerging markets.

Image source: Apple.

Despite the lower pricing for that model, CEO Tim Cook and his team expect average selling prices to rise in the coming quarter. Gross profit margin, which met the high end of management's guidance this quarter, is projected to hold steady at about 38% of sales. Apple forecast a 10% revenue decline for the current quarter, but firming demand trends give it positive momentum as it prepares to launch its next big iPhone upgrade.

Coca-Cola's growth slowdown

Whether still or carbonated, sweetened or unsweetened, beverages are getting harder to sell. Coca-Cola's stock fell 3% after it announced that its growth slowed to a crawl in the second quarter. Global volume was flat, compared to a 2% uptick in Q1, as Coke endured weakening results across its portfolio.

The sparkling segment posted a 1% volume decline after managing zero growth in the prior quarter, and the still beverage division saw just a 2% uptick, compared to 7% in Q1. Management blamed "difficult external conditions" in developing markets, including China and Argentina, for the shortfall and promised to make the necessary adjustments. "We are taking action by reassessing local market initiatives where needed and continuing our efforts in driving productivity," CEO Muhtar Kent said in a press release.

Image source: Getty Images.

Price increases more than offset the volume declines, and they also helped power a healthy boost in profitability. Operating margin rose by a full percentage point to 27% of sales, which in turn produced an 11% improvement in net income, to $3.4 billion. Coke expects continued strong profit growth over the next few quarter, but its developing market struggles forced a downgrade to its sales outlook. Management now targets organic growth of just 3%, compared to the 5% target it had projected three months ago.

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Demitrios Kalogeropoulos owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple. The Motley Fool has the following options: long January 2018 $90 calls on Apple and short January 2018 $95 calls on Apple. The Motley Fool recommends Coca-Cola. 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.