What Happened in the Stock Market Today

By Markets Fool.com

Stocks spent most of Wednesday's trading session in slightly negative territory before slipping to heftier losses late in the day. By the closing bell, theS&P 500(SNPINDEX: ^GSPC)had lost over half a percent and theDow Jones Industrial Average(DJINDICES: ^DJI)logged a more moderate decline.

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Today's stock market:

Index

Percentage Change

Point Change

Dow

(0.35%)

(65)

S&P 500

(0.52%)

(11)

Data source: Yahoo! Finance.

In economic news, existing home sales slipped by 3% to a 5.4-million-unit annual pace last month, marking the first decline in that metric since November, thanks to what the National Association of Realtors called "frustratingly low inventory levels." Economists had expected a more modest dip to a 5.5-million-unit sales pace.

Earnings reports drove swings in several individual stocks on Wednesday, including La-Z-Boy (NYSE: LZB) and National Beverage (NASDAQ: FIZZ).

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La-Z-Boy's growth stumbles

Furniture specialist La-Z-Boy fell 13% after posting mixed fiscal first-quarter results. Both of the company's main business segments shrank in Q1. Comparable-store sales at retaildropped 2% after having grown at a 2% pace over the past 12 months. Wholesale revenue fell by 2% as well, following the prior quarter's 10% jump. In a press release, CEO Kurt Darrow said the slowdown was due to "weaker demand at wholesale and inconsistent traffic throughout the La-Z-Boy Furniture Galleries store system" during the traditionally slow summer months.

Image source: La-Z-Boy.

The decline was compounded by the fact that La-Z-Boy's latest marketing spending wasn't effective in bringing in store traffic. Retail operating margin dove to 2% of sales from 6% last year as increased advertising failed to convert into higher sales.

Still, executives believe the company is primed to generate strong earnings heading into the busier fall and winter shopping seasons. A key factor in that positioning is the success La-Z-Boy has had in cutting costs lately. Even with the lower revenue, operating margin rose by almost a full percentage point this quarter to reach 6% of sales. If customer traffic begins rising again -- and if management can avoid further marketing stumbles -- net income growth should return to its recent double-digit pace rather than the flat result investors saw this quarter.

National Beverage's spiking profitability

National Beverage, the drink specialist behind the La Croix brand, rose 7% after posting second-quarter earnings results that showed strong demand for its sparkling water products. Sales jumped 17% to $217 million, net income spiked by 69%, and earnings per share improved to $0.62 from the prior year's $0.37 mark.

Image source: National Beverage.

The sales numbers beat management's $200 million guidance by a solid margin, which is likely the key factor behind the stock's daily jump. Meanwhile, executives explained -- in their characteristically exuberant style -- that the company is posting accelerating growth thanks to its positioning as a healthy soda alternative.

"National Beverage today confirmed a triumphant first quarter," management said in a press release.

Without providing details, CEO Nick Caporella and his team also implied that there's plenty more growth ahead. "Additional capacity and expanding distribution are intensifying our future revenues," executives said.

Investors can't do much to quantify a statement like that, but they can see evidence of rising profitability in these results: Operating margin has averaged 15% of sales over the last 12 months, compared to 13% in fiscal 2016 and less than 12% in fiscal 2015.

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Demitrios Kalogeropoulos has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. 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.