What Happened in the Stock Market Today

By Markets Fool.com

Image source: Getty Images.

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Stocks broke out into strong gains on Wednesday, thanks to rising oil prices and a decision by the Federal Reserve to hold off on raising interest rates. The Dow Jones Industrial Average(DJINDICES: ^DJI) and the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC) index each rose by about a full percentage point and ended the day near session highs.

Today's stock market

Index

Percentage Change

Point Change

Dow

0.90%

163.7

S&P 500

1.09%

23.4

Source: Yahoo! Finance.

In economic news, the Federal Reserve declined to raise interest rates but in an announcement on Wednesday afternoon hinted that a hike is likely this year. "The case for an increase ... has strengthened," officials said, thanks to solid recent jobs gains coupled with low inflation. Three members voted that the time had already come for a rate hike, in fact, but the majority opted to hold off "for the time being" until more evidence suggests the recovery is strong enough to support the move.

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ETF winners

Top exchange-traded fund movers on Wednesday included VelocityShares 3x Long Crude Oil ETN(NYSEMKT: UWTI), which uses leverage to amplify movements in the crude oil market. Falling inventory levels helped power a 3% jump in oil prices, and that drove a 10% gain for this highly volatile security.

It was also a good day for gold miners, which produced a nearly 21% spike forDirexion Daily Gold Miners Bull 3x ETF (NYSEMKT: NUGT). Gold prices jumped more than 1% to over $1,330 a troy ounce after the Fed hinted at the possibility of unusually low interest rates for several more years.

Stocks on the move

As for individual stocks, both FedEx (NYSE: FDX) and CarMax (NYSE: KMX) made substantial moves on Wednesday as investors reacted to the companies' quarterly reports.

FedEx stock jumped 6.9% following surprisingly strong quarterly numbers from the package delivery specialist. Adjusted earnings soared by 20% to reach $2.90 per share as revenue grew over 19% year-over-year. The sales bounce was mostly thanks to the recent acquisition of TNT Express, but FedEx also managed solid gains in its core businesses.

The domestic express shipment segment posted double-digit earnings growth thanks to improved base yields, higher package volumes, and lower expenses. Operating margin in that division jumped to 9% of sales from 8% last year. FedEx also revealed a 12% increase in revenue for its ground segment as e-commerce trends continued to push package delivery volumes higher.

CEO Frederick Smith and his executive team noted that global economic growth was subdued, but they were optimistic about how a smooth integration of TNT Express could help the company achieve a better than 10% operating margin while boosting earnings per share by between 10% and 15% annually over the long-term.

Image source: CarMax.

CarMaxshares fell 2% after the used car retailer announced a 6% decline in second quarter earnings. Yet the bigger news for the business was a return to sales growth this quarter. Comparable-store sales improved by 3%, marking a solid acceleration from the prior quarter's flat result.

CarMax managed the uptick despite logging its fourth straight quarter of falling customer traffic. That was possible, because the company converted a greater percentage of that smaller shopper base into buyers.

Other key metrics pointed to strength in the business. Gross profit margin per vehicle, for example, held steady despite a slight drop in average selling prices. Meanwhile the company entered two new markets and expects to open 16 more locations over the next 12 months. Six of these planned openings represent entirely new markets for CarMax, which illustrates that the retailer has plenty of room to grow before it can claim coverage of the entire country.

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Demitrios Kalogeropoulos has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends CarMax and FedEx. 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.