What Happened in the Stock Market Today

By Markets Fool.com

Image source: Getty Images.

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Investors endured a volatile trading day on Friday, as a mid-session drop sent indexes into negative territory after having been up by 0.5%. By the closing bell, the Dow Jones Industrial Average(DJINDICES: ^DJI) and the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC)were each in the red with slight declines.

Today's stock market

Index

Percentage Change

Point Change

Dow

(0.05%)

(8.49)

S&P 500

(0.31%)

(6.63)

Data source: Yahoo! Finance.

The iShares MSCI Emerging Index Fund(NYSEMKT: EEM) ticked down by 0.4% to roughly track the overnight decline in Asian markets. The United States Oil Fund (NYSEMKT: USO) also traded heavily, and fell 2% as the price of crude oil slipped below $50 per barrel.

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As for individual stocks, Amazon.com (NASDAQ: AMZN) and Hershey (NYSE: HSY)each made sharp moves following their quarterly earnings announcements.

Amazon's holiday sales forecast

Amazon shares lost 5% following a quarterly report that showed revenue spiked 29% to $33 billion as net income tripled to $252 million. Both figures were within the forecast ranges that CEO Jeff Bezos and his team provided back in July.

The Amazon Web Services (AWS) segment again led the way higher, as cloud services spiked by 55% and profit improved to $861 million from the prior year's $428 million result. Amazon's core retailing business was no slouch, either. Net product sales rose by 21% to pass $22 billion. Free cash flow, a metric that executives prioritize, improved by 59% to an $8.6 billion annual pace.

TTM = Trailing 12 months. Image source: Amazon investor presentation.

The international segment accounts for about one-third of the business and turned in weak operating results as its loss ballooned from $208 million last year to $541 million this quarter. Yet the U.S. division -- and the ultra-profitable AWS segment -- combined to more than offset those losses.

Looking ahead, Amazon projected fourth-quarter sales of $42.75 billion, implying growth of 22%. That forecast was just below consensus estimates that were holding out for a 25% spike to $44.5 billion. The profit outlook came with an unusually wide range: Executives see Amazon generating as much as $1.25 billion in operating income -- or as little as $0. Those top- and bottom-line forecasts might not have been as aggressive as Wall Street wanted, but these latest results show no sign of a change in Amazon's long-term growth story.

Hershey's improving candy volume

Hershey stock spiked 7% to cross back over $100 per share after its third-quarter numbers beat estimates on both the top and bottom lines. Sales rose 2% overall, driven by a healthy mix of increased volumes and prices. The candy specialist's gross profit margin held steady at 46% of sales.

Image source: Hershey.

Hershey benefited from a strong Halloween retailing push along with several tweaks that executives made to its marketing programs. "Our brands responded positively to the marketplace investments," CEO John Bilbrey said in a press release, "which is why we continue to believe that candy, mint and gum is an attractive category capable of solid growth over the long term when supported with the right mix of customer and consumer marketing."

Management plans to continue spending to support its growth initiatives but still sees higher profits ahead in the short term. While leaving its 2016 sales growth target in place at 1%, the company boosted its profit forecast to $4.30 per share from the prior $4.26-per-share mark. The improving outlook likely has shareholders glad that Hershey didn't agree to be bought out earlier this year for $107 per share, as the stock is now just 5% below that price.

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