What Happened in the Stock Market Today

By Markets Fool.com

Image source: Getty Images.

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Stocks set new record highs as consumers flooded shopping malls and pointed their browsers toward online retailers on Black Friday. In abbreviated holiday trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average(DJINDICES: ^DJI) and the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC) indexes each finished higher by approximately 0.4%.

Today's stock market:

Index

Percentage Change

Point Change

Dow

0.36%

68.96

S&P 500

0.39%

8.61

Data source: Yahoo Finance.

Continued weakness in gold prices produced another drop for exchange-traded funds tied to the precious metal. VanEck Vectors Gold Miners ETF (NYSEMKT: GDX)andDirexion Daily Gold Miners Bull 3X ETF (NYSEMKT: NUGT)each underperformed the market with losses on Friday.

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Meanwhile, Ctrip (NASDAQ: CTRP) and Insteel Industries (NASDAQ: IIIN)were two of the biggest gainers on Wall Street. Let's take a look at why the stocks stood out from peers even as broader indexes marched higher.

Ctrip's steady growth

Ctrip shares soared 13% following strong third-quarter earnings. The travel booking specialist posted a 75% sales spike as it continued to profit from recent acquisitions that bolstered its dominant position in the Chinese market. Both the transportation and hotel segments contributed to the growth by rising 101% and 51%, respectively.

Gross profit margin jumped to 78% from 73% in the prior-year period, and those gains held all the way down to the bottom line even though the company poured extra resources into product development and sales and marketing expense. Overall, Ctrip's net income improved tenfold to reach $4 million. "We are very pleased with the strong top line growth and significant margin improvement in the third quarter," executive James Jianzhang Liang said in a press release. "The results reflected our teams' strong execution and synergies generated between Ctrip and its invested companies."

Ctrip's latest forecast implies continued momentum in the current quarter. Incoming CEO Jane Jie Sun and her executive team project sales rising by roughly 75% in Q4, the same pace the company has managed in each of the last two quarters.

Insteel's new trading home

Steel wire specialist Insteel jumped 15% following news that the company will be joining the S&P SmallCap 600 index. The rally pushed shares up to a 100% return so far this year.

Image source: Getty Images.

Investors snapped up Insteel shares with the expectation that the stock would rise due to increased demand from institutional giants that are required to hold members of the SmallCap 600 index. And while that's likely true over the short term, long-term returns depend on the company's operating strength.

Lately the business trends have been mixed. Sales declined over the past 12 months on unsteady demand for construction materials. However, Insteel benefited from a sharp decline in commodity prices so that its gross profit spiked higher by 47% despite the revenue slump. The company generated $1.99 per-share earnings over the last year, compared to $1.15 per share for fiscal 2015.

Executives don't yet have a firm reading on the construction market for fiscal 2017. In late October, they said it was "unclear whether the softening in shipments we experienced during the fourth fiscal quarter represents a temporary lull or will persist." A rebound in local and state infrastructure spending would wipe away those concerns, but it would also produce a sturdier rally than any bump associated with inclusion in the S&P Small Cap 600 index would.

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Demitrios Kalogeropoulos has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Ctrip.com International. 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.