What Happened in the Stock Market Today

By Demitrios Kalogeropoulos Markets Fool.com

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Stocks turned in a mixed showing following encouraging economic news on Friday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average(DJINDICES: ^DJI)fell while the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC) index ticked higher after the latest monthly jobs report showed evidence of brisk hiring.

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Data source: Yahoo! Finance.

Gold prices ticked higher, which helped produce gains for investors in both the Daily Gold Miners Bull 3X ETF (NYSEMKT: NUGT), which jumped 10%, and the VanEck Vectors Gold Miners ETF (NYSEMKT: GDX), which posted a 3% rise.

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As for individual stocks, Five Below (NASDAQ: FIVE) and Ulta Beauty (NASDAQ: ULTA)attracted heavy trading following their quarterly earnings announcements.

Five Below's optimistic holiday forecast

Five Below shares spiked 12% to bring year-to-date returns to 39% after the retailer posted solid third-quarter results. Comparable-store sales decreased slightly, missing management's forecast of a 2% uptick. However, the retailer's aggressive store expansion made up for that decline and so revenue touched $200 million, just as executives had predicted in late August.

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Gross profit margin continued its healthy improvement pace by rising to 32% of sales from 31% in the year-ago period. "We are pleased to have delivered earnings at the high-end of our guidance range," CEO Joel Anderson said in a press release. "Our track record of outstanding new store performance continued and ... we delivered solid sales growth, expanded operating margins and increased [earnings] by 25% for the quarter."

Anderson and his team see comps growth improving to a 3% pace for the critical holiday shopping season to put the company past $1 billion of annual sales for the first time. Boosted by a new TV advertising campaign, revenue should rise to as much as $397 million this quarter, executives believe. Investors sent the stock higher in hopes that the company can deliver both market share growth for its existing locations and continued success in building out its store base.

Ulta Beauty's accelerating growth

Ulta Beauty's stock fell slightly despite the company announcing a record quarter for sales growth. Customer traffic spiked by double digits, and the average salon visitor spent 6% more per visit to push comparable-store sales up 17%. The result quickly set a new high-water mark for the retailer, given that its prior record high, of 15% comps, occurred just two quarters ago.

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Ulta's business is firing on all cylinders. Gross profit margin is climbing toward 40% of sales, e-commerce sales are growing at a 60% clip, and the company's loyalty program has attracted over 20 million active customers.

Put together, the growth initiatives that CEO Mary Dillon and her team have launched over the last few years are delivering significant market share gains, with comps on track to rise 14%, compared to the 9% that they projected at the start of fiscal 2016. "Our associates continue to execute against our growth strategies, resulting in success across several areas: new brand acquisition, increased Ulta Beauty brand awareness, rapid growth in our loyalty program, improving supply chain performance, and robust e-commerce growth," Dillon said in a press release.

Investors may have been hoping for more of a blowout earnings result, given that the stock has surged 60% over the last 12 months. But they shouldn't be disappointed in Ulta's operating trends, its financial position, or its management team.

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Demitrios Kalogeropoulos has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Ulta Salon, Cosmetics and Fragrance. The Motley Fool recommends Five Below. 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.