Why Cliffs Natural Resources, Pilgrim's Pride, and World Wrestling Entertainment Jumped Today

By Dan Caplinger Markets Fool.com

Thursday was a strong day for the stock market, sending most major market benchmarks to new all-time record highs. The Dow gained 118 points, and the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite saw similar percentage gains as investors focused on favorable earnings reports from a number of high-profile companies. In addition, rising crude oil prices helped bolster the energy sector. Among the top performers on the day were Cliffs Natural Resources (NYSE: CLF), Pilgrim's Pride (NASDAQ: PPC), and World Wrestling Entertainment (NYSE: WWE). Below, we'll look more closely at these stocks to tell you why they did so well.

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Cliffs cashes in on iron ore strength

Shares of Cliffs Natural Resources soared almost 20% after the iron ore producer reported its fourth-quarter financial results. Cliffs reversed a year-ago loss with earnings of $81 million, or $0.34 per share, and revenue jumped by more than half from the fourth quarter of 2015. CEO Lourenco Goncalves celebrated the company's turnaround, noting that "despite the undeniable fact that the underlying business environment was far from ideal during almost all of 2016," the company faces "a much more favorable business environment in the U.S. and a newly adopted rational behavior in the international iron ore market [that] support the work we have done internally." Stable to rising iron ore prices both domestically and in the Asia-Pacific region should help bolster Cliffs Natural's results in 2017, and cost-cutting should continue to benefit the company's bottom line going forward.

Image source: Cliffs Natural Resources.

Pilgrim's Pride makes more from less

Pilgrim's Pride stock jumped 10% despite reporting quarterly results that didn't live up to all of the expectations investors had for the chicken producer. The company said that net sales fell 3% during the fourth quarter and for the full 2016 fiscal year. Although fourth-quarter GAAP earnings were up 12% from year-ago levels, Pilgrim's Pride's bottom line came in below what some had expected to see. Nevertheless, CEO Bill Lovette pointed to strength in its fresh product business, pointing to what he called "robust traffic" at grocery-store retailers that shows the ongoing popularity of chicken. At the same time, Pilgrim's Pride hopes to make continued pushes to grow its prepared foods business, and efforts to boost capacity could help produce the revenue and profit expansion that shareholders will want to see going forward.

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WWE hits new records

Finally, shares of World Wrestling Entertainment climbed 9%. The company posted record revenue levels of $729.2 million for the full 2016 year, which was up more than 10% from 2015's results on the strength of its television and network media businesses. Live events and consumer products also added to WWE's success, and CEO Vince McMahon noted that record WrestleMania attendance of almost 102,000 showed the continuing popularity of the sport. "The increased engagement with our brands across multiple platforms provides a foundation for achieving our 2017 and long-term financial objectives," McMahon said, and investors liked the company's favorable business outlook for the coming year, which includes projections for more record-setting sales growth.

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Dan Caplinger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of Cliffs Natural Resources. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.