What Happened in the Stock Market Today

By Demitrios Kalogeropoulos Markets Fool.com

Stocks rose on Friday following encouraging data on economic growth. The Dow Jones Industrial Average(DJINDICES: ^DJI) and the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC) indexes each finished higher by less than 0.5%.

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Today's stock market

Index

Percentage Change

Point Change

Dow

0.21%

44.79

S&P 500

0.33%

7.73

Data source: Yahoo! Finance.

Financial stocks saw heavy trading, but trailed the broader market as theFinancial Select Sector SPDR ETF (NYSEMKT: XLF) posted a slight decline. Meanwhile, gold prices ticked lower, but the leveraged bullish bet on the precious metal, Direxion Daily Gold Miners Bull 3X ETF (NYSEMKT: NUGT), still rose 8%.

Vail Resorts (NYSE: MTN) and Ulta Beauty (NASDAQ: ULTA)stocks both broke away from broader indexes after the companies announced solid quarterly earnings results.

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Image source: Getty Images.

Vail Resorts gets help from Canada

Shares of Vail Resorts jumped almost 5% after the company posted surprisingly strong fiscal second-quarter earnings results. The company overcame a weak start to the ski season at its U.S. resorts as revenue jumped 21% to $725 million thanks to a big assist from its recently acquired Whistler Blackcomb properties. Those Canada-based resorts benefited from a relatively weak Canadian dollar and ideal winter ski conditions. Overall, lift revenue rose 24.5%, ski school sales were up 25.9%, and dining revenue rose 21.5%. Net income spiked 27.5%, helped along by higher ski lift prices, to $149 million.

"We are very pleased with our results for the quarter," CEO Rob Katz said in a press release. "We had strong results during the holidays and the month of January despite a slower start to the season at our U.S. resorts resulting from below average early season conditions," he continued.

Vail's season-to-date metrics revealed that total lift revenue is running 6.7% higher in its North American resorts than over the same period last year. Ancillary spending, including on food and ski school, is seeing healthy growth, too. The better-than-expected showing convinced management to raise their earnings outlook for the full fiscal year while boosting Vail's quarterly dividend by 30% to $1.053 per share.

Ulta Beauty's beat and raise

Ulta Beauty stock rose nearly 5% after the spa and beauty retailer beat sales growth estimates for the fourth consecutive quarter. Sales improved 25% overall thanks to the powerful combination of aggressive store growth and soaring traffic gains at existing locations. In fact, the company's 16.6% comparable-store sales jump was only slightly lower than the prior quarter's, which marked a record high for Ulta.

As it did then, the retailer benefited from double-digit customer traffic gains and a 63% spike in e-commerce revenue. Gross profit margin held steady at near 35% of sales for the quarter but improved by 70 basis points to 36% for the full year.

Image source: Getty Images.

"The Ulta Beauty team delivered outstanding fourth quarter results," CEO Mary Dillon said in a press release, "capping an exceptional year of sales and earnings growth." The company's 15.8% comps improvement in 2016 far surpassed the 8% to 10% gains that management initially targeted.

Looking forward, Dillon and her team see comps growth slowing down this year, particularly as the digital sales channel decelerates to a 40% increase from last year's 56%. Still, the range of expansion that they forecast, of 8% to 10%, is above the outlook that they had predicted last October, which highlights how dramatically its operating trends have been improving over the last 18 months.

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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 Vail Resorts. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.