What Happened in the Stock Market Today

By Demitrios Kalogeropoulos Markets Fool.com

Stocks jumped for the second straight day, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average(DJINDICES: ^DJI)briefly reclaiming the 21,000-point level and the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC) index gaining over 0.5%.

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Today's stock market

Index

Percentage Change

Point Change

Dow

1.12%

232.23

S&P 500

0.61%

14.46

Data source: Yahoo! Finance.

Financial stocks led the market higher, pushing the Financial Select Sector SPDR ETF (NYSEMKT: XLF)up 0.9%. In the losing column, gold prices fell 1%, which powered a nearly 13% decline in the highly leveraged Direxion Daily Gold Miners Bull 3X ETF (NYSEMKT: NUGT).

As for individual stocks, McDonald's (NYSE: MCD) and Express Scripts (NASDAQ: ESRX) attracted heavy investor interest following their respective quarterly earnings reports.

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Image source: Getty Images.

McDonald's improves on expanded all-day breakfast

McDonald's shares shot up 5.6% after the fast-food titan posted surprisingly strong first-quarter earnings results. Wall Street had expected the restaurant chain to announce a decline in sales since it was going up against a prior-year period that included the hit launch of all-day breakfast. Instead, McDonald's managed a 1.7% increase in the key U.S. market, which contributed to a 4% jump in global sales. Earnings also significantly outpaced estimates, rising 18% to $1.47 per share while consensus estimates were looking for just $1.33 per share of profit.

CEO Steve Easterbrook credited the company's aggressive turnaround plan for keeping operating results churning higher. "There's a sense of urgency across the business as we take actions to retain existing customers, regain lapsed customers and convert casual customers to committed customers," he said in a press release. Specific moves that helped this quarter included the expansion of its all-day breakfast menu and new promotions around beverages and its core Big Mac product.

Image source: Getty Images.

McDonald's rebound plan aims to win back customers it has lost to fast-casual rivals through menu upgrades like its recent move to switch to fresh beef in its Quarter Pounder preparation. Easterbrook and his team hope that changes like that will return the company to customer traffic growth in the U.S. following two years of painful declines, and its latest results suggest the plan could be working.

Express Scripts loses a big client

Express Scripts' stock plunged almost 11% after the pharmacy management specialist announced first-quarter results and detailed the potential shock to the business that would come from the loss of one of its biggest customers.

The quarterly numbers were solid, with revenue dipping 0.6% on a slight decline in claims as adjusted earnings jumped 9% to $1.33 per share. Express Scripts also boosted its full-year profit outlook to between $6.90 and $7.04 per share from the prior range of $6.82 to $7.02 per share.

However, the company warned that Anthem, one of its biggest clients, is preparing to move its business to another provider once its contract runs out in 2019 even though Express Scripts has offered $3 billion in price cuts to try to extend the deal. "It is difficult for us to understand why Anthem has not recognized the potential value which would be brought forth by engaging in meaningful discussions regarding a mutually beneficial pricing arrangement for the remaining term of our contract and beyond," CEO Tim Wenthworth said.

Executives believe the company has solid long-term growth potential even without Anthem as a client, but there's no question that the move will cause a disruption in the business. Anthem was responsible for 17% of revenue last year and about 31% of total adjusted earnings. With partnership talks deteriorating between the two companies, Wall Street had to lower its growth expectations accordingly.

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Demitrios Kalogeropoulos owns shares of McDonald's. The Motley Fool owns shares of Express Scripts. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.