What Happened in the Stock Market Today

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Stocks ended July on a mixed note, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI) closing at a new high, but the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC) finishing the day slightly lower.

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Today's stock market

Index Percentage Change Point Change
Dow 0.28% 60.81
S&P 500 (0.07%) (1.80)

Financial stocks had a strong day, with the Financial Select Sector SPDR ETF (NYSEMKT: XLF) up 0.7%. As for individual stocks, pay-TV media company Discovery Communications (NASDAQ: DISCA) announced it is buying Scripps Networks Interactive (NASDAQ: SNI), and shares of ServiceMaster Global Holdings (NYSE: SERV) rose on earnings.

Discovery and Scripps are joining forces

Discovery Communications announced today that it is acquiring Scripps Networks Interactive in a cash-and-and stock transaction worth $14.6 billion. In addition, it released Q2 results that missed expectations and lowered guidance for the rest of the year. The combination of news sent Discovery stock tumbling 8.2%, while shares of Scripps -- already up 30% since news of a possible deal broke on July 19 -- closed up 0.6%, a few dollars short the acquisition price of $90 per share.

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Discovery's second-quarter results perhaps illustrated the need to make some sort of deal. Revenue was up 2% to $1.75 billion and adjusted earnings per share fell 4% to $0.68. Analysts were expecting the company to earn $0.72 on $1.76 billion. On the conference call, company officials lowered revenue guidance for the full year from 6% growth to 4%, and predicted earnings would be flat, after having previously guided to a gain of 3%. Softness in ratings and higher programming costs were blamed for the declining outlook.

The combination will add Scripps' popular HGTV, Travel Channel, and Food Network properties to Discovery's Animal Planet, OWN, TLC, and Eurosport channels, and will have a 20% share of the ad-supported pay-TV audiences in the U.S. Besides providing additional scale in a U.S. cable market that is shrinking due to competition from internet streaming options like Netflix, the companies expect the deal to open up new opportunities to expand internationally and grow their presence on new video and social media platforms.

ServiceMaster reports improving sales

ServiceMaster -- provider of residential and industrial services such as restoration, pest control, and home warranties -- reported second-quarter sales that were better than expected, and the market responded by sending the stock 8.8% higher. Revenue was $807 million, up 8% from the year before and above analyst expectations of $798 million. Adjusted earnings per share came in at $0.69 versus $0.67 last year, in line with analyst expectations. 

CFO Tony DiLucente said in the press release:

ServiceMaster delivered solid organic revenue growth in the second quarter. At [American Home Shield], organic growth and the contribution from 2016 acquisitions drove strong revenue and adjusted EBITDA growth again this quarter. At Terminix, the business delivered nearly 3 percent organic growth with some continued margin pressure as we increased investment in improving our sales and service delivery.

Last week, ServiceMaster announced that it was replacing its CEO and spinning off its American Home Shield (AHS) home warranty business. After a recent history of flat earnings and missed expectations, the company is taking steps to unlock the value in what has been a bright spot for ServiceMaster, with recent acquisitions and organic growth driving 15% growth in its warranty business. The news of the actions perked up the stock 6% on Wednesday, and today's jump may indicate investors think the company is on the right track.

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Jim Crumly owns shares of Discovery Communications and NFLX. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Discovery Communications and NFLX. The Motley Fool recommends Scripps Networks Interactive. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.