U.S. stocks inched higher yet again today despite a slightly weaker-than-expected jobs report. The country added 156,000 jobs last month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, below average estimates for around 170,000, casting doubt on whether the U.S. Federal Reserve would begin reducing its balance sheet as expected later this month.
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Nonetheless, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI) and the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC) both mustered a small gain heading into the long weekend.
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Oil stocks enjoyed another positive session, with the SPDR S&P Oil & Gas Exploration and Production ETF (NYSEMKT: XOP) rising 1.5%. Retail stocks also climbed steadily throughout the day, and the SPDR S&P Retail ETF (NYSEMKT: XRT) closed up 1.4%.
As for individual stocks, a spinoff at Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (NYSE: HPE) drove a deceiving downward move today, and earnings news from Palo Alto Networks (NYSE: PANW) sent shares of the next-gen security specialist higher.
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Hewlett-Packard Enterprise's drop isn't what it seems
Hewlett-Packard Enterprise shareholders woke this morning to what appeared to be an abrupt 21% decline; the stock closed today at $14.31 per share, down from $18.06 yesterday. But this plunge wasn't due to some unfavorable business development. Rather, it was driven by the completion of a planned spinoff and merger of the enterprise computing specialist's non-core software assets with U.K.-based Micro Focus International (NASDAQOTH: MCFUF).
The $8.8 billion deal was unveiled almost a year ago. Per its terms, HPE received a $2.5 billion cash payment, and its investors received 0.13732611 American depositary shares (ADSs) of Micro Focus for every HPE common share held as of its record date on Aug. 21, 2017. Based on Micro Focus' closing price at $29.50 per share yesterday, that equates almost exactly to the per-share "decline" we saw in HPE stock today. In short, the transaction is effectively a zero-sum game for HPE investors, who now hold roughly 222 million Micro Focus ADSs representing 50.1% of its fully diluted ordinary shares.
"With the completion of this transaction," added HPE CEO Meg Whitman, "HPE has achieved a major milestone in becoming a stronger, more focused company, purpose-built to compete and win in today's market."
Palo Alto Networks' beat and raise
Shares of Palo Alto Networks rose 10.5% after the next-generation security platform company announced strong fiscal fourth-quarter 2017 results. Revenue climbed 27% year over year to $509.1 million, which translated into nearly 40% growth in adjusted net income per share to $0.92. Both figures easily exceeded the company's latest guidance calling for revenue of $481 million to $491 million, and adjusted net income per share in the range of $0.78 to $0.80.
Palo Alto Networks added around 3,000 new customers during the quarter -- its highest-ever total for any three-month period -- bringing its customer base to more than 42,500. During the subsequent conference call, CEO Mark McLaughlin noted new customer wins included an eight-figure replacement of Cisco products at one of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies, a seven-figure Check Point Software replacement at one of the largest banks in Australia, and a McAfee replacement on 40,000 endpoints at one of the United States' largest energy companies.
Palo Alto Networks also increased its guidance for the full year, calling for fiscal 2018 revenue to grow between 21% and 23%, and for adjusted EPS of $3.24 to $3.34. The midpoints of both ranges were comfortably above Wall Street's consensus models.
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Steve Symington has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Check Point Software Technologies. The Motley Fool recommends Cisco Systems and Palo Alto Networks. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.