Stocks traded in a tight range Thursday, but drifted lower in the afternoon after a report showed economic growth slowed in the fourth quarter but was better than expected. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI) and the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC) ended February with gains of over 3% for the month.
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Data source: Yahoo! Finance.
Defensive utility stocks were strong, with the Utilities Select SPDR ETF (NYSEMKT: XLU) rising 0.6%. The materials sector slumped, and the SPDR S&P Metals and Mining ETF (NYSEMKT: XME) fell 1.7%.
As for individual stocks, marijuana producer Canopy Growth (NYSE: CGC) announced that Martha Stewart will help it sell products in the U.S., and Anheuser-Busch InBev (NYSE: BUD) reported fourth-quarter results.
Martha Stewart gets behind cannabidiol
Cannabis took another step toward the mainstream today when the largest publicly traded marijuana company, Canopy Growth, announced that lifestyle expert and television personality Martha Stewart is joining the company in an advisory role to help promote products based on cannabidiol (CBD) and other cannabinoids. Canopy's stock rose 3.6% on the news and shares of Sequential Brands Group (NASDAQ: SQBG) , which owns a portfolio of consumer brands including Martha Stewart, soared 40%.
"I am delighted to establish this partnership with Canopy Growth and share with them the knowledge I have gained after years of experience in the subject of living," Stewart said in the press release. Their first collaboration will be on CBD-based health and wellness products for pets.
Canopy Growth announced in January that is jumping into the U.S. market for hemp and cannabinoid extracts in a big way, establishing a hub in New York capable of producing tons of hemp extract annually. Stewart could be a critical element in winning credibility for Canopy's products in a budding $2.6 billion industry .
A-B InBev delivers growth
Megabrewer Anheuser-Busch InBev announced mixed results for the fourth quarter, but sales growth in its core beer brands, an optimistic view of 2019, and plans to reduce debt had investors happy today, and shares rose 4.6%. Revenue grew 4.8% to $14.6 billion, above expectations for $14.2 billion. Earnings per share of $0.80 missed the analyst consensus of $0.94.
Volumes in Q4 grew 0.3%, with own beer volumes up 1.2% and non-beer volumes down 4.9%. The company's "premiumization" strategy helped generate growth, with revenues of A-B InBev's three global brands -- Budweiser, Stella Artois, and Corona -- growing 9.8% overall and 12.6% outside their home markets.
Looking forward, A-B InBev said it expects to deliver strong revenue and EBITDA growth in 2019, despite having lost market share in a slumping market for beer in the U.S. The company plans to reduce its massive debt , from 4.6 times EBITDA today to 4 times by the end of 2020. Investor optimism about improvements to A-B InBev's balance sheet has helped the stock in 2019.
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