Stocks edged lower on Thursday as both the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI) and the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC) indexes declined by less than a quarter percent.
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Financial stocks turned in another solid performance and as a group outpaced the broader market. The Financial Select Sector SPDR ETF (NYSEMKT: XLF) rose 0.16%. Gold-based exchange-traded funds also attracted heavy trading, with the bullish bet on the precious metal Direxion Daily Gold Miners 3X ETF (NYSEMKT: NUGT) falling 2.7%.
As for individual stocks, Guess (NYSE: GES) and Oracle (NYSE: ORCL) were two of the biggest movers following quarterly earnings announcements.
Oracle wins in the cloud
Shares of software giant Oracle gained 6% after the company posted surprisingly strong quarterly results. Non-GAAP revenue rose 3% to meet consensus expectations. And as investors have witnessed lately, most of the growth came from the cloud businesses. Oracle's cloud software-as-a-service (SaaS) and platform-as-a-service (PaaS) revenue jumped 73%. That marked a minor slowdown from the prior quarter's 81% expansion pace, but still beat management's expectations.
Profitability improved in that division as margin jumped to 65% -- up from 51% a year ago. "Our new, large, fast growing, high-margin cloud businesses are driving Oracle's total revenue and earnings up and improving nearly every important non-GAAP metric you care to inspect," CEO Safra Catz said in a press release.
Reflecting their increasing optimism that Oracle will continue capturing market share from large cloud services rivals like salesforce.com and Amazon , the company forecast strong growth ahead. In fact, co-CEO Mark Hurd called out both rivals in the report, predicting that it's just a matter of time before Oracle passes Salesforce in total cloud revenue. The e-commerce giant can expect increased competition, too, as Chairman and CTO Larry Ellison boasted that Oracle's latest infrastructure cloud offering is "both faster and lower cost than Amazon Web Services."
Guess stumbles in the U.S. market
Guess shares dropped 11% following the retailer's fourth-quarter earnings report . Sales were weak over the holiday shopping season, but didn't stray far from executives' recently lowered expectations. On a constant-currency basis, a 4% uptick in revenue left the company with a 1% full-year gain, which was consistent with management's late November guidance that predicted an increase of 1% to 2%.
The U.S. market was again Guess' softest division. Comparable-store sales there declined by a brutal 7% even as comps improved in Europe and Asia. Worse yet, Guess had to cut prices significantly to keep inventory moving through its stores, and that strategy decimated profit margins. Operating margin in the U.S. flipped to an 11% loss from a 6.6% gain in the prior year.
Still, executives were encouraged by the bigger-picture results. "Despite continued softness in the Americas," CEO Victor Herrero said in a press release, "we are pleased to report that fourth quarter revenues for the company were up 3%, driven by strong double digit growth in both Europe and Asia."
Herrero and his team are focused on getting back to breakeven in the U.S. market with help from cost cuts, store closures, and rent renegotiations. Sales are expected to continue expanding at a healthy pace in international markets, but overall the retailer isn't expecting a strong growth year. Sales are predicted to rise by between 2% and 4% in 2017 as profitability declines for the third straight year.
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Demitrios Kalogeropoulos has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends AMZN. The Motley Fool owns shares of Oracle. The Motley Fool recommends Guess? and CRM. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy .