The stock market ended Friday essentially flat as both the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI) and the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC) indexes shed less than 0.1%.
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The financial sector was one of the worst performers, sending the popular Financial Sector SPDR Select ETF (NYSEMKT: XLF) lower by 0.4% to trail the broader market. Gold prices rose a touch, but not by enough to give a lift to Direxion Daily Jr Gold Miners Bull 3X ETF (NYSEMKT: JNUG) , a leveraged bet on the precious metal. Instead, the fund fell 1.5%.
As for individual stocks, PriceSmart (NASDAQ: PSMT) and Ryerson (NYSE: RYI) attracted heavy investor interest in the wake of their quarterly earnings reports.
PriceSmart's Trinidad struggles
PriceSmart shares fell 6% after the international warehouse retailer posted its fiscal second-quarter earnings report . The announcement included plenty of good news for investors, led by the fact that sales growth is rebounding sharply in the Colombian market. A stable local currency helped that segment jump 38%, with double-digit increases in average spending and transaction volume. The growth contributed to a 2.1% boost in overall comparable-store sales. PriceSmart also posted 5% higher membership income as its renewal rate rose to 83% from 80%.
The retailer can't seem to shake economic business risks, though. Trinidad, its largest market in the Caribbean, is suffering from what management described as "difficult economic conditions with a corresponding impact on consumer spending ." This slowdown was compounded by increasing financial risk around a potential devaluation of the local currency, which management responded to by limiting merchandise shipments into the country. As a result, sales in Trinidad declined 9.6% -- the main factor behind PriceSmart's 5% drop in the Caribbean region.
The retailer's fiscal third quarter is off to a solid start, management said, with comps up 2.9% in March compared to February's 2.6% gain. Still, the company seems destined to struggle with economic and financial challenges in another key market just as its Colombian division is showing signs of a sustainable rebound.
Ryerson's growth turnaround
Metals specialist Ryerson jumped 10% after announcing guidance for its fiscal first quarter. The company expects higher revenue, executives said, both sequentially and year over year. That would mark an encouraging turnaround from the 10% sales decline that Ryerson endured in its fiscal 2016.
Several positive trends are contributing to the turnaround, including higher volumes and rising average selling prices for aluminum, stainless steel, and chrome. Ryerson executives are also seeing demand growth in nearly all sectors, according to the press release. Some of its strongest gains came from the oil and gas, construction equipment, and food processing equipment industries.
The strengthening sales trends promise to generate significantly higher earnings, too. Ryerson forecast adjusted profit in the range of $53 million and $55 million, compared to the $37 million it booked a year earlier and the $36 million it generated in the final quarter of 2016.
The company is set to release its detailed first-quarter results on May 4, and investors will be looking for specifics in that report that point to broad improvement in global metal demand. They'll also be hoping for evidence that Ryerson is continuing to steal market share, reduce costs and lower its debt burden.
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