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Ticker Shock: Mixed Results for Metlife, Costco, Yum


Wednesday's top stories and stocks with potential to move.


Hard hats on, folks: Asia was in the red, big time. Japan saw a single-digit percentage decline in excess of 9%. The Russians halted trading, and are closing shop until Friday. Europe's in the red too.

On the plus side, the Fed funds rate was trimmed by 50 basis points this morning - but it looks like we're still going to open down.

Yum! (YUM)
Its third-quarter earnings were a mixed bag: The fast-food chain earned $0.58 per share, $0.04 north of expectations. But it benefited from a lower tax rate - and Yum has a knack of beating earnings estimates, so I don't think it was unexpected. Its comps were also up 3%. Not bad, but not "McDonaldsesque," either.

On the bright side, it's looking for full-year earnings of $1.89 a share. That's a penny below the Street. But it does seem a bit conservative, so I think it will probably meet that number.

Costco (COST)
Early Wednesday, the well-known wholesaler disseminated its fourth-quarter numbers. Again, a mixed bag: Its earnings came in at $0.90 per share, a nice jump over the $0.83 per share it posted in the comparable period last year. Sales were up 13% - and Costco had $0.07 in charges so one could probably argue that the bottom line EPS results weren't all that bad given that the Street was at $0.93 per share.

On the downside, its comps rose 7% in September. Not bad, to be sure. But given that analysts were looking for 7.5%, not terrific, either. Overall, I like the company, but I'm thinking longer-term here.

MetLife (MET)
Snoopy and crew pre-announced third-quarter numbers after the close yesterday. It said it expects $1.38 to $1.58 a share from continuing ops. Good news, given that the Street is at $1.44.

Unfortunately, news also came out that it's looking to sell 75 million shares to goose its capital position. Now, I'm not going to say this is a bad idea, at least in a business sense. That said, with only about 709 million or so shares outstanding, I have to think that some shareholders might be concerned about potential dilution. I'd steer clear at this point.

J.C. Penney (JCP)
The retailer turned in a 12.4% same-store decline for the month of September. That's well below the 9.9% drop that the Street was looking for. Long story short, I think that we're going to see analysts take down their yearly numbers on this news. Many consumers are definitely cutting back, and, if I were on the sell side, I wouldn't want to stick my neck out at this point. Look for the shares to open lower.

And I don't think that this bodes too well for other mall-based retailers.

Good luck out there, folks. Two more days till the weekend! We need it.
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