Restaurants On A Tear Ahead Of Q4 Reports and Commodity Stocks Carry Indexes To Soft-Volume Gains

Panera Bread (PNRA) spiked 3% in heavy trade Monday, extending the recent advance of the Retail-Restaurants industry group.

The group advanced for three straight months through January. It jumped to a No. 42 rank in Monday’s IBD, up from No. 137 in mid-January.

Four stocks were key to that rise: Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG), Buffalo Wild Wings (BWLD), BJ’s Restaurants (BJRI) and Panera.

Despite high unemployment rates and cautious spending, industry same-store trends show consumers appear to be stepping out to eat.

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Panera reported last week its December same-store sales rose more than 7% — well above estimates for 3% to 4% growth.

Panera also put Q4 earnings guidance at a 13% gain. Before the company’s news, analysts’ consensus was a 4% gain. The bakery-cafe chain reports results Feb. 11.

Panera broke out of a low handle in October. It is now pushing toward record highs, 26% past the 58.34 buy point and just below its April 2006 record high. [Read the full article]

The NYSE composite perked up 1.8%, and the S&P 500 swung 1.4% higher. It was the biggest jump for both indexes since Jan. 4.

After hours, Rent-A-Center (RCII) rose after topping consensus sales and earnings estimates. The rent-to-own furniture and appliances chain reported earnings up 19%, though sales are still mired in quarterly declines.

Medical imaging and diagnostics equipment maker Hologic (HOLX) jumped 4% after the close. It also topped analyst sales and earnings views, though reporting declines in both categories. For the fiscal second quarter, the company offered in-line earnings guidance but put revenue above consensus. The company also raised its fiscal 2010 outlook.

Earnings scheduled before Tuesday’s open include American Superconductor (AMSC), Ctrip.com International (CTRP), Dow Chemical (DOW), Hershey (HSY), Kraft Foods (KFT) and NetLogic Microsystems (NETL).

Also Tuesday, December pending home sales are set for release at 10 a.m. EST. [Read the full article]

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The dollar fell against the euro for the first time in five sessions, bolstering sentiment in commodities. But it rose against the yen after data put U.S. factory activity at a 5 1/2-year high in January.

The dollar’s strength had been one of the main reasons for the broad decline in commodities this year as investors found energy, metals and agricultural futures denominated in the greenback costlier to purchase with other currencies.

The 19-commodity Reuters-Jefferies CRB index ended the first trading day of the new month up almost 1%, after losing 6% through January — its worst decline since November 2008.

In oil futures, benchmark front-month crude ended up $1.54 at $74.43 a barrel as stronger manufacturing data prompted optimism about economic recovery. The dollar’s decline against the euro also boosted demand for oil. [Read the full article]

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