After Market: Surprisingly Strong Jobs Numbers Spark Stock Rally

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Stocks bounced back Friday on a second straight day of surprisingly good economic news. The Dow Industrials (^DJI) gained 167 points, ending the week at another record high of 15,762. The S&P 500 (^GPSC) rose 23 to 1,771, and the Nasdaq (^IXIC) rallied 62 points to 3,919. And after some big swings, the major averages were mostly higher for the full week.

The Labor Department reported the economy added 204,000 jobs last month, despite the 16-day government shutdown in October. That was nearly double the consensus expectation. The market of late hasn't always cheered strong economic numbers because of fears that an improving climate could prompt the Federal Reserve to finally begin to taper its massive economic stimulus program. But in this case, good news was indeed good news.
Portrait of black business woman shaking hands

Still, bond prices tumbled on signs the economy is gaining strength. That sent the yield on the 10-year Treasury soaring to 2.76 percent.

Among the best performing blue chips: JPMorgan Chase (JPM), up 4 percent; Merck (MRK) up 2 percent; and Walt Disney (DIS), up 2 percent. Disney posted solid earnings and agreed to produce several series of live-action TV shows based on Marvel superheroes, exclusively for Netflix (NFLX).

Airline stocks found plenty of blue sky. United Continental (UAL) rose 4 percent. The airlines are getting help from a stronger economy and declining oil prices.

Other Big Movers on Friday:
  • Priceline (PCLN) rose 5 percent (that's 50 dollars a share) and Groupon jumped 6 percent –- both on continued earnings growth.
  • Gap (GPS) rallied more than 9 percent on much better than expected sales in October.
  • And Santarus (SNTS) soared 37 percent after agreeing to be acquired by Salix Pharmaceuticals for $2.6 billion.
  • On the downside, Twitter (TWTR) ran out of momentum after all of the excitement over its IPO on Thursday. The stock fell nearly 9 percent.
  • And homebuilders got hammered. Pulte (PHA), Lennar (LEN) and Ryland (RYL) all lost about 4 percent, hurt by the steep rise in interest rates. Higher mortgage rates make new homes less affordable, especially for first -time buyers.
  • And NetSol Technologies (NTWK), an IT applications firm, tumbled 30 percent after posting a big drop in earnings.

What to Watch Monday:
  • The bond market is closed for Veterans Day, but U.S. stock markets are open.
  • New Corp. (NWS) and Sotheby's (BID) report quarterly results after the market closes.
5 Less-Known Restaurant Chains You Should Eat At and Invest In
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After Market: Surprisingly Strong Jobs Numbers Spark Stock Rally

If investors are hungry for something a little more exciting, thankfully there's no shortage of faster growing publicly traded restaurant chains that are doing just fine.

So sorry, Olive Garden. You may still offer tasty breadsticks, but that's not the kind of rising dough that investors -- and diners -- crave these days.

One of this summer's hottest IPOs was for Noodles & Company (NDLS), a fast casual restaurant chain that specializes in all types of noodles. Olive Garden bashers will find plenty of Italian pastas on the menu, but diners can also be globetrotters by checking out Asian noodle bowls or come closer to home with the classic Americana comfort food of mac and cheese.

Unlike the many table service restaurants facing an alarming number of empty tables, Noodles & Company has delivered positive comps in 29 of the past 30 quarters. Revenue climbed 17 percent to $300.4 million last year, and it's on pace for similar growth through the first half of this year.  

Ignite Restaurant Group (IRG) owns and operates 134 Joe's Crab Shacks and 16 Brick House Tavern + Taps. The operator essentially doubled in size in April when it acquired smaller Olive Garden rival Romano's Macaroni Grill. The 186-unit Italian casual dining chain was once owned by Brinker, and it's a work in progress. Comps were positive at Ignite's two original concepts in its latest quarter, but the same can't be said for Macaroni Grill.

Then again, the sluggish performance at Macaroni Grill also led to an attractive acquisition price. With Macaroni Grill butting pasta bowls with Olive Garden and Joe's Crab Shack fishing against Red Lobster, we can possibly call Ignite a mini Darden. That's a good thing, especially since Ignite has a lot of room for any of its three concepts to grow before it saturates the market.

Casual dining and Mexican don't mix well over time. There's probably a shuttered El Torito, Chi Chi's or Chevy's somewhere near you.

However, Chuy's (CHUY) has raised the bar by creating a lively environment filled with Elvis shrines and customer-submitted dog photos, and it's winning over patrons with its extensive happy hour specials and a bargain-minded menu where nearly every entree costs less than $10.

Chuy's sales surged 23 percent in its latest quarter, and with just 45 locations across twelve states, there are still plenty more places for pooch snapshots and Elvis busts to go up.
As one of the largest franchisees of Buffalo Wild Wings (BWLD), Diversified's (BAGR) largest concept is no stranger to most sports bar enthusiasts. However, the reason that Diversified makes the cut is because it's in the process of rapidly expanding its proprietary Bagger Dave's Legendary Burger Tavern.

There were just 13 of the full-service, ultra-casual restaurant and bar units open by the end of June, but Diversified is hoping to open another six locations later this year. It may soon rival the nearly three dozen Buffalo Wild Wings eateries that it currently watches over. The genius here is that it's probably putting a lot of what it learned at Buffalo Wild Wings into practice at Bagger Dave's.

Revenue soared 61 percent in its latest quarter, propelled almost entirely by new restaurants, but there was still a healthy 7 percent spike in same-store sales during the period. 
Customers looking to trade up from fast food without shelling out more in time and money at a casual dining concept are flocking to fast casual chains that deliver quality ethnic dishes quickly.

Fiesta (FRGI) owns and operates 96 Pollo Tropical restaurants (primarily in South Florida) and 164 Taco Cabana eateries (mostly in Texas). The company also has dozens of franchised locations, especially overseas, as its Latin American-inspired Pollo Tropical rotisserie chicken has proven to be a potent export.

Revenue climbed 9 percent in its latest quarter, fueled by a healthy 6 percent spike in same-restaurant sales at Pollo Tropical.
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