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Stock Market News: Activist Targets AT&T; Can RH Keep Soaring?

Dan Caplinger, The Motley Fool

Wall Street opened the week on a relatively calm note, as investors were largely content to play a waiting game to see what will develop on the geopolitical and macroeconomic fronts. As of noon EDT, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI) was up 68 points to 26,865. The S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC) rose 4 points to 2,982, and the Nasdaq Composite (NASDAQINDEX: ^IXIC) picked up 8 points to 8,111.

Amid the quiet trading environment, company-specific stories got more attention than usual. AT&T (NYSE: T) found itself the latest project of activist investment company Elliott Management, and suggestions on how it could improve its business helped send the telecom's stock higher. Meanwhile, upscale home furnishings retailer RH (NYSE: RH) will release its latest financial results after the market closes Tuesday afternoon, and investors hope that the company's turnaround will continue to gain momentum heading into the holiday season.

Elliott gets in on AT&T

Shares of AT&T were up nearly 3% after the Paul Singer-led Elliott Management disclosed that it had invested $3.2 billion in the telecommunications giant. That amounts to just over a 1% stake in AT&T, but it's still a substantial position for the hedge fund to take, and Elliott has a number of ideas about changes the company could make which it hopes would cause that investment to grow by 50% or more.

Logo for myAT&T.

Image source: AT&T.

Elliott noted that AT&T's stock has been a massive underperformer over the past 10 years; that's left it with a depressed valuation that the hedge fund finds attractive. However, Elliott believes that AT&T will have to take specific action to unlock its value. It proposed what it called the Activating  AT&T Plan to focus its strategic thinking, improve its operational efficiency, formalize its capital allocation, and put the right management team in place.

AT&T responded to the letter  with a standard statement, asserting that it maintains "regular and open dialogue with shareholders" and will review what Elliott had to say. The telecom also said it is already doing many of the things that the hedge fund suggested.

For longtime AT&T shareholders, the past several years have been disappointing, but Monday's news seemed to breathe new life into the stock. If Elliott can make a difference in how the company's run, many investors believe that AT&T could be poised to take full advantage of opportunities in new 5G technology and fight for leadership in the wireless telecom space.

RH heads toward new highs

RH stock picked up almost 3% Monday morning, sending shares of the high-end home furnishing retailer back toward their highest levels ever.

Most of those following RH are optimistic about the upcoming report. The current consensus among analysts for the second quarter is for a 9% year-over-year rise in revenue, which is expected to help boost earnings by a whopping 43%.

That upbeat outlook is warranted, given just how well RH has done in the recent past. In the first quarter, the retailer reported top-line growth of 7%, helping to propel adjusted net income upward by 48% compared to year-earlier levels. The opening of its RH New York Gallery location was instrumental in generating buzz for the company, and CEO Gary Friedman was quick to point to the success of his overall strategy in helping to get the retailer back into full growth mode.

Tariffs and macroeconomic pressures are concerns for RH, but the company is excited about its plans. With new concepts like Beach House and Ski House to go with its interior design services and gallery locations, it's a rare example of a comeback story that's gone right for investors.

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Dan Caplinger has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends RH. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

This article was originally published on Fool.com