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Can the Sunshine for Retail Stocks Continue?

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The chart below shows the year-to-date performance of a number of major Retail sector operators – Amazon (AMZN - Free Report) , Macy’s (M - Free Report) , Wal-Mart (WMT - Free Report) and Home Depot (HD - Free Report) – and the sector as a whole. To keep the chart from becoming too unwieldy and ‘busy’, I kept the S&P 500 index out of it.

For reference, the large-cap index is up +2.7% in the year-to-date period, lagging the Retail Sector’s +7.9% gain.

As you can see in this chart, the Retail sector has done better than the S&P 500 index, with Macy’s and Amazon really standing out and Wal-Mart the weakest of the four stocks.

Macy’s shrinking footprint notwithstanding, it represents the department store space in this comparison chart, with Wal-Mart and Home Depot standing in for the big box discount and home-improvement spaces, respectively.

Macy’s long-standing troubles are far from over, but the company appears to be executing well in an otherwise tough environment. The stock’s strong year-to-date performance, almost the same as Amazon’s performance, is more a function of how low expectations had fallen for this department store leader rather than the discovery of a new formula that can help it compete better. That said, market participants appear to be moving away from the overly pessimistic narrative that didn’t see any role for Macy’s and its peers in Retail’s future.  

Wal-Mart shares have been struggling since late-January 2018, with the market appearing unwilling to give it the flexibility and space that it routinely allows Amazon. Wal-Mart is investing in its business, both in the brick-and-mortar assets as well as the digital side, and these investments tend to come at the expense of margins and profitability. The company’s Q1 results were decent, but the positive same-store sales growth and impressive ecommerce sales failed to impress skeptical investors focused on more evidence of margin pressures. The market likely also believes that the company overpaid for its India venture through the Flipkart purchase. All in all, the company has a good strategy in place to effectively compete with Amazon in the long run. But no one should be under any illusion about how long and expensive the struggle will be.   

Home Depot’s mixed quarterly report can be legitimately chalked up to the weather. But the stock’s year-to-date underperformance likely has more to do with the market’s skepticism about the outlook for the housing space as a whole which has been dealing with low housing inventory and rising mortgage rates.    

Retail Sector Scorecard
We now have Q1 results from 89.5% of the retailers in the S&P 500 index. Total earnings for these Retail sector companies that have reported results are up +21.1% from the same period last year on +9.3% higher revenues, with 73.5% beating EPS estimates and 67.7% beating revenue estimates.

The comparison charts below put the sector’s Q1 results in a historical context.

The comparison charts above show that while growth (both earnings as well as revenues) is tracking notably above historical periods, the proportion of positive surprises is in line with previous quarters.

With respect to growth, Amazon’s blockbuster numbers, particularly on the revenues front, have a big role in the sector’s very strong growth pace. Amazon’s Q1 earnings increased +125% on +42.9% higher revenues, with the net dollar increase in the online retailer’s revenues an impressive $15.3 billion.

The comparison charts below try to look at the sector’s growth picture with and without the Amazon contribution.

As you can see in the right-hand chart above, Q1 growth is still tracking above historical periods, but the growth rate is a lot lower on an ex-Amazon basis.  

Q1 Earnings Season Scorecard (as of Friday, May 25th)

For the S&P 500 index as a whole, we now have Q1 results from 485 index members. Total earnings for the 485 index members that have reported results already are up +24.3% from the same period last year on +8.6% higher revenues, with 77.1% beating EPS estimates and 74.4% beating revenue estimates. The proportion of companies beating both EPS and revenue estimates is 62.3%. Please note that we have 75 companies on deck to report quarterly results this week, including 9 S&P 500 members.

To put these results in a historical context, the charts below compare the results thus far with what we had seen from the same group of 485 index members in other recent periods.

Earnings and revenue growth rate and the proportion of positive EPS surprises is tracking above what we have been seeing from the same group of 485 index members. But revenue surprises are tracking modestly below the preceding earnings season, but remain above historical periods.

What’s Happening to 2018 Q2 Estimates?

The chart below plots the evolution of earnings growth expectations for the current period. As you can see, there has been no incremental improvement in the earnings outlook relative to what was expected ahead of the start of this earnings season.

A big part of the positive revisions we saw ahead of the start of the Q1 earnings season reflected the direct impact of the tax law changes, which was obviously a one-off development. Had all positive revisions been a result of tax law changes, we would have seen only EPS estimates go up, with no changes to revenue estimates. But that wasn’t the case, as revenue estimates had gone up as well, which raised our hopes that the aggregate revisions trend had finally turned positive after many years being in the other direction.

Disappointingly, we are not seeing that with estimates for Q2 to the same extent, as the above chart shows. In other words, while the growth picture coming out of this earnings season is very impressive, there is not much improvement in expectations for the current and coming quarters. The recent uptrend in the exchange value of the U.S. dollar and questions about global growth will likely serve as incremental negatives for folks like us monitoring the aggregate revisions trend.

This flat aggregate revisions trend notwithstanding, June quarter estimates have actually modestly ticked down for 9 of the 16 Zacks sectors and gone up for 7 sectors. The sectors enjoying positive revisions in the aggregate include Technology, Energy, Medical, Industrial Products, Basic Materials, Business Services, and Retail.

Note: Sheraz Mian manages the Zacks equity research department. He is an acknowledged earnings expert whose commentaries and analyses appear on and in the print and electronic media. His weekly earnings related articles include Earnings Trends and Earnings Preview. He manages the Zacks Top 10 and Focus List portfolios and writes the Weekly Market Analysis article for Zacks Premium subscribers.

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Here is a list of the 75 companies including 9 S&P 500 and reporting this week.

Company Ticker Current Qtr Year-Ago Qtr Last EPS Surprise % Report Day Time
BOOZ ALLEN HMLTBAH0.450.4511.63%TuesdayBTO
MOMO INC -ADRMOMO0.450.411.90%TuesdayBTO
BANK OF NOVA SCBNS1.311.234.58%TuesdayBTO
JIANPU TECH-ADRJT-0.03N/A-650.00%TuesdayBTO
QUOTIENT LTDQTNT-0.51-0.6914.55%TuesdayBTO
ADV DRAINAG SYSWMS-0.06-0.3477.78%TuesdayBTO
AMER WOODMARKAMWD1.121.13-4.55%TuesdayBTO
HP INCHPQ0.480.414.29%TuesdayAMC
SAFE BULKERSSB0.02-0.07-25.00%TuesdayAMC
HEICO CORPHEI0.530.42-12.82%TuesdayAMC
SPARTAN NASH COSPTN0.540.55-2.38%TuesdayAMC
ANALOG DEVICESADI1.371.0310.08%WednesdayBTO
MICHAEL KORSKORS0.60.7337.21%WednesdayBTO
MOVADO GRP INCMOV0.120.01100.00%WednesdayBTO
DICKS SPRTG GDSDKS0.420.541.67%WednesdayBTO
CHICOS FAS INCCHS0.260.2637.50%WednesdayBTO
DSW INC CL-ADSW0.360.3240.74%WednesdayBTO
BANK MONTREALBMO1.671.451.20%WednesdayBTO
GOLDEN OCEAN GPGOGL0.03-0.1746.15%WednesdayBTO
RBC BEARINGSROLL1.130.922.09%WednesdayBTO
EVINE LIVE INCEVLV-0.02-0.050.00%WednesdayBTO
NATL BK CDANTIOF1.10.984.46%WednesdayBTO
MAKEMYTRIP LTDMMYT-0.4-0.4230.51%WednesdayBTO
CSW INDUSTRIALSCSWI0.470.4310.34%WednesdayBTO
PVH CORPPVH2.251.656.76%WednesdayAMC
GUESS INCGES-0.23-0.2416.98%WednesdayAMC
BOX INC-ABOX-0.27-0.34.00%WednesdayAMC
ASCENDIS PHARMAASND-0.93-0.83-17.39%WednesdayAMC
DESCARTES SYSDSGX0.110.09-10.00%WednesdayAMC
KEYSIGHT TECHKEYS0.760.5937.50%WednesdayAMC
NGL ENERGY PARTNGL0.450.1468.42%WednesdayAMC
SEMTECH CORPSMTC0.20.2846.15%WednesdayAMC
AMERCO INCUHAL0.660.49-74.57%WednesdayAMC
TILLYS INCTLYS0.01-0.01-4.00%WednesdayAMC
QAD INC-AQADA-0.04-0.13-20.83%WednesdayAMC
DOLLAR GENERALDG1.41.030.00%ThursdayBTO
DOLLAR TREE INCDLTR1.230.98-0.53%ThursdayBTO
DONALDSON CODCI0.520.45-2.27%ThursdayBTO
GOLAR LNG LTDGLNG-0.22-0.4160.71%ThursdayBTO
J JILL INCJILL0.190.2462.50%ThursdayBTO
GOLAR LNG PARTNGMLP0.090.3554.17%ThursdayBTO
CIENA CORPCIEN0.230.380.00%ThursdayBTO
EXPRESS INCEXPR-0.01-0.076.25%ThursdayBTO
FRONTLINE LTDFRO-0.170.16137.50%ThursdayBTO
HOEGH LNG PTNRSHMLP0.350.4167.65%ThursdayBTO
TECH DATA CORPTECD1.481.87-0.85%ThursdayBTO
KIRKLANDS INCKIRK-0.09-0.09-7.06%ThursdayBTO
PERRY ELLIS INTPERY0.660.830.00%ThursdayBTO
TITAN MACHINERYTITN-0.1-0.1928.57%ThursdayBTO
AMER EAGLE OUTFAEO0.220.160.00%ThursdayBTO
CANTEL MED CORPCMD0.60.511.72%ThursdayBTO
ULTA BEAUTY INCULTA2.481.91-0.72%ThursdayAMC
COSTCO WHOLE CPCOST1.681.4-2.07%ThursdayAMC
WORKDAY INC-AWDAY-0.31-0.248.57%ThursdayAMC
ORGANOVO HLDGSONVO-0.07-0.130.00%ThursdayAMC
VMWARE INC-AVMW0.790.727.94%ThursdayAMC
MARVELL TECH GPMRVL0.260.23.70%ThursdayAMC
YEXT INCYEXT-0.18-0.13-5.88%ThursdayAMC
CALERES INCCAL0.480.49.09%ThursdayAMC
CSS INDS INCCSS-0.56-0.2110.95%ThursdayAMC
GAMESTOP CORPGME0.350.633.06%ThursdayAMC
BIG LOTS INCBIG1.211.156.20%FridayBTO

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