Retail Sector in the Spotlight – Right Now

The American consumer has done a great job of propping up the economy. Corporate spending has been on the decline for the last few quarters, but spending at the consumer level has kept the U.S. economy growing. Over the next week or so the spotlight will be on the retail sector as retail sales for October are set to be released on November 15 and Walmart (NYSE: WMT) will release earnings results on November 14. After Walmart reports, a number of major retailers will report earnings in the following week.

Looking at the retail sales report for October, analysts expect the report to show sales up by 0.2% for the month. The September report caught investors off guard as sales dipped 0.3% when they were expected to increase by 0.3%. It was only the second month of 2019 where month-over-month sales declined—we also saw a dip in February. Of course, those two dips were small compared to the drop we saw in December of last year.

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We are heading into the busiest time of year for retailers and investors and analysts alike are hoping to enter the shopping season with some upward momentum.

Looking at the companies that will report over the next week, I put together a table with some statistics from Investor’s Business Daily. These stats include earnings growth, stock price growth, and the SMR rating. The SMR ratings from IBD measures sales growth, profit margin, and return on equity and compares the results to other companies.

The color coding in the table is meant to highlight strong readings and weak readings. I use this system to analyze stocks on a daily basis. A dark green highlight means the company is in the top 20% for that statistic, light green means a reading in the 60% to 79% range. In the table above, there aren’t any readings in the bottom 20% and that’s why there aren’t any red marks. The two orange marks for Kohl’s are representative of readings in the 21% to 40% range.

As you can see, there are a number of dark green and light green highlights in the table. Home Depot (NYSE: HD) and TJX (NYSE: TJX) get dark green marks across the board. TJX is the parent company of TJ Maxx. Lowe’s (NYSE: LOW) and Target (NYSE: TGT) both have dark green marks across the board except for the SMR ratings and each company gets a B rating in this category. Even with those light green marks, it is pretty good.

While these ratings might not mean anything when it comes to the immediate reaction to earnings reports, what they do tell us is that these retailers have been performing well compared to other companies. Ironically the SPDR S&P Retail ETF (NYSE: XRT) has lagged the overall market by a considerable margin over the past year. However, since mid-August, the XRT has gained over 14% while the S&P is up only 5.59%.

The retail sector was one of the biggest areas of concern as the trade war started in early 2018 and that concern has lingered as the trade war has lingered. Perhaps one of Wall Street’s oldest clichés is playing out—the market likes to climb a wall of worry.

About Rick Pendergraft

Rick has been studying, trading, analyzing and writing about the investment markets for over 30 years. He has worked for some of the largest financial publishers in the world and he has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the New York Times and the Washington Post. In addition, he has been interviewed on Bloomberg, CNBC and Fox Business News. Rick’s analysis process includes fundamental, sentiment and technical analysis. Rick started college as an education major, wanting to teach economics, but eventually changed to majoring in Economics and received a Bachelor of Science in Economics from Wright State University. His desire to inform and educate people is at the heart of his writing.

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