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3 Retailers to Monitor Closely Next Week

Key Points
Target has been struggling, but much of the downside is already baked into its share price. 
Inflation has been a headwind for Ross, but has management been overly cautious? 
Walmart is already at all-time highs, and next week’s earnings could push them even higher.

With earnings season well underway, investors are watching pretty much every industry closely. Banks, for example, need to show they can continue benefiting from the rising rates cycle, while tech needs to show it’s finally returning to consistent growth. Both industries have seen just how exposed, for better or for worse, their bottom lines can be to inflation.

Another industry that’s learned that lesson is retail, and it’s easy to see why. As inflation bites, prices rise, and wages are usually slow to catch up. This drives up consumers’ cost of living, with many households forced to tighten their spending.

Even though inflation readings have been starting to cool in recent readings, this will still be a critical earnings season for most of them. Here are three retailers in particular who are worth tracking into next week’s releases.

Target
Target Corp (NYSE: TGT) is coming off the back of a poor six months, with their shares trading down nearly 30% since February. It means they’re back at multi-year lows and very much under pressure from the bears. Next week will see them report Q2 earnings, where investors will be looking for signs of a turnaround across the board.

In order for shares to have enough juice to turn around, revenue will need to have stopped its slide or at least reduced its steepness, while margins will also need to show improvement. 

If you’re a believer in the turnaround potential, however, there is a lot to like about them right now. Their dividend is as strong as ever and was only just increased by management, who has also been buying back shares.

Both of these are extremely bullish signals, with the former indicating management’s confidence in their earnings potential and the latter their belief that Target’s shares are currently trading below fair value. 

However, these didn’t stop the team at Raymond James from downgrading their rating on Target two weeks ago. Analysts Bobby Griffin and Mitch Ingles highlighted their concerns that broader industry trends remain soft and that Target is unfavorably positioned versus its peers to further drops in consumer spending. But with shares trading a full 50% off their all-time highs, you have to think much of the bear’s case is already baked into the price. Any upside surprise next week could spark a fiery rally. 

Ross Stores
Ross Stores Inc (NASDAQ: ROST), on the other hand, has weathered the past year, and indeed the past six months, far better than Target. Their shares have been flat since February and are only 15% off their previous all-time high.

There’s an argument to be made that Ross’ position in the market as a discount retailer with a target market of low-income consumers has insulated it from many of the headwinds which have hurt Target.

No matter how tight money gets, people still need to shop for basic necessities such as clothes, and Ross remains a go-to brand for this. In many ways, it could be said that inflation has been good for Ross, so investors could nearly treat a position there as a hedge going forward. 

They offer a decent dividend yield of 1.2% and have a management that’s well regarded on Wall Street. Their last earnings report saw management guiding down on forecasts, so investors will be looking to see if this was overly cautious or on the money next week. 

Walmart 
Walmart Inc (NYSE: WMT) is by far the strongest of the three retailers highlighted here. Their shares are already back at all-time highs and, in that regard, are trading more like growth stocks favorite Apple Inc’s (NASDAQ: AAPL) than many of their retail peers right now.  

This outperformance hasn’t gone unnoticed, and while Target was being downgraded, Walmart was being upgraded. The team at Piper Sandler has boosted their rating to Overweight from Equal-weight ahead of next week’s earnings, as they expect recent price reductions to have increased sales.

Furthermore, as inflation continues to show signs of cooling, analyst Edward Yruma sees Walmart extending its market share, and he gave them a fresh price target of $210. From where shares closed on Wednesday, this points to further upside in the region of 30%. 

Investors will be looking for next week’s numbers to confirm this upside surprise, and if they do, then Walmart shares should have no trouble punching further up into new all-time highs.

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