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Wal-Mart, Target, Home Depot and Macy's are part of Zacks Earnings Preview

For Immediate Release

Chicago, IL –August 14, 2017 – releases the list of companies likely to issue earnings surprises. This week’s list includes Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT Free Report), Target (NYSE:TGT Free Report), Home Depot (NYSE:HD Free Report) and Macy’s (NYSE:M Free Report).

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Department Stores Disappoint Again

The one-year stock price of Macy’s (NYSE:MFree Report) and the department store industry chart vividly tells the story; these are tough times for the space. Macy’s shares have lost -48.2% of their value over the past 12 months, underperforming the Zacks Department Store industry’s -36.2% decline.

Amazon is working on a number of fronts, but it has been a big contributor to the department store space’s ongoing pain. The issues are well known by now -- these operators needed literally to reinvent their businesses to effectively operate in an environment where consumers are steadily shifting their spending dollars to the online medium instead of visiting the physical store.

As of Friday, August 11th, we now have Q2 results from 23 of the 42 retailers in the S&P 500 index. This week brings results from the big-box operators Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMTFree Report), Target (NYSE:TGTFree Report), Home Depot (NYSE:HDFree Report) and others. Total earnings for the 23 retailers that have reported already are down -1.7% from the same period last year on +6.7% higher revenues, with 73.9% beating EPS estimates and 78.3% beating revenue estimates.

Please note that we have a stand-alone Retail sector, unlike the official Standard & Poor’s placement of this space in the Consumer Discretionary sector. The Zacks Retail sector includes, besides the traditional department stores and other brick-and-mortar retailers, the online vendors like Amazon and Priceline and restaurant operators. Results from the online vendors and most of the restaurant operators are already behind us at this stage.

The aggregate growth pace from the 23 retailers that have reported results already are tracking below what we had seen from the same companies in other recent periods. Positive surprises are as numerous in this sector as they have been all along in other sectors this earnings season. We will get Retail’s complete picture following this week’s results from Wal-Mart, Target, Home Depot and others.

Q2 Earnings Season Scorecard (as of Friday, August 11, 2017)
The Q2 earnings season has come to an end for 10 of the 16 Zacks sectors, with results from 456 S&P 500 members or 91.2% of the index’s total membership already out. Total earnings for these companies are up +10.8% from the same period last year on +5.8% higher revenues, with 74.3% beating EPS estimates and 68% beating revenue estimates.

As pointed out earlier, the proportion of companies beating revenue estimates is tracking above historical periods (right-hand chart). The earnings and revenue growth pace for these 456 companies is below what we had seen from the same sample of companies in Q1, but an improvement over other recent periods.

Here are the four takeaways from the results that have come out already.

First, the earnings and revenue growth pace has steadily gone up relative to pre-season expectations. Total Q2 earnings for the index are currently expected to be up +10.1% from the same period last year on +5.3% higher revenues.

Please note that the +10.1% growth rate is the blended growth rate; it combines the actual growth for the 456 S&P 500 members that have reported with estimates for the still-to-come 44 index members. At the start of the quarter, the expectation was for earnings growth of +7.9%, which came down as the quarter unfolded, reaching as low as +5.6% just ahead of the start of the reporting season.

The deceleration in Q2 earnings growth notwithstanding, the quarter’s earnings tally is on track to reach a new all-time quarterly record, surpassing the 2016 Q4 level, as you can see in the chart below.

This record isn’t expected to last very long, with each of the coming quarters expected to bring in ever bigger earnings tallies.

Second, an above-average proportion of companies are beating estimates, particularly revenue estimates. We typically don’t give this factor a lot of weight in evaluating or assessing an earnings season since we all know that management teams are experts in managing expectations. Even then, the trend emerging in the Q2 earnings season is noteworthy for two reasons. First, estimates for the quarter had not fallen by as much as had historically been the case. Second, the proportion of positive revenue surprises, a much harder variable to manipulate relative to earnings, is really off the chart.

Third, Q2 growth is broad-based and not dependent on one or two sectors. There is strong growth contribution from the Finance, Technology and Energy sectors in Q2, but we have 13 of the 16 Zacks sectors on track to produce more earnings than the year-earlier period.

Fourth, estimates for the September quarter have started coming down, but the pace and magnitude of negative revisions compares favorably to other comparable periods. Total Q3 earnings are currently expected to be up +3.9% from the same period last year, down from +6.3% at the start of July.

This is a reassuring start on the revisions front, but we will have to see if this trend will remain in place through the rest of this earnings season.

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Home Depot, Inc. (The) (HD): Free Stock Analysis Report
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (WMT): Free Stock Analysis Report
Target Corporation (TGT): Free Stock Analysis Report
Macy's Inc (M): Free Stock Analysis Report
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