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Gap’s June results excite investors but analysts remain wary

This piece was published on MarketWatch. One of very rare cases where I agree with analysts.

Gap Inc.’s June results galvanized investors, with shares jumping 5.2% in Friday trading. But many analysts are holding back before declaring the positive showing a trend.

Gap (GPS), reported a 2% increase in sales for the month, totaling $1.57 billion versus $1.54 billion for the same period last year. Same-store sales were also in positive territory, up 2% for the month across all three brands.

The standout among the company’s brands was Old Navy, which posted a 5% same-store sales increase. Same-store sales at the namesake Gap brand declined 1%, and at the beleaguered Banana Republic brand, same-store sales fell 4% for the month.

“This was Gap’s first positive comp following 14 straight months of negatives, aided by an improvement in sequential traffic trends, most pronounced at Old Navy,” MKM Partners wrote in a note published Friday.

Still, the bank’s analysts, along with analysts elsewhere, don’t yet see reason to rejoice in a turnaround. Many believe the shift in the Memorial Day holiday into June was a big help. And some question whether shoppers really loved what they saw on the racks.

“[W]e don’t view the better-than-expected comp and improvement in metrics as an indication that merchandise reception has improved significantly,” MKM said. “August could serve as a catalyst month, in our view, as the assortment is expected to be rebalanced.”

MKM Partners rates Gap shares neutral with a $21 price target.

Analysts at Cowen & Co. also believe Gap has to prove that the merchandise has lasting appeal.

“We like Gap’s management quality and leadership, omnichannel innovation, and supply chain scale; however, we acknowledge the Gap division has an aesthetic journey ahead – and we will monitor for more alluring product,” Cowen analysts wrote in a Thursday note.

Cowen & Co. rates Gap shares market perform with a price target of $25, down from $20.

Analysts at The Buckingham Research Group, sensing that the positive results are part of an overall retail trend, are looking even further down the road for sustained improvement.

“The acceleration of comp trends in June is consistent with what we have been hearing from other retailers, as weather turned more seasonal after Memorial Day,” analysts wrote in a Friday note. “We point out, however, that June is the least meaningful retail month of the year after January.”

“Stepping back, we continue to believe that the ‘make or break’ for retailers will be decided in September/October when favorable weather will be needed for a healthy fall and holiday season, to which we have little-to-no visibility into today,” Buckingham analysts wrote.

The bank rates Gap stock neutral with an $18 price target.

At SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, the concern is over the high rate of promotions.

“Based on our analysis of inbound emails, we believe Gap was more promotional in June across all three divisions and that the comp was therefore likely promotionally driven,” analysts wrote in a Thursday note.

SunTrust Robinson Humphrey rates Gap shares neutral with a price target of $21.