Rocketing store shares prompted open-jawed amazement on the part of some analysts, who are convinced the market has got ahead of itself.
Fresh back from his holidays, Pali’s Nick Bubb clocked the “astonishing” surge of the past few weeks but maintained his bear stance.
“Green shoots can quickly shrivel and we are sticking with our cautious view of the outlook,” he said. “The next move in the general retailers will surely be down, although the short-term tone will be set by the reaction to the bumper bundle of corporate news next week and by the Budget – watch out for VAT rise news.”
Among those reporting next week is Britain’s biggest retailer, Tesco. The grocer has been relatively out of favour with investors of late, but ING expects Tuesday to bring another set of record full-year profits – this time just in excess of £3bn.
Advising hold, ING’s Peter Brockwell said: “These results are important and will enable the market to assess UK margin progression in the context of the ongoing market share erosion the business has suffered in recent quarters.”
Primark owner Associated British Foods is scheduled to unveil interim figures on Tuesday. Panmure Gordon’s Graham Jones, recommending buy, said Primark is “in the early stages of becoming a truly pan-European retailer”, but the costs of a new distribution centre will hit margins.
The flow of investment into cyclical plays has meant that AIM-listed e-tailer Asos has underperformed the sector by 20 per cent in the past month, noted Numis. The online fashion specialist will update later this month and Numis said: “With young fast-fashion continuing to perform strongly, we expect another solid update and forecasts look rock solid.”
Along with Asos, Numis likes retailers “which offer strong franchises and are set to benefit from market share gains, either through structural growth or capacity withdrawal”. Carpetright, Dunelm and Game fit the bill, the broker said.
Singer Capital Markets cut its earnings per share forecasts for house stock Findel for the years just ended and begun. Analyst Matthew McEachran hoped a possible pre-close update at the end of this month would “confirm bad debt control to be a continuing trend” at the home shopping group and said: “A re-rating process should start as visibility around debt reduction increases.”
Buy JD Sports Fashion, Investec advised after strong results. Analyst David Jeary said: “We remain buyers of what we perceive as a quality growth story, given positive earnings momentum, strong balance sheet and cash generation and a still ungenerous rating, despite the recent rally in the shares.”