General store stocks improved compared with their recent weak showing but the sector remains well down over the year in comparison with food groups and the All-Share index.
Online grocer Ocado was one of the best performers. The market newcomer has found few friends since its IPO in July and its shares have been under water. Over the week, however, they improved by more than 5%.
Analysts at HSBC, one of the banks involved in Ocado’s float, initiated coverage of the etailer with an overweight stance. The broker argued Ocado “offers a unique opportunity for investors seeking exposure to the UK online grocery market” and set a target price of 190p - 10p ahead of the IPO price of 180p. Ocado updates on Tuesday, when HSBC expects it to confirm sales growth of 29% for the first half.
Goldman Sachs, another of the banks involved in the float, said that Ocado’s shares could rise by as much as 40% in the next six months. However, Morgan Stanley struck a bearish note and cautioned that the grocer’s value could fall by as much as 44%.
The broker said that there may have been “a mild World Cup gain and the gaming decline may have eased” at Argos. Over at Homebase, “the exit rate on seasonal was good and showroom market weakness may have limited impact in a light quarter,” he said.
Shore Capital highlighted the potential of Tesco’s ventures in India and the US in a buy note issued late last month. The broker said that Tesco “should decouple its rating from its UK-centric peers because of the structurally different and changing nature and direction of the business”. Questions remain about Fresh & Easy in particular, but Shore maintained that Tesco’s long-term earnings and dividend growth possibilities were greater than Sainsbury’s and Morrisons.
The reporting season gets fully under way over the next fortnight, when investors will attempt to read the runes for the key Christmas period and beyond. Among those updating are Morrisons, which will report interim figures - new chief executive Dalton Philips is likely to unveil some of his thinking on strategy and operations - and HMV.