Target Stock Gets a Boost on Improved Guidance

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Before the markets opened Thursday morning, Target Corp. (NYSE: TGT) got a boost of about 5% in its share price following an announcement that the company now expects a “modest increase” in same-store sales for the second quarter, along with both GAAP and adjusted earnings per share above the high end of the store’s previously announced range.

When Target reported first-quarter results in May, the company said it expected a low single-digit decline in same-store sales and adjusted EPS of $0.95 to $1.15. Target now expects a 5% to 9% benefit related to the net tax effect of its global sourcing operations and a charge of two to three cents per share related to an unfavorable resolution of tax matters that will be included in GAAP earnings and omitted from adjusted earnings.

First-quarter same-store sales slipped 1.3% compared with the first quarter of 2016 and the company said the decline was partially offset by revenues at new stores. Following its first-quarter report, analysts boosted the second-quarter consensus earnings estimate from $1.00 to $1.06 per share and the revenue estimate from $15.91 billion to $16.02 billion.

CEO Brian Cornell said:

Following better-than-expected results in the first quarter, we’ve seen additional, broad-based improvement in traffic and category sales trends in the second quarter, despite continued challenges in the competitive environment.

Target’s stock took a real beating in the days following Amazon.com Inc.’s (NASDAQ: AMZN) announcement that the e-commerce giant would acquire Whole Foods Market Inc. (NASDAQ: WFM) for $13.7 billion. How could Target compete against both Amazon and traditional rival Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT) without buying a grocery chain of its own? And what was available to buy?

The company announced earlier this month that it is revamping its store brands lineup and CEO Cornell referred to that in his comments this morning: “[O]ur team will be rolling out four more exclusive brands across Home and Apparel in the next few months, in support of our plan to launch 12 new brands by the end of 2018.”

The good news this morning is that same-store sales are going to be positive, even if only by a little bit. That should boost the top line, unless Target was attracting more customers by dropping prices too much.

Shares traded up about 5.9% at $53.87 in Thursday’s premarket. The stock’s 52-week range is $48.56 to $79.33 and the consensus 12-month price target is $57.99. Target reports second-quarter earnings on August 16.