Why Target’s Solid Earnings Were Not Enough

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Target Corp. (NYSE: TGT) reported its fiscal first-quarter financial results before the markets opened on Wednesday. Although these first-quarter numbers were mixed, albeit better-than-expected earnings, guidance seemingly cratered this stock. Some might attribute this to the Amazon effect, while others are seeing this as a weather-related issue.

The company said it had $1.29 in earnings per share (EPS) on $16.20 billion in revenue. That compares to consensus estimates from Thomson Reuters of $1.19 in EPS on revenue of $16.31 billion. The same period from last year had $1.10 in EPS on $17.12 billion in revenue.

During the first quarter, the company repurchased 11.4 million shares for a total of $893 million. At the same time, Target paid $336 million in dividends to investors, totaling $1.229 billion returned to shareholders in the quarter.

In terms of guidance for the fiscal second quarter, the company expects comparable sales of flat to down 2% and EPS in the range of $1.00 to $1.20. The consensus estimates call for $1.36 in EPS on $16.68 billion in revenue for the quarter.

Brian Cornell, chairman and CEO of Target, commented:

We are pleased with our first quarter financial results, which demonstrate the effectiveness of our strategy in an increasingly volatile consumer environment. First quarter comparable sales in Signature Categories grew more than three times the Company average, digital comparable sales grew 23 percent, and strong execution by our team delivered stronger-than-expected growth in Adjusted EPS. With an outstanding team, a resilient business model and a strong balance sheet, we plan to successfully implement our long-term strategy, even in the face of a challenging short-term consumer landscape.

On the books, Target’s cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments totaled $4.04 billion at the end of the quarter, compared to $2.77 billion in the same period of last year.

Shares of Target closed Tuesday down 1.3% at $73.61, with a consensus analyst price target of $83.53 and a 52-week trading range of $66.46 to $85.81. Following the release of the earnings report, the stock was down about 8% at $67.35 in early trading indications Wednesday.