Pre-Earnings Pessimism Piles Up On Abercrombie, American Eagle, Best Buy

Retailers Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (ANF), American Eagle Outfitters (AEO), and Best Buy Co Inc (BBY) report earnings this week

Alex Eppstein
Feb 28, 2017 at 11:57 AM
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Retail stocks are reeling today, following the bearish post-earnings lead of Target Corporation (NYSE:TGT). That said, the sector could be in for a rebound. Since its inception in mid-2006, the SPDR S&P Retail ETF (XRT) has averaged a 4.8% gain in March -- with these two stocks leading the way. In addition, shares of Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (NYSE:ANF), American Eagle Outfitters (NYSE:AEO), and Best Buy Co Inc (NYSE:BBY) could rally this time around, with each retailer's earnings report due out this week.

Sentiment Stacked Against Abercrombie & Fitch Ahead of Earnings

ANF is down 2.9% today at $11.92, ahead of Thursday morning's earnings report. While the stock has shed more than 59% year-over-year, it could pare those losses with upbeat quarterly results -- and with a potential assist from the bullish seasonal trend. Plus, 17 of 19 analysts rate the shares a "hold" or worse, while 26% of ANF's float is sold short. In other words, an earnings beat could trigger a round of upgrades and/or a short-squeeze situation.

Having said all that, history isn't on Abercrombie & Fitch Co.'s side. The stock has suffered double-digit percentage losses in the session subsequent to the retailer's past three earnings reports. Perhaps this is why options traders have bought to open five times as many puts as calls during the past two weeks at the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX).

American Eagle Shares Have Historically Struggled Post-Earnings

Abercrombie rival AEO, meanwhile, will hit the earnings confessional early tomorrow. Hopefully for shareholders, the teen retailer can top expectations, perhaps driven by its growing Aerie brand. If that happens, short covering could ensue -- AEO's short-interest ratio (SIR) is a lofty 9.00 -- as could upgrades, considering eight analysts rate the shares a "hold" or "strong sell."

Then again, that's a big if. After all, looking at the session following the past six earnings reports, American Eagle Outfitters stock has finished lower five times. These post-earnings sell-offs have kept the shares in check, as they're virtually flat on a year-over-year basis. Today, AEO is trading 1.5% lower at $15.57.

Another Post-Earnings Win Could Spark Upgrades for Best Buy Stock

Finally, BBY has fared much better than the aforementioned retailers. Despite being down 3.5% at $44.55, the stock has advanced 39% on a 12-month basis. Plus, in the session following the electronics retailer's November and August earnings reports, the shares tacked on 13.7% and 19.6%, respectively.

A repeat performance tomorrow morning could trigger upgrades, as 11 of 15 analysts rate Best Buy Co Inc a "hold" or worse. Today, in fact, Loop Capital waxed optimistic on BBY, saying it would be the "major beneficiary" of an hhgregg, Inc. (NYSE:HGG) bankruptcy, and reiterated its "buy" rating. Elsewhere, short sellers could be forced to cover on a positive earnings surprise. Roughly 13% of the stock's float is sold short, and it would take about two weeks for the bears to buy back their shorted shares, at BBY's typical trading rate.

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