United Natural Foods Hopes To Buck Earnings Trend

Analyst: The longer-term implications from Amazon buying Whole Foods aren't favorable for United Natural Foods

by Patrick Martin

Published on Sep 12, 2017 at 3:02 PM

Health foods retailer United Natural Foods, Inc. (NASDAQ:UNFI) will report earnings tomorrow night. While earnings season has mostly wrapped up, UNFI's report will be of interest, considering Amazon's successful foot traffic with Whole Foods after its price cuts. Below, we will take a look at United Natural Foods' earnings history, and how investors are trading the equity.

At last check, UNFI stock is up 1.6% today to trade at $36.62. However, the health foods stock has had a tough 2017, dropping 23% amid a channel of lower highs and lows beneath its 80-day moving average. A negative earnings reaction in June sent the stock to a nearly seven-year low of $29.53, and United Natural stock's rebound attempt in late July/early August was thwarted by the $40 region -- where UNFI shares were trading before the bear gap.

UNFI stock has averaged a one-day move in either direction of 6.4% in the session following its last eight earnings releases, per Trade-Alert. However, the stock has reacted negatively following six of the last eight reports, and moved lower after its last four turns in the earnings spotlight. In anticipation of tomorrow, the options market is pricing in a bigger-than-usual one-day swing of 10.8%, per the stock's at-the-money implied volatility data. 

Wall Street sentiment skews tremendously bearish toward UNFI -- not too surprising, considering the security's performance of late. Of the 10 brokerages covering UNFI stock, nine rate it a "hold" or "strong sell." Further, Pivotal Research Group today predicted disappointing guidance from United Foods tomorrow, and reiterated a "sell" rating, stating, "The longer-term implications from Amazon [buying Whole Foods] can't be viewed in a favorable light." The analysts also warned that "UNFI may be on an unsustainable path based on the recent rounds of cost cutting."

There also remains a great amount of capital tied up in UNFI short interest. While short interest decreased by 4% during the last reporting period, the 7.4 million shares currently sold short represent a healthy 15% of the stock's total available float, or more than 23 times United Natural Foods' average daily trading volume.

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