Bruised Retail Sector Attempts a Breakout

Best Buy stock could be ripe for upgrades, a short squeeze

by Patrick Martin

Published on Sep 13, 2017 at 3:56 PM

It's been a rough 2017 for many retail stocks, with several notable names turning into earnings casualties. However, the SPDR S&P Retail ETF (XRT) has been on a tear since touching a four-year low in August, and today is notably higher, with help from Nordstrom's big day. Against this backdrop -- and ahead of Friday's retail sales data -- we decided to take a look at the sector, as well as one retailer that could be ripe for gains: Best Buy Co Inc (NYSE:BBY).

XRT Attempting to Break Out

XRT has been in a channel of lower highs and lows since December, down 6% year-to-date. However, the exchange-traded fund (ETF) has rallied since bottoming at $37.71 on Aug. 21. The shares, which at last check are up 1.2% to trade at $41.43, are now set to to end above a trendline connecting their lower lows, and north of their 160-day moving average -- a feat not accomplished since May.

XRT chart

Digging deeper, one trader yesterday placed what could be a well-timed options bet, considering XRT is higher today. The speculator initiated a bullish three-way spread in the December series, which indicates the trader is banking on XRT to rise above $42 in the next few months. 

However, considering the retail woes in 2017, it's not surprising that most of Wall Street is skeptical. Looking at analyst ratings on the 73 retailer stocks we track, just 42% are "buys," per data from Schaeffer's Senior Quantitative Analyst Rocky White.

In addition, the retail sector has been among the favorites of short sellers. Stocks in this sector have a median short interest/float of 11.9%, and short interest has climbed nearly 19% from a year ago. Both of these statistics are among the highest of the sectors we track.

Best Buy Stock Has Serious Upside Potential

Among the retail stocks that could be ripe for upgrades or a short squeeze is Best Buy. At last check, Best Buy stock is up 2.6% to trade at $58.31. While many other retailer stocks suffered, BBY has racked up an impressive gain of 55% year-over-year, and touched a record high of $63.32 on Aug. 24. The stock has a history of posting strong September numbers, averaging a 3.63% gain in what's typically a tough month for stocks.  

Nevertheless, just five of the 14 analysts following BBY deem it worthy of a "buy" or better rating. Furthermore, short interest represents nearly 12% of the stock's total available float, and it would take more than four days for the shorts to fully cover their positions. This is a major source of potential buying power that could enter the market and push BBY stock higher. 

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