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Retailers to Post Sluggish Earnings After Long Winter

JCPenney said last week that first-quarter sales dropped by 16% over the prior year, to $2.64 billion. The company reports on May 16. Analysts, on average, are expecting the troubled retailer to post a loss of 86 cents a share, according to Thomson Reuters.

In the case of JCPenney, investors will also be looking for any strategic guidance from returning CEO Myron "Mike" Ullman. Ullman was brought back into office to replace Ron Johnson. The move led famed investor George Soros to take a 7.9% stake in JCPenney stock.

"While [Ullman] will have only been CEO for about seven weeks as of the earnings call, we think the market is expecting Mr. Ullman to outline his plan to stabilize JCPenney," Hutchinson writes. "If Mr. Ullman does not outline a clear and reasonable trajectory to stability, we would expect weakness in the stock."

One stock that might surprise investors to the upside is Best Buy.

Best Buy reports earnings on May 21. Analysts according to Thomson Reuters expect the company to post earnings of 25 cents per share, a decline of 65% compared to the year-earlier period. Revenue is expected to decline by 8% to $10.6 billion.

Sozzi is optimistic about the company. He has a buy rating on the stock.

Between cost-cutting measures and items that are doing much strong than expected, such as small gadgets and appliances, "areas you wouldn't necessarily think about," Sozzi says, "they could throw up a decent positive quarter."

As part of its ongoing turnaround strategy the struggling electronics retailer announced on April 30 that it was exiting its European joint venturewith Carphone Warehouse.

"This management team, under Hubert Joly and Sharon McCollam, is looking at the business differently than previous management, and that combined with opportune changes in supplier strength (less Apple (AAPL) dominance) is redefining the model," according to an April 29 note by Credit Suisse analysts, led by Gary Balter. (One day later they announced the joint venture exit.)

Sozzi is less optimistic about Walmart, noting that in a recent shopping trip, he saw a lot of items that were "out-of-stock" and empty shelves.

Walmart reports on May 16. Analysts on average expect the company to report EPS of $1.15 a share, up 5% from the year-earlier period. Revenue is expected to inch up by 3% for the quarter to $11.6 billion.

Sozzi does not owns shares of Target, Best Buy or Wal-Mart.

Of course, with the colder weather seemingly past us, shoppers have been inhabiting stores again, finally stocking up on spring clothes.

"At the end of April, there seemed to be this pick up in retail sales and we saw that with the market preview reports" last week, Sozzi says. "That's a good positive sign and something I don't think is reflected in macroeconomic data."

Investors will be curious to hear any guidance from retailers about the second quarter.

-- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.

To contact Laurie Kulikowski, send an email to:

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Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors, reporters and analysts from holding positions in any individual stocks.
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