NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Rumor in storm central rooms across the country is that the Northeast is preparing to be handed a "snowbomb" this week, named as such because of the storm's rapid intensification. Rumor in my pack of finance wolves is that, like a snowbomb, Walmart's (WMT - Get Report) first quarter is rapidly deteriorating and could wreak havoc on a dividend-paying only portfolio. Check it.
As an investor, it's your daily job to uncover clues on the future potential of companies you own. A clue could be one intriguing word on a free-to-listen earnings call. Or, a clue could be perplexing body language by an exec on a TV interview. However, sometimes these clues should slap you in the face because they are so blatantly obvious. Let's use Walmart and its stock, that has marginally outperformed the Dow and S&P 500 since the Feb. 20 earnings report.
Clue one: Walmart began testing a new price comparison program in February called Savings Catcher in seven major markets. The program allows Walmart's prices to be compared to physical stores such as Target (TGT)and Dollar General (DG), with any price differential being added onto a store credit receipt. Why is this a clue that Walmart could be struggling in the first quarter? Its rollout was not guided to on the earnings call, it came in the first month of the quarter, and it has been released to generate buzz with one month of the quarter left to go.
Clue two: Walmart has started a "Black-Friday" like program for spring home improvement goods in an attempt to win repair and remodel business following a brutal winter from Home Depot (HD) and Lowe's (LOW). Why is this a clue that Walmart could be struggling in the first quarter? Walmart began setting spring merchandise weeks ago, and based on my sources, has fallen victim to another quarter of over-estimating consumer demand.-- By Brian Sozzi CEO of Belus Capital Advisors, analyst to TheStreet. This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.