At the open, Nike stock fell more than 6% and nearly hit $60, but it is now off just 2.5% to $63. Although, anyone who's been long Nike stock over the last few months won't likely complain. In mid-October, shares were trading near $50; Nike stock is still more than 20% above those levels.
The company beat on fiscal second-quarter earnings per share and revenue estimates, and topped gross margin expectations. However, weakness in North America was a concern, as sales fell 5% year-over-year.
What do we make of Nike's results? There was a mixed take from analysts following the results.
Several analysts found that Nike's recent quarter and the conference call by management implied that the inflection point for its North America business -- i.e., when that segment will bottom and turnaround -- has been pushed further into 2018.
For example, JPMorgan's Matthew Boss notes that Nike's fiscal third-quarter outlook is about 25% below consensus estimates, although its full-year outlook remains unchanged. That points to a strong fiscal fourth quarter and indicates that a North America recovery is a bit further out than most were expecting. Boss actually cut his price target to $58 from $60 as a result, implying about 8% more downside from current levels.
The outlook for Nike is improving, but not at the pace many were hoping for. That's the takeaway from Canaccord's Camilo Lyon, who cut his price to $62 from $64 and maintained his neutral rating. The negatives outweigh the positives, according to Wedbush analyst Christopher Svezia.
It wasn't all bad news Friday morning. Citi analyst Kate McShane said Nike reported "solid" results and she maintained her $74 price target and buy rating. Her target implies about 19% upside from current levels. Although management was "somewhat elusive" on the timing of a North American inflection point, McShane is optimistic about new products and Nike's new deal with the NBA.
However, McShane does acknowledge that Nike's fiscal fourth quarter is more "loaded" -- similar to the take from JPMorgan's Matthew Boss -- and that could put some near-term pressure on the stock.
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Barclays analyst Matthew McClintock also came away feeling positive, bumping his price target to $71 from $65. Nike "sets up to be one of the best discretionary stories for investors in 2018," he reasoned. Management continues to become more bullish, which should bode well going into next year.
Speaking on CNBC's "Squawk on the Street" segment Friday, McClintock elaborated on his thesis. He says an expanding partnership with Amazon.com, Inc. (AMZN) - Get Report would indicate that Nike is positive on the collaboration so far. Additionally, expanding the Jordan line is a catalyst going into next year, with a new shoe launch planned for the NBA All-Star event. Although Nike is improving now, expect acceleration in the spring, he reasoned.
While the North American market was down, it seems to be improving. But notably, Nike's international and direct-to-consumer segments are doing really well, according to Stifel's Jim Duffy. The return to high-single digit revenue growth in fiscal 2019 (next year) now seems "more credible," he said, keeping his $74 price target and buy rating.
Nomura's Simeon Siegel bumped his price target to $65 from $59 after Nike's report. He sees the company as having long-term competitive advantages.
The consensus seems positive, but it may take a few quarters for a bet on Nike to pay off.
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This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author had no positions in the stocks mentioned.