European-listed luxury goods stocks tumbled Thursday as investors worried that Apple Inc.'s surprise revenue warning, which it blamed on slowing China sales, signaled weaker consumer spending in the world's second largest economy.
China accounts for around $120 billion in annual luxury goods purchases, according to a recent Boston Group study, around a third of the global market total, and remains a key market for upscale retailers in both Europe and the United States. Apple's shock revenue warning, which CEO Tim Cook said was largely based on weakening China sales that were exaggerated by the ongoing trade war between Washington and Beijing, suggests consumers could be pulling back on high-end purchases as the economy sputters to its slowest pace of growth since the global financial crisis .
LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE (LVMUY) shares were marked 2.4% lower at €247.15 each in the opening hour of trading in Paris, while domestic rivals Christian Dior SE (CHDRY) and Kering (PPRUY) were seen 2% and 2.83% to the downside.
In Swiss trading, Swatch Group (SWGAY) xfell 3.3% to Sfr277.30 each while Compagnie Financiere Richemont SA (CFRUY) slumped 2.7% to Sfr61.30 each. London-listed Burberry Group plc (BURBY) which said its Asia-Pacific sales grew by "mid-single digit percentage" in the last quarter, thanks to stronger activity in China, was marked 3.5% lower at £16.67 each.
Luxury goods stocks have been under pressure for much of the past four months following a crackdown on the so-called "grey" market for European-made products such as handbags and cologne, which are often purchased cheaply overseas and then re-sold in mainland China at a much higher price - but still one that is discounted to the list prices in name-brand shops.
China's broader economy is slowing, as well, and despite a bump higher in domestic retail sales over the month of November -- fueled in part by Alibaba Holding Co.'s (BABA) Singles Day shopping event that booked a record $30.8 billion in sales but also notched the slowest rate of growth in ten years -- 2019 GDP is expected to slip to the weakest pace since the global financial crisis.
Apple CEO Tim Cook said late Wednesday that revenue for the three months ending in December would come in around $84 billion, notably shy of the Street consensus of around $91.5 billion and the company's own previous guidance of between $89 billion and $93 billion.
"While we anticipated some challenges in key emerging markets, we did not foresee the magnitude of the economic deceleration, particularly in Greater China," Cook said. "In fact, most of our revenue shortfall to our guidance, and over 100 percent of our year-over-year worldwide revenue decline, occurred in Greater China across iPhone, Mac and iPad."
Cook pinned the weaker iPhone demand in China on several factors, including a slowing economy worsened by "rising trade tensions with the United States" and cited high prices tied to the strength of the U.S. dollar, fewer carrier subsidies and customers taking advantage of reduced battery replacements in the softened demand for new iPhones.