Yoga apparel retailer Lululemon Athletica (LULU) has become too expensive ahead of fourth-quarter earnings, expected before the Wednesday open. It's time to lock in profits now.
TheStreet's Jim Cramer recently agreed with J.P. Morgan analyst Kevin Boss that Nike (NKE) is a better retail bet than Lululemon, which Boss removed from his "Analyst Focus List." Lululemon shares fell as a result, and now trade around $60.
Since September 2015, the retailers stock rose from a low of around $53 to as high as $65, and is up nearly 17% for the year to date compared with the 4.5% year-to-date rise in the SPDR S&P Retail ETF (XRT) .
For the quarter that ended in January, Lululemon is expected to earn 80 cents per share on revenue of $691.89 million, translating to year-over-year growth of 2.5% and 14.8%, respectively. For the full year, earnings are projected to decline 3.7% year over year to $1.82 per share, while revenue of $2.05 billion would mark a year-over-year increase of 14%.
As with Nike, which issued a weaker-than-expected outlook for its fiscal year, how Lululemon guides Wednesday will determine where the stock goes. As evidenced by the weak earnings growth projections for the just-ended quarter and the projected earnings decline for the full year, Lululemon's profit margins, which declined 340 basis points in the third quarter, will be where investors focus.
The stock's price to earnings multiple is at 33, 11 points higher than that of the S&P 500 index. Operating income rate has shrunk 540 basis points to 14.2%, while both excess inventory and operating expenses have risen.
What does this mean? Despite the projected double-digit revenue increases for both the quarter and full year, projected earnings don't support a higher stock price. Nike would be a better investment.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.