Wall Street has enjoyed a "Trump bump," but it wouldn't take much for skittish investors to run for the exits. Post-election America remains bitterly divided, with political turmoil increasing both at home and abroad.
Retail stocks are particularly hot right now, but they're overpriced and probably poised for a pullback. Despite the spate of recent good economic news, you should keep a wary eye on key data in the week ahead. Future prospects are mixed.
To be sure, the strengthening economy, improving wages, falling joblessness, rising home prices, low interest rates and inexpensive energy are adding up to high expectations for the holiday shopping season.
The National Retail Federation expects holiday retail sales this year to grow 3.6%, to $655.8 billion, exceeding last year's year-over-year growth of 3.2%. Early indications also are positive for retail sales during the recent Black Friday, with stores reporting a 13.6% year-over-year surge.
Problem is, traders over the past month have pushed up the prices of major retail stocks, making most of them far too pricey. The retail sector looks frothy and set for a fall.
The benchmark SPDR S&P Retail ETF (XRT - Get Report) has gained 7.86% year to date and 9.15% over the past month, compared to gains of 8.66% and 3.64%, respectively, for the S&P 500 (SPY - Get Report) .
Over the past month, the share prices of the nation's largest retailers have posted these steep jumps: Best Buy (BBY - Get Report) (+18.55%); Kohl's (KSS - Get Report) (+25.28%); Macy's (M - Get Report) (+22.78%); and Target (TGT - Get Report) (+14.61%). Wal-Mart (WMT - Get Report) only gained 2.36%, and e-commerce juggernaut Amazon (AMZN - Get Report) lost 5.13% during this period, but year-to-date their shares have posted hefty gains of 16.20% and 15.46%, respectively.
Retail stocks now stand at nosebleed valuations, with reasonably priced opportunities hard to find. What's more, political and economic uncertainties still lurk around the corner, as a nervous world tries to grasp the ramifications of Donald Trump's surprise election as U.S. president.
Trump has not articulated any core ideological beliefs, other than supreme faith in his own abilities. For those who didn't vote for him (and that's a large majority of the electorate), Trump's appeal for "unity" is mostly falling on deaf ears.
During the so-far rocky presidential transition, investors could be in for several unpleasant surprises. Also keep in mind that the broader economy is overdue for a recession, and the 7-year-old bull market is quite long in the tooth by historical standards. Exacerbating the riskiness is the Federal Reserve's imminent interest rate hike, which is expected to come in December.
The broader market in November has been propelled forward by the retail sector's winning streak. As we head into December, investors will receive clues as to the resiliency of this dynamic.
The major retailers scheduled to released operating results in the week ahead include Tiffany (TIF - Get Report) (Tuesday); American Eagle (AEO - Get Report) , Gordmans Stores (GMAN) , and Guess? (GES - Get Report) (Wednesday); Dollar General (DG - Get Report) , Express (EXPR - Get Report) , Lands' End (LE - Get Report) , and GIII Apparel (GIII - Get Report) (Thursday); and Big Lots (BIG - Get Report) (Friday).
Most of the high-end retailers are expected to post year-over-year earnings declines; the bargain outfits are on track to perform well. Luxury brand Tiffany is expected to post earnings per share (EPS) of 67 cents, compared to 70 cents in the same period a year ago. Deep discounter Dollar General's EPS is projected to hit 93 cents, versus 88 cents last year.
Noteworthy on the economic docket in the week ahead: U.S. Gross Domestic Product, Corporate Profits, and Consumer Confidence (Tuesday); Personal Income and Outlays (Wednesday); Motor Vehicle Sales, Chain Store Sales, Jobless Claims, PMI Manufacturing Index, Construction Spending, and Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index (Thursday); and the Employment Situation (Friday).
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