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Friday November 27, 2015



Wal-Mart Reports Strong Sales Growth

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (WMT) announced its third quarter earnings on Tuesday, November 17. The company reported a slight reduction in earnings compared to last year, but strong U.S. sales.

The company reported revenue of $117.41 billion for the quarter. This represents a 1.3% decrease from the same quarter last year when Wal-Mart reported revenue of $119 billion.

"What we have been working on this year is basic blocking and tackling," said Greg Foran, Wal-Mart's U.S. CEO. "I'm pretty confident in the assortment and prices we've got, and I think we are well-positioned for the holiday season."

Wal-Mart reported quarterly net income of $3.30 billion. This represents an 11% decrease from the same period last year when the company reported net income of $3.71 billion.

While overall revenue and net income fell, sales at Wal-Mart's U.S. stores increased 1.5% during the quarter. This is the fifth straight quarterly gain. Store traffic also increased 1.7%. Wal-Mart has been somewhat insulated from the struggles other retailers are facing since grocery sales account for more than half of its U.S. business. As a result, shares jumped nearly $3 per share after the earnings announcement.

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (WMT) shares ended the week at $60.07, up 6.5% for the week.

Target's Earnings Miss the Mark

Target Corporation (TGT) announced its third quarter results on Wednesday, November 18. The company reported strong earnings and guidance for the fourth quarter, but declining sales growth worried investors.

The company reported quarterly revenue of $17.61 billion. This represents an increase of 2.1% from the comparable quarter last year when Target reported revenue of $17.25 billion.

"We're pleased with our third quarter financial results as both sales and adjusted earnings per share were near the upper end of our expectations," said Brian Cornell, Chairman and CEO of Target. "The third quarter marked the fourth consecutive quarter in which we have grown traffic, and Target's sales growth continues to be led by our signature categories: Style, Baby, Kids and Wellness. Our momentum is encouraging, especially in the face of stiffer prior-year comparisons."

Target reported net income of $549 million, or $0.86 per share, for the quarter. This represents an increase of 56% from the same quarter one year ago when the company reported net income of $352 million. Target reported that it expects earnings per share to be between $1.48 and $1.58 for the fourth quarter.

Despite strong third quarter earnings and fourth quarter projections investors worried about Target's sales growth. Sales in key product categories such as baby, children, style and wellness slowed by 2.4% compared to second quarter numbers. The company only grew online sales by 20%, below its goal of 30% growth. As a result, Target's share price dropped to a low of $68.15 after the earnings announcement.

Target Corporation (TGT) shares ended the week at $70.83, down 0.5% for the week.

Williams-Sonoma's Earnings Not Enough

Williams-Sonoma, Inc. (WSM) announced the results of its third quarter on Thursday, November 19. The company reported strong earnings, but its guidance disappointed investors.

Williams-Sonoma reported revenue of $1.23 billion for the quarter. This represents an increase of 7.8% over the comparable quarter last year when the company reported revenue of $1.14 billion.

"We are pleased with our solid third quarter results, which speak to the power of our brands and our ability to execute our customer-focused strategy," said Laura Alber, President and CEO of Williams-Sonoma. "We achieved total net revenue growth of 8%, EPS growth of 13% and we are reiterating our full year guidance. Looking ahead, while the retail landscape and consumer demand has been more volatile, we believe our balanced portfolio of differentiated brands and strong multi-channel platform positions us for ongoing market share gains."

The company reported quarterly net income of $70.48 million. This represents an increase of 8.6% over the same quarter last year when Williams-Sonoma announced revenue of $64.91 million.

The company projected revenue of between $1.58 billion and $1.63 billion for the fourth quarter. Analysts had expected a projection of $1.65 billion. As a result, shares dropped in early trading on Friday, November 20.

Williams-Sonoma, Inc. (WSM) shares ended the week at $63.94, down 4.5% for the week.

The Dow started the week of 11/16 at 17,230 and closed at 17,824 on 11/20. The S&P 500 started the week at 2,022 and closed at 2,089. The NASDAQ started the week at 4,916 and closed at 5,105.

Treasury Yields Decline

The Federal Open Market Committee released the minutes of its October meeting on Wednesday, November 18 causing investors to speculate further about a possible December rate hike. "Fed officials have telegraphed that barring an unforeseen situation they will raise rates in December," said Mike Materasso, Co-Chair of Franklin Templeton's Fixed Income Policy Committee.

In addition, the Labor Department released the weekly jobless report on Thursday, November 19. The report showed jobless claims falling by 5,000 to 271,000 for the week ending November 14. This was in line with forecasts and is near post-recession lows. This shows the labor market continues to improve. An improving labor market is one of the major economic indicators suggesting the FOMC will soon raise rates.

As a result, bond yields fell and prices rose on Friday as investors sold bonds in anticipation of the rise in the federal funds rate. Higher interest rates reduce the value of outstanding bonds and make newly issued bonds more attractive. As such, this gives investors worried about a December rate hike an incentive to sell bonds today when the price is still high.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.24% during early Friday trading. This is its lowest level since November 5. The 30-year Treasury note yield remained unchanged at 3.01%.

The 10-year Treasury note yield finished the week of 11/16 at 2.26% while the 30-year Treasury note yield finished the week at 3.02%.

Interest Rates Drop Slightly

Freddie Mac released its latest Primary Mortgage Market Survey (PMMS) on Thursday, November 19. The report showed interest rates declining slightly after the minutes for the Federal Open Market Committee's October meeting were released on Wednesday, November 18.

The 30-year fixed rate mortgage averaged 3.97% this week. This represents a slight decline from last week when it averaged 3.98%. Last year at this time, the 30-year fixed rate mortgage averaged 3.99%.

This week, the 15-year fixed rate mortgage averaged 3.18%. This is down from last week when it averaged 3.20%. The 15-year fixed rate mortgage averaged 3.17% one year ago.

"Treasury yields stabilized about 5 basis points below last week's level as the market shrugged off economic data and world events and turned its attention to the minutes of the October FOMC meeting," said Sean Becketti, Chief Economist at Freddie Mac. "In response, the 30-year mortgage rate ticked down a basis point to 3.97%. The FOMC minutes were couched in careful Fed-speak, and early market reaction was mixed, with most analysts reading their own expectations into the minutes"

The money market fund finished the week of 11/16 at 0.3%. The 1-year CD finished at 0.6%.

Published November 20, 2015

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