As much as the market tried to dig its way out of a bearish start to Friday’s action, it just wasn’t in the cards. Traders were simply too worried that April’s retail sales-growth shortfall could be a sign of a brewing headwind. Tepid consumer inflation underscores the idea that shoppers aren’t feeling all that flush. By the time the closing bell rang, the S&P 500 was down 0.15% to finish the day and the week at 2,390.90.
It could have been worse, though, and for owners of Nordstrom, Inc. (NYSE:JWN), General Electric Company (NYSE:GE) and ArcelorMittal SA (ADR) (NYSE:MT), it was worse. Poor earnings reports — and the fallout from those results — upended each of these names on Friday.
Here’s the deal.
ArcelorMittal SA (ADR) (MT)
By all accounts, shares of Luxembourg-based steel company ArcelorMittal should have been well up today. The company topped its Q1 earnings estimates, and better yet, swung to a nice profit of 33 cents per share of MT on revenue of $16.09 billion. The top line grew 20% on a year-over-year basis.
Yet, the 6.4% dip MT shares suffered on Friday is a decisive message that investors were displeased about something. What gives?
The setback largely stemmed from two sources. One of them was a quarterly report from steel rival ThyssenKrupp AG (OTCMKTS:TYEKF) that came packaged with a significant cut in the company’s free cash flow guidance. The other headwind blowing against MT today was growing concern that the global industrial metals market is headed into a soft patch. Waning demand for metals in China is a particular concern.
General Electric Company (GE)
GE may be old, boring, and stodgy, but few would suggest it’s not a worthy (and permanent) fixture of America’s industrial landscape. When there’s nowhere else to park your long-term investment dollars, most onlookers agree that General Electric is the market’s proverbial “Old faithful.”
Deutsche Bank is choosing to not join that camp, however. On Friday, Deutsche Bank analyst John Inch downgraded GE from a “Hold” to a rarely seen “Sell” rating. His concern was a pressured cash flow, noting the difference between GAAP and non-GAAP income seems to be widening to an uncomfortable degree.
Interestingly, Inch’s take on GE mirrors something that also worried JPMorgan analyst Stephen Tusa following Friday morning’s earnings call. Tusa explained:
“… we can’t help juxtapose what looks like a stretch for unsustainable noncash EPS performance versus another mega cap (Honeywell) where we have heard time and again that a new CEO is inheriting an overearning portfolio as per weak FCF — this debate should now be put to bed. Removed from the weeds on the numbers here, it’s these relative comparisons where we think GE falls short on almost all fronts including safety (weak FCF and tight cash), as well as lack of economic leverage if things improve, and we remain UW on this basis.”
GE ended the day down 2.1%, which isn’t horrible, but noteworthy given the reasons for the selloff.
Nordstrom, Inc. (JWN)
Joining the good company of J C Penney Company Inc (NYSE:JCP) today and Macy’s Inc (NYSE:M) yesterday, shares of department store chain Nordstrom fell a whopping 10.8% on Friday on the heels of a lackluster first-quarter report.
Most of the numbers were respectable enough. Earnings of 37 cents per share easily topped estimates of only 27 cents, and sales were up 3% on a year-over-year basis. But, the same-store sales decline of 0.8% was made even worse by news that sales at its full-line/full-priced units were off by 6% for the quarter. Its off-price venture called Nordstrom Rack can’t carry all the weight indefinitely.
Technically speaking, JCP shares fell more with their 14.1% decline after reporting an alarming dip in same-store sales Friday morning. In terms of total market cap lost — and therefore doing the most damage — JWN was the day’s biggest trouble.
As of this writing, James Brumley did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.