Shares of America’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT), are set for their best year in nearly three decades, up over 30% year-to-date (YTD), while the broader SPDR S&P Retail ETF (XRT) tracks its worst year since 2008. With 2017 already marking Wal-Mart’s best year since 1999, one team of analysts on the Street foresees more upside in shares as the company doubles down on its online business and takes aim at e-commerce and cloud computing giant Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN). (See also: Walmart, Google Team on Voice Shopping.)
In an interview with CNBC, Susquehanna’s head of derivatives strategy, Stacey Gilbert, said that not only is Wal-Mart still worth buying, but it is the firm’s favorite stock in the retail space. The Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer is scheduled to announce its fiscal third-quarter results on Thursday before market open. In the most recent quarter, the company posted top line and bottom line beats, with e-commerce sales up a whopping 60% year-over-year (YOY).
A Top ‘Omnichannel Retailer’
“From a trading sentiment heading into earnings, it’s an implied move of around 4%,” said the Susquehanna analyst. “Nothing crazy, but the sentiment is really suggesting that there isn’t expected to be anything crazy mentioned and downside is likely limited.”
Gilbert applauded Wal-Mart management for doing “a great job of balancing the growth of earnings as well as all of the investments needed to let it continue to be a premium U.S. leading omnichannel retailer.” She sees the company’s fundamentals continuing to improve as shares climb to all-time highs.
Not all are as optimistic regarding Wal-Mart’s new e-commerce push. Cowen’s head of sales trading, David Seaburg, warns that “the reality is it’s going to take a lot of investment to get this to a $100 billion e-commerce business versus a $26, $27 billion e-commerce business.” The Cowen analyst also sees downside in Amazon’s Whole Foods acquisition as it poses a threat to Wal-Mart’s margins. “I’d be a seller here,” he concluded. (See also: Wal-Mart’s Sees Returns from $3B Jet.com Purchase.)