June retail sales report: better than most expected, but not a game changer. Numbers were good for the most part, but not enough to change anyone's opinion. The back half remains murky due to the macro data, which right now does not support a robust recovery. "This month is a jump ball for the bulls and bears," one trader said.
With that said, department stores did better than expected (up 5.8 percent vs. 5.1 expected, according to Thomson Reuters), but apparel as a group was weaker due to a poor showing at Gap .
The Gap CFO said, "June was a difficult month with lighter traffic than we anticipated…"
As expected, we got very little insight into the second half of the year. Ross Stores and TJX both raised Q2 guidance, but it was below Street estimates for TJX and at the estimates for ROST. There was a similar reaction to Family Dollar earlier in the week.
One important sub-story: Wal-Mart's price war is putting real pressure on the competition. Target, BJ's (BJ) and Costco were all flattish.
Here's my favorite comment, from one trader who specializes in retail stocks: "Ever read Romeo and Juliet? It's a comedy for the first four acts but because of the ending it's a tragedy.
Retail is still in the second act as our protagonists frolic as they shop, but I'm afraid our young lovers' car breaks down and they don't make it to the mall in the final act. We need someone to rewrite this script so that Romeo gets a job to pay for Juliet's Coach handbag and Uggs boots."
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