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Hermes, Richemont shares tumble as luxury spending weakens

Watches on display at the Cartier Fifth Avenue Grand Reopening Event at the Cartier Mansion on September 7, 2016 in New York City. (
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Watches on display at the Cartier Fifth Avenue Grand Reopening Event at the Cartier Mansion on September 7, 2016 in New York City. (

The world's wealthy are shutting their wallets.

New signs of a slowdown in high-end spending are emerging as two luxury leaders — Hermes and Richemont — forecast slower sales or smaller profits.

Richemont, which owns Cartier, Dunhill and other brands, said first-half operating profit for the six months ending in September would fall around 45 percent from the previous year. The company cited weaker global demand, especially for luxury watches, as well as a glut of luxury products.

"We have to slim down into the real demand of the market," Richemont Chairman Johann Rupert said. "The world currently has an excess of every manufactured good."

"We are of the view that the current negative environment as a whole is unlikely to reverse in the short term," the company added.

Hermes, long considered the leading light of the luxury industry, saw its shares fall 7 percent after abandoning its 8 percent target for annual sales growth. The company reported a 13 percent jump in net profit during the first half of the year, helped by sales of leather goods like its iconic Birkin bag. Yet it said it wanted to remain flexible with its forecasts.

"There's a lot of uncertainty," said Hermes Chief Executive Axel Dumas.

Sales of everything from Swiss watches to art to luxury real estate have slackened this year due to a slowdown in emerging markets, China's crackdown on corruption, volatile financial markets and uncertainty around the U.S. election.

The announcements by Hermes and Richemont pulled down other luxury stocks as well. Shares of luxury conglomerate LVMH were down more than 2 percent Wednesday afternoon.