Nike shares are falling as the sneaker maker warns of a sales slowdown

Key Points
  • Nike is still showing signs of weakness in North America.
  • Fourth-quarter sales growth is expected to slow compared with a year ago.
  • But Nike says it's still in the "early stages" of its investments paying off.
An employee carries Nike Inc. sneakers for a customer at a Dick's Sporting Goods Inc. store in Sterling Heights, Michigan
Sean Proctor | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Nike shares fell Friday morning after the sneaker maker reported weaker-than-expected sales in North America during its latest quarter and warned revenue growth could slow down during the fourth and current quarter.

The company told analysts Thursday evening that it expects sales during its fiscal fourth quarter will be up a high single-digit rate, on a constant currency basis. But currency headwinds are expected to reduce that growth by about 6 percentage points, CFO Andy Campion said, resulting in low single-digit gains compared with a year ago.

Nike shares were falling more than 4.5 percent Friday morning. The stock had closed Thursday at a record high of $88.01, having climbed more than 32 percent over the past 12 months.

Though Nike's fourth-quarter earnings outlook is shy of Street estimates, J.P. Morgan analyst Matt Boss said in a research note that Nike has been "historically conservative" with its forecast.

He said Nike selling more directly to consumers, and at full price, should continue to boost gross margins and help the company exceed its own outlook.

Separately, Nomura Instinet analyst Simeon Siegel raised his price target on Nike shares to $91 from $85, following the retailer's third-quarter earnings release.

"In this environment, Nike is showing its stripes, standing as the clear outlier to the recurring revenue ceiling that dominates all brands," Siegel said.

On Thursday, Nike told analysts its investments in online initiatives and its "Consumer Direct Offense" — where it's focused on getting new products to market with speed — were just starting to pay off.

"We are still in the early stages of executing the 'Consumer Direct Offense' with much more opportunity ahead of us," Campion said. "So, we will continue to focus our investments on the digital transformation of Nike and in the areas of our business where we see the greatest potential to grow and create value for both consumers and shareholders."