Trading Nation

This is Walmart's 'Achilles' heel,' traders say

'I would be trimming' Walmart ahead of earnings: Technical analyst

Walmart could be about to hit a wall.

The world's largest brick-and-mortar retailer reported its fiscal third-quarter earnings on Thursday before the opening bell, with Wall Street experts watching closely for any word on China, the rivalry or the state of the U.S. consumer.

The results topped analysts' earnings estimates but missed slightly on sales. Walmart also upped its full-year earnings outlook ahead of the holiday season, its second forecast boost this year.

But not everyone's convinced it'll continue its successful earnings streak.

"This is a great company, no question. I'm not sure it's a great stock," Craig Johnson, senior technical research analyst at Piper Jaffray, told CNBC's "Trading Nation" on Wednesday.

"You look at traditional valuation metrics [for Walmart], and you're basically at all-time highs for those metrics," Johnson said, pointing to a long-term chart of the stock.

"You look at this chart, and the stock's at all-time new highs, but we're starting to see some weakness in some of the shorter-term momentum indicators," the technical analyst said. "There's a lot of news priced into this stock, and I think this is a stock that's probably going to have to see a correction back toward and retest its rising 200-day moving average around [$]109, 110, from our perspective."

Given that somewhat bearish setup, Johnson wasn't a buyer of Walmart heading into its Thursday morning report.

"I would be trimming this name heading into the earnings print, looking for an opportunity to be buying it back at a lower price," he said.

Gina Sanchez, founder and CEO of Chantico Global, agreed with Johnson that Walmart shares were looking expensive.

"I think Craig is right that the valuations are really the Achilles' heel for Walmart," she said in the same "Trading Nation" interview. "They're trading at a premium to the industry, they're trading at a slight premium to the market, and so you basically have to have continued good news."

As for Thursday's results, Sanchez figured investors would be squarely focused on the company's revenue growth, which she said "has been propped up by very strategic decisions" like the push into e-commerce and the build-out of Walmart's delivery infrastructure.

"They have 1,100 same-day delivery locations, 2,700 same-day pickup locations, and now, they're at almost three-quarters of the population available for next-day delivery," Sanchez said. "All of those things have been driving massive growth. So, you look at the e-commerce side of what they're doing; it's driving almost 40% growth in terms of their revenue growth."

Between those business lines, Walmart's brick-and-mortar sales and the National Retail Federation's bullish holiday sales forecast for 2019, "Walmart could continue to grow from here," the CEO said.

"The problem is that a lot of that growth is already priced in, so we're going to have to see some really strong information, and given that we're not out of the woods yet with tariffs and we know that Walmart is exposed with regard to their supply chain, we'll have to see how that also figures into the picture," Sanchez said.

Walmart fell about 1% by midday Thursday after touching a new intraday high. The stock has risen about 29% for the year.