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Wall St. feels Wal-Mart is “playing offense“ vs. Amazon

(FinancialPress) — Wall Street feels that Wal-Mart (WMT) has taken the offensive on Amazon (AMZN), and shares are rebounding to reach record highs.
Shares of Wal-Mart had its single best day in nine years on Thursday, as they surged 11% to close at a record high. This follows a big earnings beat and strong online sales growth.
As a response to the positive data, analysts are modifying their forecasts for the company. Baird analyst Peter Benedict feels that, despite Amazon‘s worrisome dominance in the retail market. Wal-Mart may still have a fighting chance.
He said, in a note to clientas that “with a solid foundation in place, Wal-Mart is increasingly playing offense. Efforts to broaden the online assortment, improve the customer value proposition (free two-day shipping, pick-up discounts on non-store items), and enhance convenience have helped fuel the impressive ramp in U.S. ecommerce sales growth.”

He added that Wal-Mart is now “becoming a powerful omni-channel force.“

Internet sales added 50% in the Arkansas-based retailer‘s earnings report, just about a year after its acquisition of Jet.com. This marks another quarter of outstanding growth of its online unit.

Benedict‘s positive beat was shared by Oppenheimer‘s Rupesh Parikh, who raised his price target to $105 amidst praise towards the company.

He wrote “Wal-Mart represents a top pick within the consumer sector. Accelerating grocery momentum, improving prowess online, and strengthening market share gains vs. key competitors are apt to facilitate an ongoing flow of funds into the shares.”

The fact that Wall Street is feeling so bullish about it is testament to the company‘s hard work paying off. Just a year ago, price targets averaged at about $74 – a stark contrast from today‘s average of $99, as per FactSet data.

 

The process to reach the current landscape was laid out in a Stifel note to investors, two years ago.

“Wal-Mart has to keep their head down, invest, and work to impress the shopper while the competitive landscape won’t give them any breaks (Amazon shipping under 8 ounces and under $10 for free from Kentucky DC, Target, dollar stores, ALDI, and grocers like Kroger).”

Fast forward to today, and Stifel admits it‘s impressed with the performance Wal-Mart has put on – but sticks to its “hold“ rating. Mark Astrachan, analyst for the firm, wrote on Thursday:

“We believe Walmart’s continued comp growth and strong e-commerce results better position it to compete against online competitors compared to retailer peers. The F3Q result suggests investments in price, people, and stores continue to favorably impact traffic and overall comp, in our view, and shows Walmart is effectively competing in a tough retail environment.”

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