By Barbara Kollmeyer, MarketWatch
Investors are underestimating downside risks from COVID-19, and the run enjoyed by the retail sector lately is probably not going to last, said analysts at Citigroup, in a note to clients on Wednesday.
Down 2.1% to 6,184.91, the FTSE 100 index /zigman2/quotes/210598409/delayed UK:UKX -1.77% on Wednesday was in the grips of its worst one-day selloff since June 11, as global stocks fell amid rising concerns over the U.S. coronavirus outbreak. The U.K. is poised to allow pubs, restaurants and cinemas to reopen on July 4, according to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, though scientists have warned there is a risk of making the current outbreak worse.
Citi analysts Adam Cochrane and Matthew Garland downgraded to sell shares of retail names Kingfisher /zigman2/quotes/200571451/delayed UK:KGF -3.97% and Next /zigman2/quotes/200704121/delayed UK:NXT -12.21% , which fell 3.6% and 3%, respectively, leading losses on the main index. Away from the FTSE 100, Dunelm Group /zigman2/quotes/200625778/delayed UK:DNLM -3.26% . Those shares fell nearly 4%.
And those shares have all seen an impressive quarter, up 51%, 23% and 67%, respectively so far. And t they are “less well structurally placed in the midterm,” said the analysts.
“Now is not the time to increase overall exposure to the U.K. retail sector,” said the team. “We are facing the worst economic crisis in a generation and consumer spending will likely reflect this.”
“We believe the recent rebound in share prices is based on shorter-term impacts, but underestimates lower fundamental demand,” said the analysts, adding that they expect any consumer recovery will take until at least 2022, which implies downside risks for earnings forecasts.
But companies with a focus on online businesses or a differentiated business model in a more resilient retail segment may fare better, said Citi. They upgraded Boohoo /zigman2/quotes/205655689/delayed UK:BOO -3.40% and Pets at Home Group /zigman2/quotes/200736034/delayed UK:PETS -10.49% to buy. Those shares fell 0.2% and 0.5% respectively.
Boohoo shares have gained over 100% quarter to date, while Pets at Home has dropped 7%.