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The right call at the wrong time

Janney Montgomery Scott analyst David Strasser downgraded shares of Target to neutral from buy on Monday. In doing so he cited some familiar concerns about the challenging competitive environment, rising input costs and anticipated difficulties passing through price increases to cash-strapped shoppers thereby negatively affecting gross margins.

All valid concerns, but the downgrade comes well after the damaged has been done to Target’s stock price, which at yesterday’s close of $46.46 is well off the high seen earlier this year of slightly more than $60. Investors would have been better served had the downgraded come earlier this year because, if anything, shares of Target seem more attractive now that the price has pulled back and the company trades at a valuation of slightly above 11 times last year’s earnings.

“Target will have to invest more in upcoming quarters given higher input/commodity prices that are now flowing through the supply chain. Additionally, Walmart’s aggressive pricing strategy and other retailers like Dollar General that are willing to forgo gross margin to drive market share will ultimately reduce profitability in the grocery business,” according to Strasser.