Sainsbury profit decline worsens

Sainsbury's key sales grew the fastest in 4 years in Q1...that was a flash in the pan

Flash in the pan

Sainsbury’s flash in the pan in the first-quarter—a 2.3% rise in underlying sales growth—has, almost predictably, fizzled out. Or put another way, although Argos gained market share in the half year, according to Thursday morning comments by CEO Mike Coupe, it was called on to do more heavy lifting than was possible to offset parlous growth at the supermarket. Additionally, whilst ahead of pessimistic forecasts, £251m interim profits were 9% lower on the year, a deterioration of the 8.2% pre-tax decline seen at the last full year. Sainsbury’s, like almost all high street businesses is caught in a pincer of rising input costs and falling consumer real wages growth. It is keeping prices low, but, unlike chief rivals Tesco and Morrisons, there’s something wrong with its mix of store prices and supplier agreements, because the UK No. 1 and No. 3 in market share terms, are reporting definitively firmer underlying sales growth, whilst Sainsbury’s key sales retreat.

Christmas offers

The lack of an upturn in Sainsbury’s worsening metrics in H1 pushes investors back on its long-term faults. These include profit growth below the FTSE average, revenue growth barely above inflation, a long-term capex profile that continues to exceed profits and liabilities (including pensions) that remain stubbornly demanding. Mike Coupe is “confident” in the group’s “Christmas offer”. It will need to be stellar to prevent Sainsbury’s 8% share price slide this year from worsening, which seems all but inevitable on the strength of the group’s performance so far.

Technicals

Sainsbury’s investors have learned not to get too attached to the upside. Like Tesco, the shares have given up a hefty chunk of the rebound seen following the end of a supermarket crisis between 2014 and 2015. Now, the stock is again trading below its important 200-day moving average (MA) and last week lost its grip 0n the topside of another popular tool for technical traders, the 21-day exponential MA. The chances of a significant abatement of the shares’ falling trend are significantly reduced whilst it trades below these trend indicators. Regarding that trend, price has corroborated a specific declining line by tagging the top of it twice since February (if we include Thursday’s skim with a halfpenny of an intersection with the line). A definitive breach will see the pace of the fall quicken (volatility) though continued touches and contained reversals on the top side of it will also be bearish. Support has been evident between 220-224p since August 2016, ahead of kickback lows around 211p and 212p on the day after the Brexit vote

Figure 1 - Sainsbury Plc. share price chart

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