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Target Earnings: Profit Dives 62% on Struggles in Canada and the U.S.

Target's (NYSE: TGT  ) struggles aren't over yet. The retailer today posted earnings results for its fiscal second quarter that provided very little for investors to get excited about.

Profit plummeted, diving more than 60% to $0.37 a share from the year-ago quarter's $0.96 haul. Quarterly revenue ticked higher by a slight 2% to reach $17.4 billion. Both those results were about even with analysts' lowered expectations. The stock fell marginally in early trading.

While a 62% profit dip might seem dramatic, keep in mind that it was telegraphed by the company earlier this month, and was powered by a few charges that shouldn't repeat in future quarters. For example, Target took an $0.11 per-share loss tied to the data breach from last year. That event has cost the company $150 million so far, which should represent the worst of the financial hit. Management said in a press release that they believe Target has now expensed the "vast majority of actual and potential" costs to come from the breach.

Operationally, Target is still wrestling with a very competitive retailing environment in the U.S. Customer traffic was down again, and that dip came despite increased promotions that hurt profitability. Target's comparable-store sales growth was flat, putting it in the same company as other struggling retailers like Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT  ) , which recently booked zero comp growth for its second quarter. And just as Wal-Mart did a week ago, Target lowered its full-year earnings outlook today. The company now expects to earn $3.20 at the midpoint of guidance, down from the prior goal of $3.75 a share and below Wall Street's forecast of $3.49.

New CEO Brian Cornell also has his work cut out for him with regard to Target's Canadian expansion. That division turned in an 11% comparable-store sales drop along with worsening profitability. All told, Canada's 130 locations cleaved $204 million from Target's bottom line this quarter, which was quite a bit higher than the $170 million loss from the prior-year period. 

Still, there were a few hopeful signs that point to the potential for improving results in the months ahead. Yes, customer traffic levels were down last quarter, but the dip wasn't as bad as in the prior quarter. And the company managed to book a small comparable-store sales gain in the month of July, which appears to be holding on in the August back-to-school shopping boost. An uptick in demand, however slight, would buy Cornell and his team some breathing room as they work to get the business back to consistent growth in the U.S., and toward profitability in Canada.

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Demitrios Kalogeropoulos

Demitrios covers consumer goods and media companies for, as well as broader moves in the economy.

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9/2/2015 4:06 PM
TGT $77.05 Up +1.66 +2.20%
Target CAPS Rating: ****
WMT $64.44 Up +0.62 +0.97%
Wal-Mart Stores CAPS Rating: ***