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Why Shares of Ralph Lauren Are Down Sharply Today

By John Rosevear - Updated Mar 9, 2020 at 12:01PM

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Virus concerns are sparking recession worries.

What's happening

Shares of Ralph Lauren (RL 1.17%) were down sharply on Monday morning, as a steep drop in oil prices and mounting concerns about a virus pandemic drove a broad-based market sell-off.

As of 11:30 a.m. EDT, Ralph Lauren's shares were down about 8.7% from Friday's closing price.

So what

To some extent, investors in Ralph Lauren had already taken the effects of the novel coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19, into account before Monday's sell-off. The company itself warned in February that it expected store closings and disruptions in Asia to cost it between $55 million and $70 million in the current quarter, which will end on March 31. 

A Ralph Lauren sign on the outside of a store in Paris

Image source: Ralph Lauren.

Now, however, there are larger concerns. First, a significant outbreak of the virus in North America now seems more likely, and any widespread social-distancing measures could have a big impact on foot traffic and sales at Ralph Lauren's own stores, as well as the brick-and-mortar retailers that sell the company's fashion lines.

Second, and related: The epidemic, plus the steep fall in oil prices, together raise the possibility of a recession in the near term. That would obviously have a significant impact on the company's sales and margins for at least a few quarters.

Now what

Ralph Lauren has promised a detailed update to its guidance when it reports its fiscal fourth-quarter and full-year results in May. But it may need to issue updated guidance sooner, especially if it looks likely that the current quarter's sales will come in below the revised range it gave in February. 

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