It was another rough week for the market, but that wasn't the case for my three stocks to avoid. The three names I figured were going to move lower last week -- Splunk (SPLK -0.04%), Big Lots (BIG -2.40%), and Value Line (VALU 10.03%) -- were up 7%, up 7%, and down 2%, respectively, averaging out to a 4% increase.
It was a week of ups (but mostly downs) on Wall Street. The S&P 500 rose 1.3% for the week, so I lost badly last week. Thankfully that hasn't happened often lately. The S&P 500 has now outperformed my bearish picks -- meaning that I beat the market, as these are stocks I suggest investors avoid -- in 17 of the past 20 weeks. This week, I see Fossil (FOSL -2.29%), Vera Bradley (VRA 2.04%), and Atlria (MO -0.05%) as stocks that you may want to consider steering clear from. Let's go over my near-term concerns.
Remember when you used to be able to tap on your wrist as a silent signal to someone that you wanted to know what time it was? Good luck pulling that move with a young person. Folks don't wear wristwatches anymore, at least not in the same numbers as before. Fossil is a fading icon. One can argue that it's on borrowed time.
When Fossil reports fresh financials on Wednesday, it will close out the seventh fiscal year in a row of declining sales growth. It has tried to hop on the wearables market with its own smartwatch, but you probably know how well that is working out. It also sells bags, wallets, and jewelry, but this is what happens when a brand has overstayed its welcome. The company reports shortly after Wednesday's market close. You can tap on your wrist, but Fossil might not know what time it is anymore.
Shares of Vera Bradley hit a new 52-week low on Friday. I don't tend to kick a stock when it's down, especially a well-known luxury brand. However, Vera Bradley reports quarterly results on Wednesday morning, and it's easy to see why the market is staying away.
Analysts see the seller of designer luggage, handbags, and other travel essentials posting an 11% year-over-year increase in revenue for the holiday-potent fiscal quarter that ended in January. This doesn't seem too shabby, but it will cap off just the second time in the last nine fiscal years that Vera Bradley clocks in with positive top-line annual growth.
We shouldn't get too excited about Wednesday's report. Three months ago, analysts were banking on 16% in revenue growth before Vera Bradley offered disappointing guidance. They were also expecting a profit of $0.40 a share for the fiscal fourth quarter. Now they're only looking for net income of $0.26 a share, less than the $0.31 a share it posted a year earlier.
It gets worse. The company has fallen short of Wall Street's profit targets in three of the past four quarters. The odds are strong that Vera Bradley will disappoint the market again.
From a new low with Vera Bradley to a new high here, tobacco giant Altria hit a crispy two-year high on Thursday. The allure of Altria in these uncertain times is pretty clear. Smoking might be fading, but it's still an all-weather vice. Altria has rattled off 10 consecutive years of positive top-line growth in the low single digits. The stock's 6.7% yield is also a dinner bell in this climate of low interest rates on traditional income-generating investments.
Sure, Altria has had to acquire a chunk of its growth. It has gone all-in on the addictive-vice train with interests in vaping, cannabis, and wineries. I'm also concerned about the recent trend, as revenue has posted a year-over-year decline in two of the past four quarters. If the market rotates back into growth stocks or if investors begin sizing up Altria's long-term potential, the stock could get flicked off like a cigarette butt that has outlived its usefulness.
If you're looking for safe stocks, you aren't likely to find them in Fossil, Vera Bradley, and Altria this week.