Wal-Mart's Guidance a Warning to Investors

HP is the talk of the day, but it's Wal-Mart investors should be looking at.

Travis Hoium
Travis Hoium
Feb 22, 2013 at 3:30PM
Markets

With little economic news on the schedule today, investors looked for reasons to buy or sell after two down days on the market. Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) provided enough reason for the bulls to take charge after reporting earnings. Near the end of trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) is up 0.76%, while the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) has climbed 0.71%. But it's Wal-Mart's results that may have more long-term implications for the market than HP's results. 

HP's quarter wasn't one for the record books, but it wasn't as bad as a few recent reports, so there's some level of progress. Revenue fell 6% to $27.8 billion, and earnings per share were down 11% to $0.82, but both numbers were well ahead of estimates, so investors breathed a sigh of relief that the company could hurdle the low bar Wall Street had set. Shares are now up 14%, underscoring just how low expectations had been for the PC maker. HP isn't exactly a hot commodity in most of its businesses, but the bleeding has stopped for now, and with the stock trading at just six times 2013 earnings estimates, that's enough for now.

Shares of Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) are up 1.8% today after the company raised its quarterly dividend by 10% to $0.28 per share yesterday. The big news today is that Pepsi is reportedly scarce in Thailand just a few months after the company broke up with its bottling partner. Coca-Cola has gained share in the Asian market in recent years, and when Pepsi's deal with Serm Suk Pcl ended, it took Pepsi off the shelves in favor of Coke's product. Pepsi's loss is Coca-Cola's gain, especially in growing markets like Asia.

The one warning shot for the market was fired by Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT), whose earnings included ominous guidance. Last week we heard rumors of weak sales at Wal-Mart in early 2013, and guidance turned rumor into reality. The company expects to earn $1.11 to $1.16 per share, which is up only slightly from a year ago and below the $1.18 in earnings per share analysts are currently expecting. Shares were flat on the news, but this is anything but bullish for retailers and the general economy going forward.