Last Friday, the U.S. Department of Commerce released its October retail sales figures.
For brick-and-mortal retailers, the results weren’t pretty. Sales grew a paltry 0.1%, missing expectations of 0.3%.
It seems the prevailing idea that cheap gas would fuel American consumer spending hasn’t worked out as economists (and retailers) had hoped. Consequently, investors are selling off retail stocks like crazy.
But here’s the thing: Consumers are spending. And with October’s report in hand, we know exactly where.
The Biggest Loser
Friday’s report confirmed fears that physical retailers are struggling against the Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) machine.
Non-store retail sales (online) grew more than 7% from last year. On the other hand, brick-and-mortar retailers in the clothing, general merchandise, and electronics spaces were the biggest losers.
Urban Outfitters Inc. (URBN), for instance, missed on earnings and revenue for the third consecutive quarter. Already down 30% this year, shares fell another 10% after reporting.
Not even electronics were spared this fall despite early 2015 strength. Best Buy Co. Inc. (BBY), which has handled Amazon’s onslaught with ease over the last few years, fell in the wake of last week’s retail report.
However, there are two clear cut winners in the retail space, and that’s where we need to look.
Food for Thought
While Americans may not be shopping, they are eating out, and they’re also putting money into their houses.
Darden Restaurants Inc. (DRI) offers a compelling restaurant investment opportunity heading in 2016. The company’s brands include Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, and The Capital Grille.
Over the last four years, the company has grown revenue by 27%. It has also doubled net income from last year. On the earnings front, Darden has beaten estimates for five straight quarters and now projects next year’s earnings at 13%.
Best of all, shares were sold off with the rest of the consumer discretionary sector, which means they’re ripe for the picking.
Meanwhile, homebuilders have consistently outperformed this year as the housing market picked up.
In June, home starts hit a seven-year high. Inventories are tight, and buyers have rushed into deals for homes this summer before interest rates rise, further fueling recovery. Best of all, the uptrend shows few signs of slowing down.
For investing purposes, the iShares U.S. Home Construction ETF (ITB) provides broad exposure to the entire homebuilding sector.
D.R. Horton and Home Depot, in particular, delivered stellar earnings reports this week.
From a technical point of view, relative strength is rising since bouncing off a four-year support line, and shares have just taken the 50-day moving average.
Right now, shares trade at a discount to their net asset value, which means this is a good chance to get long homebuilders ahead of next year’s spring housing rush.