Citi cuts retailers on lower high-end consumer spend

NEW YORK, Wed Jun 27, 2012 – Citi Investment Research & Analysis downgraded retailers Macy’s Inc., Nordstrom Inc. and Saks Inc. to “neutral” from “buy,” citing contraction in spending by high-end consumers.

April-May comparable sales at high-end department stores fell 3 to 4 percentage points from a year earlier, Citi said.

Confidence among high-end consumers slowed to 80.7 in May from 86.0 in April, the brokerage wrote in a note.

High-income consumers, who account for about half of spending in the United States, will likely be hurt by a volatile stock market, it added.

“We are incrementally more concerned about the health of the consumer, given the softening U.S. economic outlook and declining consumer confidence,” Citi analysts said.

The brokerage said it expects slowing same-store sales to pressure Macy’s repurchase program, and cut its price target on the retailer’s stock to $37 from $49.

Aggressive investment will limit upside for Nordstrom, Citi said, lowering its price target on the stock to $52 from $63.

It also cut its price target on Saks to $11 from $14 and said it expects weakness in the women’s designer apparel to likely weigh on its same-store sales growth.

Macy shares were down nearly 2 percent in premarket trading. They closed at $34.20 on the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday. Shares of Saks fell about 3 percent in premarket trading. They had closed at $10.03 on Tuesday on the same exchange.

Nordstorm’s stock had closed at $48.62 on Tuesday.