(Bloomberg) -- The darkest days of the pandemic might be long gone, but for chain stores and other merchants, it’s March 2020 all over again. And it’s getting worse.
A selloff in Target Corp. and Walmart Inc. shares has pushed the SPDR S&P Retail exchange-traded fund (ticker XRT) down 44% from its November record high, outpacing the fund’s 41% rout during the pandemic. The $484 million ETF’s 16% slump in May would be the second-worst month since 2009, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Rising costs on everything from transportation to labor are eating into the profit margins of some of America’s best known retailers, stoking concerns over whether companies will be able to pass on the increased expenses to consumers. Abercrombie & Fitch Co. lost more than a quarter of its value Tuesday after cutting its guidance amid inflation woes, following earlier double-digit slumps by Target, Walmart and Kohl’s Corp.
Read more: Abercrombie Dives Most Since 2000 as Inflation Curbs Outlook
“Investors continue to puke out of the group,” wrote Adam Crisafulli, the founder of Vital Knowledge, an equity research newsletter, in a note. “Retail stocks are in a similar situation to tech –- just when people think the news can’t get worse, it does.”
A widening rout in the sector, the third-worst performer in the S&P 500 this year, is on display in the options market, where trading volume in contracts betting on losses in the SPDR S&P Retail ETF is 10 times higher than in those wagering on gains, when viewed on a 10-day rolling basis. The ratio, near the highest since the spring of 2020, compares with 0.94 for the broader market of single-stock and equity index options.
Other apparel retailers joined Abercrombie’s stock slump Tuesday. Shares of Gap Inc. sank 9%, while American Eagle Outfitters Inc. fell 10%. Derivative positions suggest the stocks will each move 12% or more, either up or down, after the companies report earnings on May 26
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