December 19, 2018 / 1:53 PM / 3 months ago

FedEx shares drop as economic slowdown prompts 2019 profit forecast cut

(Reuters) - Shares of FedEx Corp (FDX.N) fell nearly 8 percent on Wednesday, after the delivery package company jolted investors with a steeper-than-expected cut in its 2019 profit forecast warning of weakening freight demand as the global economy slows.

FILE PHOTO: A federal Express freight truck is pictured in Irvine, California, U.S., January 24, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

FedEx, which is considered a bellwether for global trade, flagged a host of macro-economic issues including a Brexit-led UK slowdown, Germany’s recent gross domestic product contraction, protests in France and slowing China demand due to an ongoing trade spat with the United States.

Shares of Deutsche Post (DPWGn.DE), which owns DHL Express, as well as Royal Mail Plc (RMG.L) were down after FedEx’s comments about its European business. United Parcel Service Inc’s (UPS.N) stock was down 4 percent in early trading.

FedEx on Tuesday cut its fiscal 2019 adjusted earnings forecast to a range of $15.50 to $16.60 per share from a range of $17.20 to $17.80.

The magnitude of the forecast cut took Wall Street analysts by surprise, prompting at least four brokerages to cut their price targets by a minimum of $25.

“We recognize that global growth has slowed but we are very surprised by the magnitude of the headwind, which is what might be seen in a severe recession,” Morgan Stanley analyst Ravi Shanker wrote in a note.

Credit Suisse analyst Allison Landry, who cut her price target by $27 to $263, said FedEx’s comments on an economic slowdown confirm that global growth has peaked.

“If we operate under the assumption that global growth is headed for a slowdown ... we think there is reason to believe that the stock could be close to washed out,” she said.

Out of 30 analysts covering the stock, 24 rate FedEx “buy” or higher with only five having a “hold” rating and one with a “sell” rating.

Some analysts now fear that weakness in the global economy may hit the United States, which was the only bright spot for FedEx.

“Geopolitical issues are weighing heavily on the company’s operations, and are masking what is turning out to be another solid peak shipping season,” Cowen analyst Helane Becker said.

FedEx stock has dropped about 26 percent this year, compared with an 18 percent fall in UPS’s shares.

“With earnings now reset lower and given elevated macro uncertainty, a serious recovery in (FedEx’s) share price appears unlikely in the short term,” BMO Capital Markets analyst Fadi Chamoun said.

Reporting by Aishwarya Venugopal in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva

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