Amazon and Apple are forecasting a tepid fourth quarter. Here's what that means

Black Friday is just three weeks away. But will it turn out to be a bleak Friday for big consumer companies?...

Posted: Nov 2, 2018 6:19 PM
Updated: Nov 2, 2018 6:19 PM

Black Friday is just three weeks away. But will it turn out to be a bleak Friday for big consumer companies?

Apple (AAPL) warned late Thursday that its holiday sales will be lower than expected. The news comes one week after Amazon (AMZN) issued a tepid forecast for the fourth quarter as well.

Business and industry sectors

Business, economy and trade

Electronic commerce

Online and home shopping

Retail and wholesale trade

Amazon.com Inc

Apple Inc

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Holiday retail

Seasonal retail

Both companies have been notoriously cautious with their guidance in the past. They may be merely setting the bar low in the hopes they will be able to easily surpass their targets -- and ultimately be rewarded by Wall Street for doing so.

Some experts are still predicting a holiday shopping bonanza this year, particularly for mobile and e-commerce retailers.

Software giant Adobe (ADBE) released its annual online holiday shopping forecast Thursday and it predicted that digital sales will be up nearly 15% from a year ago to a record $124.1 billion during the holidays.

And the National Retail Federation expects overall retail sales -- which includes brick and mortar stores -- will be up between 4.3 and 4.8 percent compared to last year, a growth rate slightly higher than the average spending gains during the past few years.

Still, a look at other recent earnings reports from consumer gadget companies, retailers and restaurants show a somewhat disturbing trend: Apple and Amazon aren't the only ones that have surprised investors with less-than-stellar outlooks.

Struggling action camera maker GoPro (GPRO), hamburger chain Shake Shack (SHAK) and video game leader Electronic Arts (EA) all cut forecasts.

Cruise line operator Royal Caribbean (RCL), hotel chain owner Hilton (HLT) and theme park operator Six Flags (SIX) did as well, suggesting that consumers may be starting to pull back on travel.

Toymaker Hasbro (HAS) posted disappointing results for the third quarter too, and there are worries about how both it and rival Mattel (MAT) will fare this Christmas following the closing of Toys "R" Us.

Of course, there are always winners and losers in the retail and consumer landscape. EA rival Take-Two (TTWO) is thriving thanks to its new Red Dead Redemption 2 game. Starbucks (SBUX) and Dunkin' (DNKN) are both attracting more customers.

While it's clearly still too soon to throw in the towel on the fourth quarter and declare that this year's holiday shopping season will be a dud, the early signs from Corporate America don't point to tidings of great joy.

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