Not that it lacked for visibility before, but Nike Inc. is getting a nice boost by joining the blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average.
The "Just do it!" athletic gear giant known for its savvy marketing and high-tech research enters the exclusive 30-stock average Monday.
It is recognition of the Beaverton, Ore.-based company's staying power as a dominant global player that has posted a robust stock performance over the past several years. Nike's share price has risen every year since 2008. Buying the stock five years ago would have earned you a total return of 135 per cent, assuming you reinvested the dividends.
The pressure on Nike to outperform isn't about to let up.
The company reports first-quarter earnings on Thursday after markets close and investors will be eagerly watching for slam-dunk numbers.
"They're going to have to really, really put up some phenomenal results," said Brian Yarbrough, consumer research analyst at Edward Jones.
The analysts' earnings-per-share consensus estimate for the first quarter is 78 cents (U.S.), up from 63 cents in the year-earlier period.
Two key factors to watch are progress in the sluggish Chinese consumer market – Nike's biggest growth area – and improved gross margins, Mr. Yarbrough said.
Susquehanna Financial Group analyst Christopher Svezia said in a recent research note that he expects a "solid quarter from [Nike] as [the first quarter] is typically one of its strongest."
While advance footwear orders will likely maintain their momentum in North America, emerging markets and Central and Eastern Europe, falling sales in China make that country "a work in progress," he said.
Mr. Svezia is looking for quarterly earnings per share of 77 cents.
"We continue to see strong market-share gains in [North America], which we believe bodes well for continued double-digit growth for the region. Europe remains a mixed bag though we anticipate the region to start benefiting from the World Cup," he said.
Emerging markets such as Argentina, Mexico, South Korea and Brazil – host of next year's soccer World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympic Games – offer Nike some of the best growth opportunities over the next three years, he added.
"We believe that at this early stage management will likely reiterate its forecast for the year of high single-digit revenue growth and EPS growth in the low double-digits," Mr. Svezia said.