Shares of Nike Inc. were knocked 1.3% lower in premarket trade Friday, after the athletic shoe and apparel giant was downgraded at J.P. Morgan, which cited concerns over decelerating North America sales. Analyst Matthew Boss cut his rating to neutral after being at overweight for at least the last 4 1/2 years, and trimmed his stock price target to $58--9.6% above Thursday's closing price of $52.90--from $61. Boss said he believes North America sales will likely get worse before getting better, as the challenging retail environment has led to store closures and declining shelf space for Nike merchandise. In addition, Boss said the recent shift in customer preference from performance to lifestyle has reduced barriers to entry, which has increased competition in the athletic retail space. On Thursday, Nike announced its Consumer Direct Offense" initiative in which it plans to increase its direct-to-consumer efforts. The initiative will lead to a 2% reduction in workforce and cutting 25% of its styles. The stock has gained 4.1% year to date through Thursday, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average has advanced 8.1%.
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