Undoubtedly, one of the biggest stock market trends of 2017 are Chinese stocks. Although Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (NYSE:BABA) understandably gets the most love thanks to its brand name power and its nearly 100% haul this year, investors shouldn’t ignore JD.Com Inc (ADR) (NASDAQ:JD). Year-to-date, the JD stock price is up 46.5%, representing an undervalued play for its supporters.
As many of you already know, JD.com is China’s number two e-commerce retailer. Culturally speaking, second place has always been regarded as a disappointing status. You don’t see, for example, NFL teams celebrating their number two ranking in the league. Silver medals may look aesthetically pleasing, but every Olympic athlete fights for gold; otherwise, why bother competing?
But in the financial markets, being runner up isn’t a bad deal at all. You only need to look at the Ethereum run relative to Bitcoin’s tremendous rally to understand that financially, the undercard is quite often the better bet.
Tom Taulli lays out the case for JD stock that the co-pilot seat is primed for profitability. For starters, lay investors may confuse Alibaba and JD. Taulli explains that Alibaba is an “online marketplace” whereas JD “generally holds inventory.”
In that way, JD.com is much more the Chinese Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) than Alibaba. More importantly, the number-two e-commerce powerhouse has something to prove. Management eagerly joined forces with Tencent Holdings Ltd (OTCMKTS:TCHEY) to steal market share from Alibaba.
Taulli continues: “But JD.com has important deals with other notable Chinese operators like Baidu Inc (ADR) (NASDAQ:BIDU), NetEase Inc (ADR) (NASDAQ:NTES), Qihoo 360 Technology Co Ltd (NYSE:QIHU) and Sogou Inc (NYSE:SOGO) too.”
For the most part, Wall Street has loved the company’s moxy, explaining the huge rise in the JD stock price.
Longer-term Pressures for the JD Stock Price
Given all the positives of JD stock, the biggest being China’s rapidly growing middle class, this investment appears a no-brainer. However, investing is about future performance, not sitting back and reminiscing of the “glory days.” At this juncture, is JD.com worth the risk?
Even here, market participants will loudly affirm the bullish argument. Inevitably, they cite that an upwardly mobile Chinese society will ramp up their discretionary spending. As an e-commerce retailer in what could eventually be the world’s biggest economy, the JD stock price has a clear shot to the moon.
However, investors should really check China’s fine print. McKinsey & Company, one of the leading authorities in Chinese demographic research, uses an astounding definition of “middle class.” In China, making as low as $9,000 qualifies you into this relatively prestigious category. In the U.S., such an income (assuming full-time work) is illegal.
So before you get too emotional about the JD stock price, you should cool down with that statistic, but China bulls will immediately fire back that the cost of living is extremely low in the Asian giant. Is it really that low, though? I could have sworn that Chinese real estate prices were soaring.
Never mind that wart. Let’s talk specifically about retail. McKinsey & Company discovered that a majority of Chinese consumers are confident about personal-income growth. Many are loyal to retail brands, but are willing to trade up to more prestigious brands. In other words, the Chinese are becoming westerners.
But would that be a positive for JD.com? Perhaps it would be in the intermediate term, but if the Chinese are demanding better (ie. pricier) products, $9,000 “middle class” earners aren’t going to cut it.
JD and Chinese stocks Are Unproven
Another point we should consider is that rich, young Chinese have never practically faced a bear market. Maybe as teenagers or tweens they saw their parents struggle during the 2008 global crisis, but they themselves never walked up to the unemployment line.
That a majority (64%) of young Chinese Millennials are so confident about their personal-income growth is telling. They conflate a bullish cycle in the markets with their delusions of self-grandeur. Put another way, the Chinese middle class is untested.
I don’t necessarily take the view that these long-term trends will drop the JD.com price now. However, the Chinese middle class story isn’t without weaknesses or vulnerabilities. That very few analysts talk of nothing other than “up, up, and away” is problematic.
As of this writing, Josh Enomoto is long Bitcoin and Ethereum.