Wall Street has plenty of ugly-duckling-turned-beautiful-swan stories and, this time around, it’s Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR). Prior to this year’s notable rally, the only time TWTR stock appeared a viable investment was during its initial launch. But, now, everything has seemingly changed. Management appears more focused and ready to make hard decisions. Year-to-date, TWTR is up a whopping 36%.
Before we move any further, it’s fair to note that this recent rally does nothing to change the long-term picture. Since its Nov. 15, 2013 introduction, the TWTR stock price has been cut almost in half. As impressive as its current double-digit run has been, I can’t help but think of Twitter’s early-bird investors. Surely, they have a few thoughts of their own, some of them not suitable for print.
Nevertheless, several of our finest analysts here at InvestorPlace have laid out their optimistic views regarding the TWTR stock price. Feature writer James Brumley emphasizes that management’s decision to up the maximum character count per Tweet is more significant than people appreciate. By allowing people to freely and loquaciously express themselves, Twitter now appeals to “users’ vanity.”
Our chief technical analyst Serge Berger focuses, unsurprisingly, on Twitter’s technical momentum. His primary argument is that the TWTR stock price has likely bottomed out. As evidence, he cites bearish fund managers that are getting squeezed out of their positions.
The potential for a massive turnaround is admittedly enticing. However, investors in TWTR stock have seen this story before. With so many gap-ups and gap-downs, just how trustworthy is this rally?
Fundamental Weaknesses Stymie TWTR Stock
I personally don’t like to disagree with our feature writer. I also don’t like to take the opposing view of our chief technical analyst. It goes without saying that disagreeing with both on the same topic brings a high-probability rate for failure.
I play with the odds in my favor, so I’m not going to outright disagree. Can the TWTR stock price jump higher from current levels? Absolutely, it can. However, Twitter has entered into the daytrader’s domain, where assets move for little to no reason.
In other words, this rally is fundamentally bare.
When I see TWTR stock, I can’t help but think of a naked bootleg play in American football. In this situation, a quarterback runs without a blocker. It might lead to a phenomenal gain… or you could end up needing another quarterback.
Here’s the deal: as Berger stated, TWTR stock probably did bottom out. Shares hit all-time lows in 2016 and these levels threatened again this year. However, it never really got to that point. In traditional technical analysis studies, we would call this a double-bottom formation.
Fair enough. But Twitter, being a vapid social media platform, needs advertiser dollars to survive. Advertisers need to see eyeballs. Unfortunately, management has yet to solve this riddle.
In the third quarter of 2017, Twitter had 330 million monthly active users. In the first quarter of this year, it had 327 million. To put it simply, the company’s MAUs grew less than 1%. Since 2010, we have never seen such dismal growth between the first and third quarters of the same year.
Just as critically, year-over-year MAU growth has flatlined. In the first three quarters of this year, the average year-over-year growth is 4.6%. Between 2011 and 2015, the same metric averaged 53%.
TWTR Is Still Too Rich Considering the Circumstances
I get it: things change. That sentiment is exponentially multiplied whenever you’re discussing the broad internet technologies sector. Twitter, as a known commodity today, will not experience the same growth curve as it did many years ago.
Still, I have basic problems with the TWTR stock price, even at these “deflated” levels. When Twitter was rocking strong double-digit and even triple-digit growth, that was the time when shares should have been flying. The premium to buy TWTR was justified because of its potential MAUs. Now that it has reached its potential, the premium is no longer justified.
The reason is fairly straightforward: you can’t hide from the math. Twitter hasn’t proved to investors that it can get over its subscriber hump. Unless something drastic were to occur, I envision the company seeing negative YOY sub growth.
Essentially, the bullish argument is that technical momentum is great enough to overcome these weak fundamentals. This actually might be the case in the nearer-term, which is why I don’t immediately discount it. But just how far are investors willing to bet on TWTR stock?
I don’t see a convincing story after the windfall profits have been made, which is why I’m not chasing it.
As of this writing, Josh Enomoto did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.