I can’t tell you where the stock of Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) is going tomorrow or next week or next month. At its August 20 opening price of about $1,882, with a market cap of $909 billion, AMZN stock is fully priced and is increasingly depending on the strength of the market to move higher.
But the company? That’s different. AMZN is just getting started. Because wherever there are costs, wherever there are gatekeepers not earning their keep, Amazon smells opportunity, and it has the ability to use its deflationary pressure to capitalize.
Yes. Deflation. Amazon is, along with the other cloud czars like Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOGL), Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), the most powerful deflationary engine the world has ever seen. Cloud takes costs out of markets, it takes costs out of life and business; then Wall Street puts that money in the cloud czars’ pockets.
Healthcare could be Amazon’s next frontier.
Healthcare has fiercely resisted the cost-cutting power of government, consumers, and businesses, constantly increasing its share of the country’s Gross Domestic Product. ( The percemtage of GDP consumed by healthcare stood at 18% in 2016 and is still climbing.)
But here come the cloud czars. Amazon, Google and Microsoft, along with International Business Machines (NYSE:IBM) and Salesforce.com (NASDAQ:CRM), have pledged to build common standards for healthcare data. Despite $19.2 billion in sweet stimulus cash, which finally brought PCs into doctors’ offices early this decade, people are still filling out paper forms because of a lack of standards.
AMZN has just started providing services related to healthcare. In conjunction with its partners, Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK.A) and JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM), AMZN has created a captive market of over 1 million employees and their families. Hiring cost-cutting advocate Dr. Atul Gawande to run the operation is just the start of the effort. Amazon has also bought an online pharmacy, Pillpack, for $1 billion.
Healthcare, it should be noted, is a $3 trillion industry.
AMZN is also moving into financial services, leveraging its customer base to expand beyond credit cards into selling mutual funds and other asset management services.
The market cap of AMZN stock dwarfs that of the biggest bank, JPMorgan Chase, which is worth less than $400 billion. A discount broker like Charles Schwab (NASDAQ:SCHW), worth $69 billion, would be a snack.
But it’s far more likely that, as in many other areas, Amazon will prefer building to buying, perhaps acquiring only a small bank, insurer, transaction processor or asset manager it needs to gain licensing and entry into the market.
One More Thing
The late Steve Jobs of Apple was famous for this phrase, a Columbo-like utterance that usually previewed his biggest announcement. Did you know that Amazon could be making more money from advertising on its sites than from the cloud by 2021? Piper Jaffrey thinks Amazon’s profits from ads could reach $16 billion in 2021, versus just $15 billion from the cloud, because ads are basically free money.
Ads on Amazon’s sites have already become a multi-billion-dollar business, the company said during its last earnings call. Streamlining the ad purchasing process, as Google does, would make AMZN a serious competitor in the space, especially since its customers would be targeted based on their real behavior, i.e. their purchases and merchandise views, rather than all of their online behaviors.
The Bottom Line on AMZN
Amazon is expected to have $57.1 billion in revenue when it next reports its results on October 25 and perhaps $75 billion in the Christmas quarter. The median price forecast for the stock, however, is $2,100, just 11% ahead of where it is today.
In terms of the stock market, we could easily be near peak Amazon. But the company’s deflationary impact on the global economy is just getting rolling, and it’s something neither investors nor policymakers have yet to fully reckon with.
Dana Blankenhorn is a financial and technology journalist. He is the author of a new mystery thriller, The Reluctant Detective Finds Her Family, available now at the Amazon Kindle store. Write him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @danablankenhorn. As of this writing he owned shares in SCHW, MSFT and AMZN.