The third quarter was rough for Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), InvestorPlace readers’ pick to be one of the best stocks of 2019. Even though the e-commerce giant is currently holding onto the fifth place slot from last quarter, AMZN stock is down 10% since the end of June.
This means Amazon stock is up 17% for 2019 so far, two percentage points less than the S&P 500. For the average stock, this performance would be uninspiring, but for AMZN — a stock up a jaw dropping 1,800% in the last decade — the performance is pitiful. Of the FAANG stocks — Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Amazon, Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) and Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOG, NASDAQ:GOOGL) — Amazon is lagging everyone but NFLX, which has also had a disastrous year.
Are Investors Turning on Amazon Stock?
So what’s the problem with AMZN stock? Is the company just getting too big? Government officials and presidential candidates are certainly starting to think so. Plus, the 100% gains seen by Amazon stock just a few years ago aren’t realistic with a market cap nearing $900 billion.
But if this was the only reason for slowed growth, Amazon stock wouldn’t also be lagging behind Apple and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) by almost 20 percentage points year-to-date.
As pointed out by InvestorPlace’s Bret Kenwell, the problem here isn’t market cap, but Amazon’s valuation and balance sheet. Amazon trades at a trailing price-to-earnings ratio of 71.8 while AAPL trades at a ratio just under 19.
So what does this all mean? It means that Amazon has been burning cash in the name of chasing “the next big thing” for years, and investors have been rewarding the effort. But now, with the markets looking more volatile and a U.S. president who uses trade negotiations and tariffs as a distraction from his scandals — which recently initiated an impeachment investigation — investors are less forgiving of Amazon forgoing profits for higher growth.
This was highlighted earlier in Q3 when AMZN missed Q2 earnings per share expectations and plummeted nearly 12% in a few sessions. That’s over $100 billion in market cap erased over a miss of 35 cents per share.
This plunge was despite a revenue beat, so the message investors are sending here is clear: They expect more in profits than Amazon has been delivering.
Amazon’s Third Quarter
Amazon’s planned rollout of one-day shipping has hit a few speed bumps — especially when it comes to AMZN stock price.
For one, one-day shipping cut into profits and helped the miss mentioned earlier, but it also led to Morgan Stanley cutting its AMZN price target. Morgan Stanley’s research suggests that while order volume is increasing due to the one-day shipping, the average order value was falling sharply. Basically, due to convenience, customers are ordering cheaper or fewer products that Amazon has to deliver in a day despite how little it makes for it.
To be fair, Morgan Stanley’s target is still $2,200 — so that is still significant upside for AMZN from here.
But it’s not all doom and gloom for Amazon stock.
Amazon held a hardware event Sept. 25 and unveiled a number of new Alexa-enabled products, including an AirPods competitor, Echo Buds, and the Echo Studio, which boasts high-quality speakers and 3D sound. It also released the Echo Glow, a glowing bedside “companion” that doesn’t look like it belongs in a dystopian movie at all. There’s also the new Amazon Sidewalk, which will help increase Wi-Fi and Bluetooth ranges so devices can be controlled at a longer range. (And if there’s anything Amazon needs, it’s more reach).
And one feature I’ll use despite how much I mock the company here? The new Alexa feature that lets users pay 99 cents to have their Alexa devices speak to them in celebrity voices, including that of Samuel L. Jackson.
Can AMZN Be One of 2019’s Best Stocks?
All of this is exciting (and scary) to be sure, but does any of it meaningfully help Amazon’s bottom line? That remains to be seen.
A lot of these devices seem to take aim directly at Apple and Alphabet’s existing hardware lineup. Are these good companies to take market share from? Of course. But they’re not areas where Amazon is going to come in and disrupt the entire industry.
Everyone won’t ditch their smartwatch for the Echo Loop (an Alexa-enabled ring that makes it look like you’re married to your new corporate overlords) or AirPods for Echo Buds (especially not if they have an iPhone).
The long-term bull narrative for Amazon remains intact. The company isn’t going anywhere, but the hyper-growth, profit-disregarding days may be coming to an end.
And when it comes to the Best Stocks for 2019 contest, it’s not looking like our readers picked a winner. Amazon still has a chance to snag the top spot, but that chance depends on the leaders, particularly Lululemon (NASDAQ:LULU), taking a real nose dive.
The days when Amazon stock could post 50%+ 12-month gains look to be in the past.
As of this writing, Regina Borsellino held no positions in the aforementioned securities.