Investors did not seem pleased with Netflix’s (NFLX) first-quarter report out after the close on Monday. While earnings of $0.40 a share bested estimates by $0.03, subscriber growth numbers fell short of Wall Street’s expectations.
The stock had a rocky ride on Tuesday and ultimately closed down about 2.5%. The weakness continued Wednesday, marking the first time NFLX has recorded consecutive closes below its 50-day moving average since last August.
Subscriber growth wasn’t the only thing that made investors nervous. They’re also taking a second look at management’s comments about continuing to run negative free cash flow in the coming years. (They expect to have around $2 billion in 2017.) The Street has overlooked this number in the past because Netflix has been spending aggressively on original content and marketing to new subscribers, but at some point we need to see cash flow move back into positive territory. At this point, there is no indication of that happening in the near future.
From a technical perspective, the stock is running into resistance at the $148 area (the upper black line), which is the all-time high it set a few weeks ago. On the downside, I see support around $137 (the lower black line) — the low NFLX hit amid its recent consolidation phase following a gap up in mid-January.
I’m not a buyer here, but I do plan to watch this stock closely in the months ahead. With several big content releases planned in the second quarter, the company could be poised to produce solid subscriber growth in its next earnings report.
While there is no denying Netflix’s dominance within its industry, at some point investors need to see more than just award-winning shows and the company start working on boosting its bottom line. For now, I’m staying away. Buying today simply carries too much risk as investors remain skittish due to the recent mixed signals.