Amazon stock soared to a new high on Friday after smashing earnings estimates Thursday night, but it’s starting to look like the party’s already over. After soaring to a new record high of $949.59, Amazon stock started descending, although it remained in the green in the afternoon, up by about 0.7% in the $925 range.
One analyst downgraded Amazon stock, essentially saying that yes, the party is indeed over. However, most other analysts were quick to raise their price targets and continue their votes of confidence for the online retailer.
Amazon stock to Sector Weight
Pacific Crest analyst Edward Yruma said in a note on Thursday night that this is “as good as it gets” for Amazon, and he thinks the company is running out of steam. Because Amazon stock was nearing his $961 price target, he had to decide whether to downgrade it or boost his price target, and he took the contrarian view, moving from Overweight to Sector Weight.
He said while Thursday’s earnings report was “impressive,” first-party sales growth appeared to be modifying while competition in the retail space is intensifying. Amazon’s e-commerce sales grew 16% (not including sales made on the company’s platform by third-party sellers) in the first quarter, which was flat with the fourth quarter growth rate and down from the 21% growth recorded in the year-ago quarter. He also noted that Amazon Web Services grew 43%, but that was a deceleration from the 47% growth rate in the previous quarter. Meanwhile, Microsoft’s cloud business surged 93%, he added.
Of note, Raymond James downgraded Amazon stock earlier this week, although that was for margins rather than moderating growth.
Amazon stock is a favorite short position
The more Amazon stock has soared, the higher short interest has become, and data from financial analytics firm S3 Partners indicates that it is the fourth largest equity short in the U.S. market after only Tesla, Apple and AT&T. Needless to say, Amazon short-sellers have been getting hammered, as according to research head Ihor Dusaniwsky, they were down $935.8 million for 2017 through Thursday before the company’s earnings report, with the average short position of $4.72 billion.
Short interest was up 13% or $530 million for the year through yesterday after peaking toward the end of January at $6 billion. According to Dusaniwsky, short-sellers covered $1.8 billion worth of positions and ended March at $4.2 billion. Before Thursday’s print, short-sellers added another $600 million to bring the total position to $4.8 billion.
And at the other extreme…
If the downgrade view is at the bear extreme, Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter is at the bull end of the spectrum with his Street-high price target of $1,250 per share. However, Thursday’s earnings report has triggered a flood of price target increases which are bringing some closer to his target.
Pachter expects the company to keep growing its annual profits at the expense of quarterly volatility as it invests in growth. He expects Amazon Web Services, Fulfillment by Amazon and advertising to push growth at higher margins, resulting in continuing expansion of both gross and operating margins. He also expects international Prime subscription growth to drive total retail sales, especially in India.
Canaccord Genuity analyst Michael Graham bumped his price target on Amazon stock up from $900 to $1,150 per share, and like Pachter, he also mentioned the company’s margins. However, he feels the first quarter results showed “a crack” in them. He noted that operating margins in both the North America and International regions contracted, and operating income guidance was 50% below the previous consensus. However, given how much Amazon stock has risen, investors apparently don’t care.
Among the other price target increases this week are JPMorgan, which moved its target from $945 to $1,110, and RBC Capital, which raised its target for Amazon stock from $900 to $1,100. SunTrust Robinson Humphrey boosted its target from $900 to $950, while Benchmark raised its target from $925 to $1,150.