Amazon Stock Rises After Analyst Upgrade As A Long-Time Bull Says Short It

Updated on, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) stock jumped on Monday after analysts at Needham upgraded it and joined the $1,000+ price target club on the name. However, at least one bull is taking this opportunity to switch gears and go bearish on Amazon stock, not because he stopped liking it, but rather, as a gamble that the online retailer’s first quarter earnings report won’t be so kind to its stock.

Amazon stock upgraded to Buy

In a research note dated April 10, Needham analyst Kerry Rice upgraded Amazon stock from Hold to Buy and set a price target of $1,100 a share. He feels that Prime and the online retailer’s mobile penetration will help it continue to dominate domestically. Looking overseas, he sees the greatest opportunity in Europe, although he also described India as “one of the most exciting long-term opportunities” for the company, as it has been investing aggressively in its operations there.

Rice predicts that AMZN will grow its market share in the U.S. by 16%. Last year, the online retailer enjoyed a 30% year over year increase in revenue, making its growth rate double that of the industry average. He feels that Prime and third-party sellers are the two main factors driving the company’s outperformance.

He noted, as many others have also, that compared to non-members, Prime members shop more often, spend twice as much, and are retained longer. Further, third-party revenue surged 43% year over year last year as the seller base continued to grow rapidly and the number of available products continued to grow. He feels that Amazon is better positioned than other online retailers to take share of mobile e-commerce spending.

AMZN – Looking overseas

Rice believes that Amazon will be able to replicate its U.S. “playbook” as it expands internationally, driving growth in the long term. According to him, the steps in that playbook include expanding product categories, leveraging Prime, and then expanding its Fulfillment by Amazon program in a given market. He also pointed out that the online retailer has already successfully followed its U.S. playbook for its expansions into Germany, the U.K. and Germany.

He also feels that speeding up the launch of Prime in other markets could boost the company’s gross merchandise volume and revenue growth past expectations.

A call to short Amazon stock AMZN

Amazon isn’t due to release its next earnings report for nearly another month, but as major U.S. banks kick off the unofficial soft launch of the first quarter reporting season this week, analysts are starting to release their updated models. Given that Amazon stock is up by more than 20% year to date and more than 50% for the last 12 months, it’s worth questioning whether the company can meet heightened expectations.

Last year, a few analysts started pulling back on their price targets for Amazon stock, but many have boosted their targets back up in the last couple of months, and some are starting to consider that the online retailer won’t be able to beat estimates sufficiently enough to significantly boost its stock.

InvestorPlace contributor Nicholas Chahine says he’s been bullish on Amazon stock for a while, but now, he’s making a bearish bet going into the company’s next earnings report. He adds that this doesn’t mean his opinion of the retailer’s future prospects has changed.

His bearish bet on Amazon stock isn’t actually shorting the name outright, but rather, buying the May $890/ $885 debit put spread, which was $2 a share when he priced it. If he ends up being right and the shares fall through that spread by the middle of next month, he’ll nearly double his money. He’s betting that the company’s earnings release will trigger a move lower early next month, although he still likes the company’s long-term fundamentals.

In fact, he also offered up a bullish trade on Amazon stock for those who aren’t willing to bet against the company. He suggested selling the October $670 put naked to pick up $6 per contract, which he said has “a 90% theoretical chance of success.” In order to win there, Amazon stock just has to stay above the sold October put, and then whatever premium he recovered from selling the May debit put spread would turn him a profit.

Shares of Amazon stock closed up 1.36% at $907.04 on Monday.

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