Amazon stock is at record highs, and hedge funds have never been more bullish

Tech companies surged to record highs yesterday, with Amazon stock closing 2% higher at just below $2,498.00 per share. The move helped fuel another 2% gain for the NASDAQ, which is now trading within 3% of February’s all-time high.

Amazon stock has rallied over 50% from the lows struck in mid-March and is up 32% since the start of the year. Gains have been fuelled by expectations that the company is well positioned to benefit from shifts in consumer behaviour due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Hedge funds bullish on AMZN stock

Hedge funds in particular have never been more bullish on AMZN stock.

Holdings increased by 8 million shares in Q1, with the number of bullish positions on AMZN amongst hedge funds rising 25% to 251. Amazon was the number one stock amongst hedge fund managers at the end of December and March.

Amongst those opening new positions in the first quarter were Jorge Lemann of 3G Capital Partners, Brad Gerstner of Altimeter Capital Management, and David Tepper of Appaloosa Management.

Amazon to benefit from shifts in consumer behaviour and company culture

Social distancing, lockdown measures, and supply shortages in bricks-and-mortar retailers drove consumers online during the first quarter, helping push Amazon sales up 18% internationally and 29% for North America. Q1 earnings, released at the end of April, showed revenue of $75.5 billion and earnings per share of $5.01 for the first three months of 2020; revenue was higher than estimates, while EPS fell short.

Amazon’s Web Services cloud computing business saw sales grow 33% during the period, surpassing the $10 billion mark for the first time. Sales growth continues to slow, but the shift to homeworking could see many more businesses needing to harness the power of the cloud to keep operations running, and this could be a long-term shift in business culture rather than a temporary measure.

Subscriptions to Amazon Prime were up as well; the combination of expedited shipping and video and music streaming proving an offer that is hard to resist while stuck at home. Advertising revenues also climbed, growing 33% to over $3.9 billion. Here, again, Amazon is set to benefit as businesses adapt to the pandemic; more marketing spend is being directed online as other channels, such as event sponsorship, dry up.

However, Amazon is known to spend big, and it looks like Q2 will be no exception. On the Q1 conference call, Jeff Bezos told investors that he expected to spend the $4 billion or more in estimated operating profit from Q2 on “Covid-related expenses getting products to customers and keeping employees safe”. The stock had fallen after hours, but fund managers are betting that the costs will help Amazon to operate more effectively under “new normal” conditions going forward.

What do Wall Street analysts say about Amazon stock?

Amazon holds a “Strong Buy” rating amongst Wall Street analysts, with a price target of $2,673.17 representing a 7% upside. Only one of 41 analysts covered by our Analyst Recommendations tool has a “Sell” rating on the stock.

FTSE 100 completes 400pt round trip this week

Stocks turned broadly weaker yesterday as investors reacted to some stinky data from Europe and the US. Overnight Asian data has also had the whiff of soft cheese that’s been left out too long. Stocks are softer once more, though most of Europe is on holiday so the focus is on London until New York opens.

The S&P 500 eased back almost 1% to relinquish the 61.8% retracement at 2934 but closing at 2912 it finished well off the lows. Both the Dow and the S&P 500 recorded their best months since 1987 as equity markets rebounded on central bank largesse, government bailouts and the outperformance of US tech over just about anything else. The tech-heavy Nasdaq was up 19% for the month and is nearly flat for the year. It’s shame we don’t really have any tech firms left, as nothing else is growing.

The FTSE 100 endured a terrible session, finishing 3.5% weaker as Shell tumbled, just holding onto 5900 and the 38.2% retracement of the drawdown. At Friday’s open the index shipped another 2% to break under 5800 and move back to where it opened on Monday at 5,752, completing a 400-pt round trip this week. This will be a level bulls will seek to defend. RBS shares rallied 3%, whilst Lloyds fell 4%. RBS said profits fell 59% to £288m as it set aside £800 for loan losses. But revenues were down just 1.6% at £3.2bn – Lloyds reported an 11% decline in revenues. Something doesn’t look right.

South Korean exports declined 24.3%, the worst slump in 11 years. Japanese factory activity fell to its lowest since 2009. The AIG Australian PMI dropped by 17.9 points to 35.8 in April, its largest month-to-month fall in the 28 years since it began. New Zealand consumer confidence fell 21 points in April to 84.8, where it troughed in 2008. Today’s main event will be the US ISM manufacturing PMI, which is seen declining to 36.7 from 49.1 a month ago.

Donald Trump is threatening new tariffs on China in retaliation for the coronavirus – trade tensions back on the agenda won’t be terribly positive for risk appetite but for now remains something on the margins. But the US and Europe will demand China steps up – if we talk about what permanent changes are taking place or what trends have accelerated sharply, then deglobalisation has to be at the forefront.

Apple shares declined in extended trading after it reported a slowdown in revenue growth and declined to offer guidance for the June quarter. It will however continue to buy back stock and increased its share repurchase programme by $50bn. Revenues from iPhones declined 7% to $29bn, but Services revenues rose 16% to $13.3bn. Overall revenue growth was down to +0.5% vs 9% in the previous quarter.

Amazon shares also dipped after hours as it warned massive costs incurred because of Covid-19 could lead it to a first quarterly loss in 5 years. Amazon always spends big when required and is prepared to make the investment at the expense of short-term earnings per share metrics.

Despite these results, both Apple and Amazon are in the camp where you think they will be thriving under the new world order. More smartphone time – yes, more home delivery – yes, more cloud servers required – yes.

Crude oil continues to find bid with front month WTI running to $20 before dropping back to $19. Crude prices are stabilising as OPEC+ cuts begin to take effect this month, potentially easing the supply-demand imbalance. Markets are also more confident about US states reopening for business, which will fuel demand for crude products like gasoline. Texas oil regulators don’t seem prepared to mandate production cuts, with chairman Wayne Christian against plans for 1m bpd reduction.

In FX, yesterday saw a pretty aggressive 4pm fix as we approached the month end. GBPUSD made a big-figure move and rallied through 1.25 and beyond 1.26 but turned back as it approached the Apr 14th swing high at 1.2650 and the 200-day SMA. It looked an easy fade but the euro also spiked but has held its gains, with EURUSD trading at 1.0960, having briefly dipped to 1.0830 after the ECB decision.

Charts

GBPUSD fades after hitting near-term resistance

EURUSD – clears 50-day SMA, looking to scale Apr 14th high

Week Ahead: Bumper week with FOMC, ECB, FAANGS & GDP

Welcome to your guide to the week ahead in the markets. Remember you can now find all the key events affecting the markets in our new Events Calendar in the platform.

European Central Bank rate decision

Last week ECB president Christine Lagarde allegedly told EU leaders during a private video summit that the bloc could be facing a drop in GDP of up to 15%, and that their efforts to contain the outbreak have been both too little and too late. Monetary policy can only go so far, but the ECB does still have room to manoeuvre. Expansion of QE will likely be the first port of call if policymakers decide more needs to be done, but minutes from the March 18th meeting show that cutting rates was floated, too.

FOMC decision – has the Fed got any ammunition left?

What’s left for the Federal Reserve to do? Rates have been slashed to zero, and that’s where futures markets see them staying well into 2021 at least. And it’s hard to announce more QE when you’ve already committed to unlimited asset purchases. The key question is what the FOMC has left in reserve in case its vast stimulus measures aren’t enough. Will policymakers set negative rates? Will they buy corporate stocks? Will they explicitly target yields on government bonds? Markets will be looking for reassurance that policymakers still have plenty of ammunition left. 

Bumper week of earnings with Apple, Alphabet, Facebook reporting 

Netflix has already reported earnings, but this week sees the rest of the FAANG group offering up their quarterly figures. Tesla and Microsoft are also amongst the heavy hitters providing updates this week. 

US, Eurozone GDP 

We’ve seen piecemeal evidence of the impact COVID-19 has had on the US and Eurozone economies thanks to industrial data, PMIs, and business sentiment figures. But now it’s time to get the full picture, as the US and Eurozone will both publish estimates of Q1 growth. It was initially believed that moderate growth in January and February would have softened the blow from social distancing and widespread lockdowns that went into effect in March. Now the consensus is that the recession expected in Q2 arrived much earlier. Estimates vary wildly, but no matter how dire the results, the figures for Q2 are likely to be way worse.

Heads-Up on Earnings

After-Market   28-Apr   Alphabet – Q1 2020  
After-Market   29-Apr   Microsoft – Q3 2020  
After-Market   29-Apr   Facebook – Q1 2020  
After-Market   29-Apr   Tesla – Q1 2020  
After-Market   30-Apr   Apple – Q2 2020  
After-Market   30-Apr   Amazon – Q1 2020 

Key Events

03.00 UTC   28-Apr   BOJ Rate Decision & Outlook Report  
07.00 UTC  28-Apr  Spanish Unemployment Rate Q1 
14.00 UTC   28-Apr   US CB Consumer Confidence  
01.30 UTC   29-Apr   Australia Quarterly CPI  
12.00 UTC   29-Apr   Germany Preliminary CPI  
12.30 UTC   29-Apr   US Advance GDP QoQ  
14.30 UTC   29-Apr   US EIA Crude Oil Inventories  
18.00 UTC   29-Apr   FOMC Rate Decision  
09.00 UTC   30-Apr   Eurozone Flash GDP  
11.45 UTC   30-Apr   ECB Rate Decision and Statement  
12.30 UTC   30-Apr   US Initial Jobless Claims  
14.30 UTC   30-Apr   US EIA Natural Gas Storage 

Week Ahead: Covid-19 earnings season, Amazon & Netflix to report

Amazon surged to a record high last week as markets bet that the company is well positioned to weather the coronavirus pandemic. Lockdown has forced even more consumers to switch to online shopping, and the surge in demand has seen Amazon go on a huge hiring spree, adding 100,000 new workers in March and announcing plans for another 75,000 hires. Cowen Analyst John Blackledge believes Amazon may have witnessed a surge in demand during March equivalent to its annual Prime Day members sale.

The tedium of lockdown is likely to have driven up subscription rates for its video and music streaming services and its Kindle library as well. Guidance will show how sticky Amazon expects these new customers to be once lockdown measures are lifted.

Remember, you can follow the biggest earnings season stories with our daily coverage on XRay.

Netflix earnings

Streaming service Netflix is expected to reveal a huge surge in subscriber numbers when it reports earnings this week. Expectations that Netflix will continue to see its popularity surge over the coming months drove the stock to a new record high last week. Even after lockdown is over, the consumer shift towards streaming services is likely to remain, as social distancing and fear over a resurgence in COVID-19 cases keeps people away from cinemas – and going outdoors in general.

UK and US jobless data

There are plenty of predictions for the impact of the coronavirus pandemic upon the world’s leading economies, but markets continue to be hounded by fears that these might not be pessimistic enough. More labour market data from the UK and US this week could heighten or assuage those concerns.

In the UK, thanks to the government’s pledge to pay the wages of furloughed workers, the unemployment rate isn’t expected to climb more than a percentage point during 2020. In the US, economists believe 20 million Americans will file new jobless claims during April. A sharper or softer rise than expected in either of these metrics will cause markets to reprice their expectations that these forecasts will be met or exceeded.

Will markets focus on shape of recovery as PMIs slump?

Business activity across the Eurozone and the UK plunged to record lows last month, and we know there’s more bad news to come. The Eurozone composite could drop as low as 20 during April, with the UK reading predicted to slump to 21. The real question is whether markets believe the recovery from this downturn will be a rapid one – confidence in a sharp pullback could soften any negative reaction to another round of gloomy PMIs, assuming markets are in an optimistic mood.

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