Amid the big, broad rally in tech stocks in 2019, one not-so-insignificant factoid that has been largely swept under the rug is that the godfather of all tech stocks, Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), has actually been a laggard this year.
So far this year, Amazon stock is up 12%. That’s good. But it’s below average. The NASDAQ-100 is up nearly 15% in 2019.
Amazon’s 12% return in 2019 is also the weakest of the well-followed FAANG group. Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOG) are each up more than 15% in 2019. Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) has risen more than 20%. and Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) has jumped more than 30%.
Thus, both relative to all tech stocks and its big-tech peers, AMZN stock has under-performed in 2019.
Importantly, the reason Amazon stock has underperformed this year isn’t because the stock did better than its peers during the stock-market selloff of late 2018.
In December 2018, AMZN stock fell more than 35% below its all time highs. That is roughly in-line with the performance of the other FAANG stocks during the market’s slump.
Meanwhile, Amazon stock still trades 17% off its all-time highs. That’s also roughly in-line with where the other FAANG stocks currently trade, but ‘it’s also the worst performance in the group excluding Facebook and Apple, which are both 20% off their all-time highs. Those two companies, however, faced huge existential crises in 2018 (data security issues and an iPhone slowdown, respectively).
So AMZN stock, unlike in the past, has been a laggard of this rally. Thus, it’s reasonable to ask: is there something wrong with AMZN?
I don’t think so. AMZN stock is just shaking off a hangover from the reality of slowing e-commerce sales amid rising competition in the sector. But, once the stock shakes off that hangover, it will resume its long-term march higher, since the growth of the company’s various other business remains robust.
So don’t stress the recent relative weakness of Amazon stock. It will pass.
Amazon Stock’s Hangover
Right now, it appears that Amazon stock is struggling to shake off the fact that the company’s e-commerce business is finally slowing down after multiple years of red-hot growth and aggressive market-share expansion.
Amazon’s e-commerce business has been showing signs of slowing and ceding market share for the past several months. For the longest time, the retail landscape was defined by Amazon gobbling up market share as its digital business grew at 20%-plus rates.
That is no longer the case today. The growth rates of the company’s digital business have dramatically cooled, and have been under 20% for several consecutive quarters. Meanwhile, the digital growth rates of companies like Walmart (NYSE:WMT) and Target (NYSE:TGT) are above 20% and accelerating higher, implying that traditional retailers are successfully taking back retail share from Amazon.
This isn’t great news for Amazon. AMZN became an $800 billion company largely because of its e-commerce business. Many investors thought that Amazon’s unparalleled dominance in the retail world would definitely continue for a long time. Actually, they believed that its growth wouldn’t slow until the global e-commerce market peaked.
But the company’s growth is slowing, and it’s slowing because competitors are fighting back and winning. Investors are naturally concerned about that, so they are consequently unwilling to bid Amazon stock back up to its highs.
Amazon stock has been hit in early 2019 by its e-commerce slowdown, and AMZN stock won’t return to being the market leader it once was until this headwind disappears.
Everything Else Is Firing on All Cylinders
Fortunately for the owners of AMZN stock, the e-commerce hangover that’s hurting Amazon stock will disappear, and it will probably disappear soon.
The market cap of Amazon stock has reached $800 billion largely because of its e-commerce business. But e-commerce won’t be the driver of the next $800 billion-plus in value. If anything, everything besides e-commerce — including cloud, digital advertising, offline retail, logistics, pharmaceuticals, etc. –will be the main impetus behind Amazon stock.
All of those other businesses are firing on all cylinders right now. Amazon Web Services continues to be the unparalleled leader in the cloud market, is growing at a steady 40%-plus rate, and is even winning deals from Amazon’s e-commerce competitors.
The company’s digital-advertising business is the hottest thing in the entire advertising market, growing at a 90%-plus rate and quickly becoming the third-largest player in the digital ad world. Meanwhile, AMZN continues to advance its offline retail-expansion initiatives, is pioneering a new cashier-less convenience-store concept, has all the licenses necessary to launch an e-pharma business, and continues to build out its logistics service.
In other words, Amazon’s growth outlook is no longer about e-commerce. It’s about everything else, and everything else is firing on all cylinders right now.
Perhaps most importantly, most of those other businesses have higher margins than e-commerce. That is especially true for the two most relevant and prominent of those businesses: cloud and digital advertising. The gross margins of those businesses are huge, and the strong growth of the company’s digital ads and its cloud business will inevitably power robust margin expansion and profit growth over the next several years.
All in all, Amazon’s long-term growth drivers remain very healthy, meaning that the outlook for Amazon stock over the next decade remains equally healthy.
The Bottom Line on AMZN Stock
Amazon stock is a little sick right now. It’s still trying to shake off its hangover from the slowdown of its e-commerce business.
But the next $800 billion of Amazon stock’s market cap will be created by every business at Amazon aside from e-commerce. Fortunately, everything else at Amazon is still firing on all cylinders., so it’s only a matter of time until AMZN stock shakes off this hangover.
When it does, Amazon stock will resume its long term uptrend, powered mostly by robust cloud and strong digital-advertising growth.
As of this writing, Luke Lango was long AMZN, AAPL, GOOG, FB, and NFLX.