Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX ) was one of last year's hottest stocks, but at least one analyst thinks it will cool off in 2014. Morgan Stanley has downgraded shares of the popular video service from the neutral equal weight to the bearish underweight, lowering its price target from $330 to $310.
To be fair, Morgan Stanley wasn't exactly bullish ahead of this morning's move. The stock nearly quadrupled in 2013, and soaring 298% to outpace Netflix's growth and fundamentals will bring out the worst of the boo birds.
An analyst downgrade obviously isn't the end of the world. One only needs to look back at Morgan Stanley analyst Scott Devitt's previous markdown of Netflix stock -- from overweight to equal weight -- four months ago. Netflix shares have climbed nearly 20% since that Morgan Stanley downgrade.
This doesn't mean that Devitt isn't right this time. Netflix is overvalued by most traditional measuring sticks. However, the same thing has been argued all the way up. Fears that a worthy rival would challenge its niche leadership have failed to bear fruit. Netflix's subscriber rolls continue to grow with every passing quarter, and the scalable nature of its model is creating even greater gains as we work our way down the bottom line.
One can't be blamed for considering taking profits here. The stock's been on a tear since bottoming out after the Qwikster fiasco. However, Netflix has only burned those who have bet against it since then and birthed regret in those who punched out.
The way we consume entertainment is changing, and Netflix is leading the way. Between Blockbuster closing down and pay-TV providers facing stagnant growth in the face of cord-cutting, Netflix has become the indispensable centerpiece of the home theater experience.
Netflix shares have moved higher on the heels of subscriber growth, magnetic original programming, and compelling licensing deals. All three components should continue into 2014, suggesting that there are greater chances for positive catalysts than negative ones this year. The stock won't nearly quadruple again this year, but that doesn't mean that last year's biggest S&P 500 winner will be a laggard in 2014.
An analyst downgrade may not be an ideal way to kick off the new year, but talking down Netflix hasn't been the right call for the past year and change.
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