Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) has been falling out of favor in recent weeks, but it picked a great time to stage a bounce back into investor fancy. The market in general recovered some of last week's brutal losses on Friday, but Netflix's 5.75% gain on Friday made it the biggest winner among S&P 500's components.
The timing couldn't be better. Netflix reports its third-quarter results on Tuesday afternoon, and this is just the kind of positive momentum that a company likes to have ahead of fresh financials. A pair of bullish analyst notes -- led by an upgrade by Citi's Mark May -- helped fuel the stock's hearty rise.
Besting the popular market gauge's 499 other stocks may seem impressive, but Netflix has been leading the pack for longer stretches than a single day. Netflix was the S&P 500's top gainer for all of 2013 and then again in 2015.
May's move near the end of last week to upgrade Netflix from neutral to buy followed a sharp sell-off that sent the shares nearly 10% lower through Wednesday and Thursday trading. The stock had shed nearly a quarter of its value since its all-time peak in June.
May's move was strictly based on valuation. He's sticking with his earlier $375 price target, but with the stock falling well below that mark during the recent tech sell-off, it's now an opportunistic purchase for risk-tolerant investors. He believes in Netflix's model with high recurring subscription revenue and its prospects to continue to grow even faster overseas, but at the end of the day, he doesn't upgrade the stock if it hadn't gotten substantially cheaper.
Rob Sanderson at MKM Partners was the other analyst putting out an upbeat note that helped send Netflix higher. He's impressed by Netflix's content slate, seeing the recent pullback as an opportunity to remind investors about the stock's long-term attractiveness. He already had a buy rating, so he didn't have the wiggle room for an upgrade. However, his $395 price target suggests even more near-term upside than the now bullish May.
It wasn't just the bulls chiming in late last week. Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter reiterated his bearish call on the stock and bleak $125 price target. However, an analyst upgrading the stock on Friday with another Wall Street pro putting out a bullish note are encouraging signs ahead of a critical financial update. Would they be speaking up now if they didn't think that Netflix was going to come through with a strong showing and bounceback? Investors bid up the stock to new highs in late June, only to see Netflix crater a month later following its disappointing second-quarter results. It can't fail to live up to the hype in back-to-back reports.