Netflix (NFLX 5.03%) stock popped more than 5% in early trading Friday before giving back just a bit -- and ending the day up a solid 4%. You can thank Wall Street for that.
Netflix enjoyed a flurry of positive press Friday, beginning with a note from Stifel Nicolaus that reiterated its buy rating on the stock ahead of earnings next week. It predicted Netflix will report that it added 2.035 million domestic subscribers during the fourth quarter of 2018 versus Wall Street's expectation of just 1.758 million, and 7.757 million international subscribers, likewise ahead of the consensus number (7.302 million). In a note covered on StreetInsider.com today, Stifel noted that "Netflix search interest hit its highest point in the past five years for both the U.S. and worldwide exiting December, a strong positive indicator," and the analyst is optimistic that many of those searches translated into new subscribers for Netflix.
Stifel isn't alone in its thinking. At the same time as it was singing Netflix's praises, analysts at UBS were upgrading Netflix stock to buy ahead of earnings, and Raymond James was upgrading to strong buy. Indeed, Raymond James went so far as to predict that Netflix could end this year with a share price of $450 -- more than a $100 increase from today's prices.
Of course, a journey of 12 months' worth of steps will begin with Q4 results next week. Despite all the positive notes coming out today, Wall Street still is only expecting Netflix to report profits of $0.24 per share, a 42% decrease year over year, and thus a relatively low hurdle to clear.
Potentially more important will be whether Netflix can meet analyst expectations for 28% revenue growth -- $4.21 billion will be the magic number -- and of course, the subscriber numbers, as well, which are what Stifel Nicolaus focused on today. I'd give good odds that these numbers will be what most investors decide to focus on come Thursday.
Check out the latest Netflix earnings call transcript.