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Amazon Stock: Buy, Sell, or Hold?

By Daniel Sparks – Apr 14, 2020 at 6:30AM

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As shares of the e-commerce giant return to an all-time high, what should investors do?

After initially falling sharply during the coronavirus market sell-off, shares of Amazon.com (AMZN -3.01%) have rebounded dramatically. Indeed, the stock closed Monday's trading session just a few dollars below an all-time high achieved in February. Putting the stock's recent rebound into perspective, shares are up 30% since March 30.

Investors who missed out on an opportunity to buy this dip in Amazon's stock price may be wondering if now is still a good time to buy shares of the e-commerce company. Or is the growth stock no longer undervalued?

Boxes in an Amazon fulfillment center

Image source: Amazon.com.

Amazon's stay-at-home boom

While COVID-19 is a devastating virus that has hurt many individuals, companies, and economies, it has positively affected a minority of businesses' top-line performance. For instance, one company likely to benefit from more consumers sheltering at home is Amazon. It stands to reason that more consumers will turn to e-commerce with many stores closed and with governments urging citizens to stay home as much as possible.

To better serve its customers during this time, Amazon announced in March that it would hire 100,000 workers to help fulfill demand. But even this wasn't enough. On Monday, Amazon said it has already filled all of those job openings and is now setting out to hire an additional 75,000 employees.

"We continue to see increased demand as our teams support their communities and are going to continue to hire," Amazon said in a blog post about its decision to create an additional 75,000 jobs. 

This news comes as the company is reportedly beginning to ship more nonessential items after temporarily limiting these shipments to prioritize goods like cleaning, healthcare, and food products. The company is allowing third-party sellers on its platform to start selling nonessential items this week, sources told The Wall Street Journal this week. 

Should you buy Amazon stock?

Cowen analyst John Blackledge remains particularly bullish on shares during this pandemic. On Monday, the analyst reiterated a buy rating and a $2,700 12-month price target for the stock. This target implies 24% upside for shares -- even after the stock's sharp gain on Monday.

The analyst predicts that surging demand for the company's products led to the equivalent of a "Prime Day in March." In addition, the analyst predicts that a trend of consumers sheltering at home during this time may have led consumers who don't normally shop on Amazon to be drawn to the platform's convenience.

While pricey valuation metrics may make Amazon shares may seem expensive on the surface, a close examination reveals that they are still attractive for investors willing to hold for the long haul. Sure, Amazon trades at 95 times earnings today. But it's worth noting that the company's earnings have been soaring. Earnings per share in 2019 was $23.01, up from $20.14 in 2018 and $6.15 in 2017. Helping earnings, Amazon's operating margins have been improving as the company benefits from extraordinary economies of scale. 

Even though the company now has a market capitalization of more than $1 trillion, Amazon's competitive edge over traditional retailers and a continued shift to e-commerce -- a shift that's likely to accelerate during a time like this -- make the stock a buy today. Of course, investors should only buy the stock if they plan to hold for more than five years, as anything can happen with the stock in the near-term -- particularly during these uncertain times. Furthermore, as Amazon is a growth stock, investors should keep in mind that Amazon shares are likely to trade with quite a bit of volatility. Over the long haul, however, the company's aggressive investments in cloud computing and e-commerce should continue to pay dividends in sales growth and margin expansion, rewarding shareholders.

John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Daniel Sparks has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon and recommends the following options: short January 2022 $1940 calls on Amazon and long January 2022 $1920 calls on Amazon. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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