Investors have been on something of a roller coaster ride since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The major market indexes had each fallen 30% or more in just over a month, plunging squarely into a bear market. Then in late March, stocks staged a remarkable comeback, with the same indexes gaining more than 20% in the weeks since.
Not all companies have been affected equally, however. While the S&P 500 is still down 16% from its mid-February highs, two of technology's brightest stars are tipping the scales, both hitting new all-time highs on Tuesday.
A port in the storm
With social distancing still touted as the best way to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, consumers are enduring work-from-home and stay-at-home orders that will remain in place for the foreseeable future.
Those looking to break up the monotony are turning to streaming video for a much needed change of scenery, and no company is better positioned to provide in-home entertainment than Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX). The streaming pioneer has spent billions of dollars over the past several years to build out its library of television series and movies, so it was ready when much of the population was forced to shelter at home.
A growing cadre of analysts has been jumping on the Netflix bandwagon. Using a variety of methods including consumer surveys, search trends, and app download data, each has come to the inescapable conclusion that Netflix is the platform of choice for viewers hunkering down at home.
The question remains as to just how many have joined the ranks of the Netflix faithful and whether they will remain loyal customers after the pandemic has run its course. The company offers a 30-day free trial, so the exact number of net new subscribers will remain elusive until the company reports earnings next week.
For now, investors appear content to rely on the anecdotal evidence and recent analyst upgrades, bidding up shares to record highs in the process. The real test will come after the market close on Tuesday, April 21.
Delivery reigns supreme
It wasn't at all surprising that Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) would reclaim its $1 trillion market cap and hit new all-time highs on the strength of its e-commerce platform and delivery services. Consumers are loathe to leave home unless it's absolutely necessary for fear of contracting or spreading the coronavirus, and the option of ordering something from Amazon's website and having it shipped to your door has taken on a whole new level of importance for some people.
If you need evidence of the surge in Amazon's business, consider this: After announcing in mid-March that it would hire as many as 100,000 new full- and part-time workers to meet the unprecedented demand, this month the company said it will add an additional 75,000 employees to its rolls and increase pay by $2 per hour to fill the void. Amazon has gone even further, saying it will hire employees furloughed or let go by other companies, until their previous employer is able to take them back.
Amazon has a number of other competitive advantages that shine while consumers are homebound and employees work remotely. Several benefits of Amazon Prime leap to the forefront, including the streaming video and streaming music that come with a subscription. Then there's the cloud computing provided by Amazon Web Services (AWS) that helps keep a growing number of businesses and their workers connected.
The e-commerce giant remains perfectly positioned to benefit from the continuing stay-at-home orders.
How long will it last?
While there's no guarantee that these new record stock prices will hold, it's worth noting that the situation that caused the run-up is ongoing and will likely result in a number of permanent converts. Holdouts who hadn't joined Amazon Prime may learn to live with the convenience of its e-commerce platform and viewers who turned to Netflix during their hour of need may stick around for its vast library of content.
There's no way to know for sure, but signs for these tech giants are certainly encouraging.