What happened

Stock markets are down today, with the S&P 500 off more than 2% in afternoon trading. One stock, however, is doing a fine job of dodging today's downturn.

As of 1:15 p.m. EDT, shares of Peloton Interactive (NASDAQ:PTON) are up 12.7%.

Woman in red standing beside a woman in black, who is using a home exercise bike.

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

You can thank the friendly analysts at Roth Capital for that.

This morning, the investment banker announced it is initiating coverage of stationary-bike maker Peloton with a buy rating and a $38 price target. (Peloton stock costs about $36 a share right now.)

"There are many factors that will improve customer acquisition and subscriber monetization in the coming years," explains the analyst in a note covered today on StreetInsider.com. Moreover, in contrast to stocks that are suffering effects from the coronavirus, in Roth's opinion, "COVID-19 likely accelerates the timeline" for Peloton fulfilling its potential -- and won't slow it down.

Now what

How fast could Peloton grow if Roth's buy thesis plays out? Despite Roth's optimism, that's rather hard to say.

Right now, Peloton stock is unprofitable ($191 million in reported losses last year) and free cash flow negative ($202 million in fiscal 2019 cash burn, according to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence) -- and it's hard to calculate a profits "growth rate" when you're starting from a negative number.

Moreover, even analysts who have tried to forecast Peloton's potential for profit are having a difficult time making the case for the stock. According to consensus estimates collated by S&P, it appears most investment bankers following Peloton stock don't foresee actual GAAP profitability before 2025 at the earliest -- and even pro forma profits probably won't appear before 2024.

In a situation like this one, buying Peloton stock seems much more akin to speculation than to investing. Roth Capital might be comfortable with such speculation on Peloton shares. But between the uncertain duration of our current recession and the likely long-term unprofitability of Peloton, I am not.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.