As a clear winner in the stay-at-home trends prompted by coronavirus-related lockdowns, it's not surprising that Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) stock has been an outperformer in 2020. The stock is up 34% year to date, crushing the S&P 500's 1% decline over this same timeframe.
So far, the streaming-TV company has delivered on investors' hopes that sheltering at home would boost viewership and subscriptions. Net new subscriber additions in the company's first quarter came in at 15.8 million, obliterating management's guidance for 7 million new members during the period. But some have wondered how much of this momentum could carry into Netflix's second quarter as the economy reopens.
One analyst thinks Netflix's momentum has continued -- and he's reiterating a bullish $535 12-month price target on the growth stock to reflect his optimism for the company.
Why this analyst is so bullish
J.P. Morgan analyst Doug Anmuth said in a note to investors on Wednesday that Netflix's daily active user and download trends remain at elevated levels lately. Citing data from Apptopia, Anmuth said Netflix's daily active user growth has remained at a year-over-year growth rate of about 20% in recent weeks. Further, Netflix app download trends are still significantly better than pre-pandemic levels but are well below the peak download trend for the app during the coronavirus lockdowns.
In addition, Anmuth pointed out that Netflix has seen strong Google search trends for recent releases of original productions.
A strong quarter is likely
The trends Anmuth says he is seeing in daily active users and downloads aren't too surprising. While many U.S. states have begun opening their economies, some businesses remain closed or at least at limited operations. Further, it will likely take some time for consumers to feel comfortable venturing out to large gatherings and crowded places like they did before the coronavirus. All of this means that many people are likely still spending more time at home than they were before COVID-19 hit.
At the time of Netflix's first-quarter report in April, management acknowledged that there's significant uncertainty about how things will play out in Q2 and beyond. The company guided for 7.5 million net member additions (much higher than the 2.7 million net member additions the company saw in the second quarter of 2019) but management said that "Given the uncertainty on home confinement timing, this is mostly guesswork." Actual net member additions during the period could be "well below or well above that, depending on many factors including when people can go back to their social lives in various countries and how much people take a break from television after the lockdown."
Based on the data Anmuth pointed out, Netflix may have underestimated how much lockdowns would continue to benefit the company in Q2.
Is Netflix stock a buy?
Of course, investors interested in buying Netflix stock should have far more in mind than a single quarter. But it's not like the company wasn't already growing rapidly before COVID-10. In Netflix's fourth quarter, global streaming paid members were up 20% year over year and revenue jumped about 31% year over year. There's nothing indicating Netflix won't continue growing its business at rapid rates in 2020 and beyond, particularly overseas where Netflix penetration is lower.
Any investor who considers following Anmuth's advice should keep in mind that shares are quite expensive today. The stock trades at 88 times earnings. But given the company's strong momentum and a boost in subscriptions recently because of the pandemic, Netflix will likely easily grow into this valuation over the long haul.