There isn't an obvious reason behind every big stock move. Shares of Roku (ROKU -0.67%) exploded 12% higher on Thursday, and finding the actual catalyst isn't as easy as it might seem.
There wasn't a major story breaking with positive implications for the streaming media pioneer. There were no bullish analyst moves. The general market moved lower on the day. It's even hard to argue that a short squeeze was a potential trigger to the rally. Short interest on Roku was already 25% lower than it was when it peaked in mid-March.
However, the 12% move is notable because it pushed Roku back into positive territory for 2020. Outside of a single day in early May, Roku stock has been trading in the red this year since mid-February. Roku's back -- for now -- but there are some pretty good reasons to think that the overdue rally in the shares is just getting started.
Unplugged from reality
It's surprising to see Roku as a market laggard this year. The stock declined 13% through the first half of this year, despite being a clear victor in the new normal. Companies providing home-based alternatives for real-world businesses have been thriving as investments in 2020. The market's biggest winners since COVID-19 lockdowns began include videoconferencing specialists, telehealth, and even a stationary-bike workout subscription platform.
Streaming video content at home is booming these days, but Roku didn't rally when the other seemingly pandemic-proof stocks started moving higher. The business's fundamentals would certainly seem to warrant hopping on the Roku bandwagon. Its platform had 39.8 million active users at the end of March, a 37% increase over the past year. Engagement is growing, with consumption climbing at an even heartier clip than the account growth.
Although it's free for users, Roku cashes in on its platform's streaming traffic through advertising as well as royalties when users sign up for new services through the hub. Average revenue per user has been inching higher with every passing quarter, and this all adds up to a 73% spike in platform revenue despite the number of actual active users growing at roughly half that pace.
Roku won't be reporting financial results until early next month, but there's no reason to think it won't deliver another blowout performance. Unless you've been living under a rock with crummy Wi-Fi, you have probably spent a lot more time than usual streaming TV shows, movies, and other content at home. We all need a little escape, and Roku is there with its fast-growing platform, offering access to thousands of streaming apps.
Since Roku stock more than quadrupled in 2019, it wasn't a surprise to see it take a breather earlier this year, but it's moving again. Roku has earned its stripes as one of the better-positioned growth stocks for playing the streaming video revolution. Thursday's pop might not have had a clear catalyst, but bulls will argue that the reasons for it have been hiding in plain sight for months. Roku is back -- probably because it never really went away.