Earnings season is just starting to heat up and Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) is sure to be one of the most closely watched stocks in the coming weeks. Since we last heard from the tech giant at the end of April, the stock has surged 27%, adding more than $300 billion in market value in less than three months.
There's little doubt that Amazon has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the pandemic as nearly all of the company's businesses are set up to capitalize on such a crisis, including e-commerce, cloud computing, and video streaming, as well as emerging technologies like those behind the Amazon Go stores.
That means that Amazon has enjoyed a substantial tailwind in the second quarter and could blow away expectations, at least on the revenue side, when it reports earnings after hours on July 30. Analysts are expecting revenue to jump 27.5% to $80.8 billion but think earnings per share will shrink from $5.22 to $1.34 as the company promised to spend $4 billion on safety protocols around the coronavirus, including developing its own testing.
That revenue growth forecast is only slightly above the 26.4% growth the company recorded in the first quarter when it was operating under normal circumstances for the first two months. That's one reason why the company could surge past the revenue consensus. Here are five others.
1. E-commerce is booming
With stores closed for much of the second quarter, online sales have boomed across the board. The Census Bureau reported that sales at non-store retailers, which are mostly made up of online retailers, were up 25% from a year ago in the second quarter, compared to just 14% growth last year.
Meanwhile, a number of competitors reported e-commerce sales jumping by triple digits in April. Target said digital sales soared 282% in April, and Walmart said e-commerce sales rose 74% in the February-April period with growth skewed toward the second half of the quarter. At Costco, e-commerce sales roughly doubled in the April-June period, and Best Buy said online sales jumped 255% in the period from the beginning of May to July 18.
While Amazon won't see sales move from stores to e-commerce the way its competitors have, the company is by far the leading online retailer in the U.S. and will benefit from rising online demand for electronics, home goods, groceries, and other such products. Given high demand for e-commerce and video streaming, as seen in Netflix's skyrocketing membership, it's likely that Prime membership surged in the quarter, as well.
2. Cloud computing is thriving
On the first-quarter earnings call, CFO Brian Olsavsky said the company has seen healthy usage and adoption of Amazon Web Services, its cloud infrastructure service. Its peers have also been enthusiastic about the opportunity in cloud computing. Microsoft said it had seen two-years worth of digital transformation in the cloud in just two months, while IBM also touted accelerating cloud adoption in its second-quarter report as cloud revenue growth improved from 19% in the first quarter to 30% in the second.
Considering that computing needs have increased as offices have adopted work-from-home policies, demand for cloud infrastructure has likely jumped across the board. Again, as a leader in the sector, Amazon should benefit.
3. Consumers are surprisingly flush
Though unemployment is in the double digits and the company is in the throes of an unprecedented economic crisis, consumer spending has held up well thanks to trillions of dollars in government aid, especially in categories that aren't directly impacted by the pandemic like home improvement and groceries.
While retail spending plunged in March and April, it's recovered strongly since then, and June sales on an adjusted basis were within 1% of totals in January and February. With a number of the typical spending outlets like restaurants, entertainment, and travel still largely unavailable, consumers have been spending that money elsewhere, including on Amazon.
4. The hiring surge is permanent
Amazon hired 175,000 new employees through March and April to handle the surge in demand in its warehouses. At the time, Amazon expected many of those new hires would be temporary and return to their former jobs once the lockdowns ended. However, the impact of the pandemic is lasting longer than many expected, and Amazon said at the end of May that it would keep 125,000 of those pandemic hires on permanently.
That's a sign that the company expects much of the demand that came in March and April to be permanent.
5. Prime Day keeps getting delayed
Prime Day, the Amazon-made shopping holiday that brought in an estimated $7 billion in sales last year, usually takes place in the middle of July. However, it's now late July, and the company still hasn't set a firm date for the event.
In May, news outlets reported that Amazon would delay the event until September as it deals with excessive demand during the pandemic and works to keep its supply chain and logistics operations going to fulfill those orders. During the peak of the crisis, non-essential items were delayed as the company focused on shipping essential products.
In early July, Amazon told third-party sellers it planned to hold the event on October 5, essentially delaying it again, and this week, Amazon confirmed that the shopping holiday would be later than usual but didn't offer a firm date. Delaying it past October would be difficult as the company will run into Black Friday and the rest of the holiday shopping season. If it doesn't take place in October, it may not happen at all.
Signs point to yes
Given the momentum in Amazon's core businesses like e-commerce and cloud computing, and other signs from the company itself like the delay in Prime Day and its addition of 125,000 new employees during a normally slow time of year, investors could be in store for a blowout quarter.
It will take a lot to drive this growth stock higher from here, but Amazon is one of the companies best-positioned to thrive during the pandemic. The numbers next Thursday should confirm that.