This has generally been a good year for e-commerce stocks, and that certainly holds true for China's JD.com (JD -1.48%) and its shareholders. China's largest online retailer by revenue has seen its stock more than double in 2020.
One might think that the Chinese company's prospects are immune to how the U.S. presidential election plays out next week. However, JD.com does have a lot riding on how the votes stack up on Nov. 3. Given the still percolating trade tensions between China and the U.S. -- and how President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden have been picking up the cadence of their shots at China on the campaign trail -- investors can't ignore the ballot battle. Let's go over whether it's OK to buy shares of JD.com or if you should wait until the votes have been counted.
All eyes on November
President Trump has been vocal for years about his displeasure with China, but obviously that hasn't held JD.com back. The stock enters this week trading 131% higher year to date. It has nearly tripled since Trump's inauguration day.
The stock's success doesn't mean that things could be even better without the trade tension. Founder and CEO Richard Liu told CNBC two summers ago that a long-term trade war would be horrible, largely because it would limit U.S. brands from wooing import-happy Chinese consumers.
JD.com's business relies largely on Chinese shoppers, and that makes the U.S. election less about anything that may happen stateside and more about the state of the Chinese economy. China is recovering nicely from the COVID-19 crisis. The U.S. is checking in with almost as many new cases in a single day as the roughly 85,000 total cases reported by much more populous Chinese nation.
The Chinese economy is now widely regarded as the first major economy to recover. The 4.9% GDP growth recently posted for the third quarter is impressive, and we may as well point out that JD.com was doing just fine even as the pandemic initially tripped up many consumer-facing businesses in China.
Net revenue rose 21% in the first quarter, improving to 34% in the second quarter. JD.com's operating profit more than doubled in its last report. We won't have the third-quarter results until mid-November -- more than a week after the U.S. election -- but momentum is clearly improving after a 28% top-line increase for all of 2019. JD.com had 417.4 million active customer accounts by the end of June, a 30% advance over the past year.
Waiting to see if the country sticks with Trump or shifts gears with Biden won't get in the way of JD.com's growth on its home turf. The value of the U.S. dollar versus the Chinese yuan is a consideration for stateside investors, but there are no guarantees that the math will be kinder with one candidate over the other. Earlier this month the yuan hit a 17-month high against the greenback.
In short, it's probably more important to decide if you want to get in ahead of JD.com's third-quarter report in mid-November than the Nov. 3 presidential election. With business picking up at JD.com as well as the Chinese economy itself, the signs are encouraging. The stock isn't cheap, but that comes with the territory of a hot e-commerce powerhouse. JD.com shares are fetching more than 50 times this year's projected earnings, but a more reasonable 36 times next year's profit target. There will always be risks with investing in Chinese stocks, but JD.com is shaping up as a smart play not matter who is in the White House come January.