2020 has been a wild ride and it's not over yet. The stock market crashed 30% lower in March as the COVID-19 lockdowns of the spring took effect. Then, the S&P 500 market index rebounded with a vengeance, posting a 62% gain from the market bottom on March 23. All told, we're looking at an unseasonably high year-to-date gain of 12%.
That would be fine in a normal year, without the twin specters of a shaky economy and an ongoing pandemic to worry about. This year, a strong stock market looks like a setup for a dramatic correction someday soon. If I'm right, there's no stock I would rather buy just before another coronavirus-based market crash than Amazon.com (AMZN 2.28%).
One of these charts is not like the other
The leading e-commerce and cloud computing company in the Western Hemisphere is an obvious winner when the COVID-19 health crisis forces lockdowns and safer-at-home orders. Shopping online with overnight delivery to your door is a handy way to pick up all sorts of items when the local shopping mall is off-limits or closed down. Amazon Web Services powers many of the digital tools that help companies run their business with remote workers and mobile solutions for everyday business problems. These benefits are obvious to every Amazon investor, so when the market hit rock bottom on March 23, Amazon's stock actually traded 3% higher year-to-date.
The stock has largely climbed as quickly as the broader market from that point, with one crucial difference. Amazon is doing great in 2020, delivering record earnings and fantastic revenue growth in every quarterly report. Many other companies have been brought to their knees by the pandemic, taking on debt and canceling dividend payments just to keep the lights on. As a result, Amazon's stock looks affordable after gaining 65% in seven months but I expect a dramatic correction to the S&P 500 as a whole before the end of this winter.
Amazon's COVID-19 tailwinds have staying power
It's also important to remember that the pandemic didn't just come along and turn the business world upside down, giving Amazon an unprecedented tailwind out of the blue. The health crisis simply accelerated some secular market trends that had been simmering for years.
Cloud computing was already making the old model of selling perpetual software licenses obsolete. E-commerce alternatives were already pushing many bricks-and-mortar dinosaurs to the brink of bankruptcy and inspiring others to take their own online operations more seriously. COVID-19 poured more fuel on these fires but the underlying trends will remain even when the virus is long gone.
A second wave of infections and the associated lockdowns should have a similar effect again. If anything, the company will take advantage of the anti-pandemic measures it spent $6 billion to build in 2020 and sail through the next challenge with less economic stress. The earnings surprises in July and October were impressive, but they are child's play next to the enormous profits that would follow from another lockdown.
Amazon is a fantastic stock to hold forever. The company is also uniquely poised to surge even higher if there's another crisis on the way -- and that wouldn't surprise me at all. So go ahead and buy some Amazon shares right now. You can thank me in 2021 and beyond.