The U.S. economy is opening back up, and consumer confidence is its highest level since before the pandemic first began more than a year ago. That's great news for businesses and could lead to a surge in value for many stocks that will benefit from an increase in consumer activity. But not every stock may be in great shape, as some have been performing well because of the pandemic, and a return to normal will likely soften their numbers this year.
Three stocks that could post underwhelming results in the months ahead include American Well (NYSE:AMWL), Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), and Target (NYSE:TGT). Although these businesses may be good long-term buys, there could be some bumps in the road for them over the next 12 months.
1. American Well
American Well (also known as Amwell), has fallen more than 45% since its shares first began trading on the NYSE in September 2020. During that period, the S&P 500 index has climbed close to 30%. The problem for Amwell is that things could get worse for the telehealth company. Its numbers remain strong today, with sales in the three-month period ending March 31 totaling $58 million and growing 7% year over year. But that's down significantly from the 34% growth rate it achieved in the previous period and the 65% increase in sales it generated for all of 2020.
Its growth rate could continue to fall; data from the Commonwealth Fund indicates that telehealth visits in the industry have been declining over the past few months. For Amwell, it definitely looks like things may have hit a peak, with the company reporting 1.6 million visits for both of the past two quarters. However, the drop-off wasn't unexpected, and that's likely why Amwell's shares have been struggling this year as multiple vaccines have given people hope that the pandemic may not be a problem for a whole lot longer. And that means the demand for telehealth visits is likely going to wane as people start making more in-person visits to the doctor's office.
What compounds the problem for Amwell is that the healthcare company isn't anywhere near profitable, incurring losses of more than $30 million in each of the past four quarters. Despite the drop in price, Amwell isn't a stock I would take a chance on today as there could be more of a sell-off in the months ahead amid softening telehealth numbers.
Shares of Amazon have been doing well over the past year; the tech stock is up more than 20% (although that's below the 39% gains the S&P 500 has generated during that time frame). And that's for good reason, as the business has benefited from people staying at home with nowhere to go and few places to spend their money. Online shopping became a pastime for many people bored at home during the pandemic, and that has fueled the tech giant's financials to new heights. During the first three months of 2021, Amazon reported more than $8 billion in profit -- a record high and more than three times what it earned in the same period a year ago.
It is clearly going to be difficult to top those numbers if people are out and about, spending their disposable income on more things beyond just online shopping. Going out to restaurants, traveling, and visiting shops that were shut down for most or all of the pandemic are just some of the ways shoppers will have less money to spend on Amazon. And there is already a big warning sign -- Prime Day this past June wasn't the hit that analysts normally expect from the company. Some analysts estimate the company's flagship sales day only generated a 7% increase in gross merchandise volume in 2021 compared to last year's event, a drop in the bucket compared to 2020's Prime Day growth rate of 54%.
For a stock that trades at a hefty price-to-earnings (P/E) multiple of nearly 70 (the S&P 500 is at 40), there's plenty of room for shares of Amazon to fall if its numbers aren't laced with superlatives this year. And that's why despite its recent success, I wouldn't count on the stock replicating its strong returns over the next 12 months.
Target did not just benefit from online shopping; it was also one of the major retailers that was able to stay open amid the pandemic. Last week, Target's shares hit a new 52-week high of $246.98. And while its P/E ratio of 20 isn't as astronomical as Amazon's, it is still trading much higher than it has historically. Prior to 2020, it was common to see investors paying no more than 15 times earnings for shares of Target.
In fiscal 2020, the company is coming off an incredible year in whch its comparable sales were up 19.3% and digital sales skyrocketed 145%. A year earlier, in fiscal 2019, its growth levels were much more normal: Comparable sales for the year grew by just 3.4% and digital sales were up 29%. To put into perspective just how ridiculous a year 2020 was: Target's sales jumped by over $15 billion in just 12 months -- that's more than it grew over the previous 11 years combined.
It won't be easy for the company to top 2020, and investors probably aren't expecting that, anyway. But there's a good chance that as things go back to normal, its sales numbers will likely decrease. Where they fall between 2020's tally and 2019's is the big question.
Target's shares are trading at an inflated valuation, and there will likely be some pullback in the months ahead. This is definitely a stock I would consider selling today because if it hasn't yet reached a peak, it's likely getting close to one.