Despite the turmoil in the markets, there are many stocks that look like great buys right now. They have what it takes to grow their businesses, and low prices mean opportunity. At the same time, there are what look like clunkers, or stocks that drew a lot of excitement, and as prices plunge, the excitement has passed.
Then you have stocks like Amazon (AMZN 0.23%), one of the largest companies in the U.S. It has demonstrated its worth over time, but as growth slows, investors may be wondering if it has what it takes to stage a comeback. Should investors stock up, or pull out?
What's the market opportunity?
With $478 billion in trailing-12-month revenue, investors might be wondering if there's any more room for the top e-commerce company to grow. But before the pandemic, growth rates were robust. In both 2017 and 2018, sales increased 31% year over year. In addition, in 2017, net income grew from $2.4 billion to $3 billion, and in 2018, it rose to $10 billion.
Sales growth slowed to 20% in 2019, which might be the best indication of how things might have progressed had the pandemic not knocked everything off course. Sales shot back up to a 38% year-over-year increase in 2020, and then down to a 22% increase in 2021.
However, 2022 looks like it's going to be a lot different. In the first quarter, sales grew 7% year over year, but the outlook remains murky. Management expects a 3% to 7% year-over-year increase in the second quarter, with a potential operating loss. Amazon posted a net loss of $3.8 billion in the first quarter. That was tied to its investments in Rivian Automotive, from which it took a pre-tax valuation loss of $7.6 billion. Operating income came in lower than last year, but at a positive $3.7 billion.
CEO Andy Jassy assured investors that this is temporary, and that the company is managing to get through inflation, increased costs, and increased wages. Jassy said: "Our teams are squarely focused on improving productivity and cost efficiencies throughout our fulfillment network. We know how to do this and have done it before."
Much of that involves winding down services it expanded to meet increased demand in the early phases of the pandemic, and decreasing capital expenditures while it "grows into" current, more-than-necessary capacity.
As usual, Amazon Web Services (AWS) was a bright spot in the report, increasing 37% over the 2021 first quarter. But the company continues to advance in many areas: more physical stores; more stores with Just Walk Out technology; Buy With Prime, a new program for Prime members to use their benefits with stores beyond Amazon; the expansion of Amazon Care virtual health services, and more.
Take your earnings and run?
Not so fast. Amazon stock is down 32% this year, but even at this price, it's up 136% over the past five years. If you made money on your investment, you might think it's a good time to exit your position. But if you bought more recently, you might take a loss.
Right now, the business is in flux, and combining that with general market turbulence, the price has declined. However, Amazon is still posting sales increases and making money. Even more, it has serious opportunities to grow its business over time in so many ways.
The main thing to keep in mind is not to sell in a panic. At the current price, I would recommend buying the stock. It's crucial to keep in mind that market volatility might be with us for a while, and investors need to keep their eye on the long-term goal. Don't expect high gains tomorrow.