Trading Desk: Netflix Is The Center Of The Market Now

Back in November, Netflix (NFLX) was a $700 stock priced for perfection and riding high on pandemic fumes. Down here around $200, a lot of shareholders have given up. The others are waiting for a better future to emerge through the noise.

Last night’s earnings report provided a signal that the future might not be perfect . . . but it’s still moving in the right direction compared to the present. NFLX is making progress. The mistakes of the past are getting fixed.

And the stock is back on the way up. While I doubt it deserves to be a $700 stock again in the immediate future, it’s clear now that the company is set up to be worth significantly more than $200 down the road.

Yes, a million people quit the platform last quarter. But management is confident that it can bring them all back between now and the end of September.

Ad revenue is coming as a way to get around what some worry is a glut of premium streaming channels at a moment when global households are trying to contain their budgets. And while profitability has been scattered, revenue is up 8.6% from last year . . . despite the shrinking audience.

All of this together makes me think expectations of roughly 8% earnings growth in 2023 are just a little understated. NFLX has what it takes to surprise on the upside.

And here in the $200 zone, the stock is battered enough to make that growth rate attractive. Do the math and you’ll see that the once-high-flying NFLX now trades below 19X anticipated 2023 earnings.

That’s not cheap, but it isn’t the ghastly 60+ multiple that NFLX commanded back in November. If anything, NFLX is currently valued at exactly the level of the S&P 500 over the past five years.

Some of those years have been a disaster for investors who bought too high and expected organic growth to catch up to the stocks before the market mood turned. But others have been normal.

Think back to 2018-19. They’re part of that five-year period. The Fed wasn’t exactly handing out free money, but with overnight interest rates rising to a 2.4% peak Wall Street didn’t seem too concerned overall.

And the world wasn’t exactly ending either. The economy was humming along, taxes were about where they are now and it looked like the S&P 500 could support a little less than 10% earnings growth.

That’s about what Wall Street now expects from the broad market for the coming year. Unless something unexpected like a pandemic gets in our way, we’ll probably get something similar.

If the S&P 500 isn’t trading 10% above its current level a year from now, it’s going to be 10% cheaper when you weigh the fundamentals. We’ve already seen buyers swoop in when the market dips into that zone.

That’s a solid buying opportunity. And because earnings growth happens over time no matter what the stocks do, it’s worth looking ahead a year and buying a bigger company when it’s still small.

NFLX is exactly in the center of this math. Similar growth rate, similar valuation. I might not buy it here, but at this stage it’s worth taking a closer look at the dips . . . and odds are good that the buy window will close in the next six months, so the clock is ticking.