Netflix is no stranger to earnings volatility, but this one’s different. Shares plunged 13% overnight before stabilizing, erasing a month of gains in the stock.
Earnings and cash flow surged from a year ago, but that’s not what traders care about for a stock like this. After a huge year, the company reported the slowest first quarter-growth since 2013 and said they’d add just 1 million new subscribers next quarter to their existing base of 208 million paid users.
The disappointing outlook and brutal response in the stock may should be the blueprint for quarantine tech trades in this upcoming earnings season. It’s just going to be impossible to sustain the degree of growth these companies saw during the extreme circumstances of a year-long global lockdown. The demand for at-home work and entertainment equipment and services enabled products like Peloton and Zoom to prove themselves and provided incredible cash flow and bottom-line stability to cloud companies and tech innovators. It was the ideal economic backdrop for these companies to thrive, but now the economy is changing — quickly.
Quarantine was a total tail-risk, once-in-a-lifetime event, but it’s crucial to remember that it largely functioned to pull forward demand for already-trending businesses. The cutting-edge companies that thrived the past year were already the ones disrupting and building the high-tech future that’s been the basis for much of the decade-long run in the Nasdaq. Most of these companies were already stock market leaders, and already expensive by many standards. Quarantine forced customers who were not on board with these products already to get on board, and that leaves a much shallower growth path ahead.
Stock multiples on growth companies go up when growth is hard to find. Last year, growth was non-existent, except for in these businesses. It stands to reason the spread between growth in the broader economy and these quarantine businesses will never be more skewed in favor of the companies than it was in the worst of the Covid crisis; it follows that the price paid for them will go down as that spread tightens.
With real economic growth starting up, the tech sector will no longer be the star-child of earnings season. Instead, watch for banks, industrials and health-care companies to thrive as life returns to normal. These are the companies most poised to benefit from rising earnings, which should be a more dominant theme than rising valuations going forward.
MORE FOR YOU
That’s why bond yields will continue be a crucial part of this story. The better economic growth gets, the more options for investing outside tech there are, and the correlation between the 10-year yield and the Nasdaq is the shortcut to seeing how this plays out in the market. Trailing valuations have been range-bound since around the time the 10-year bottomed last August, and P/Es have gone down as earnings rise. The index. The more growth there is, the more these lines will bend lower.