Tag Archives: Amazon.com

FB/AMZN: Idiotic Retail Daytraders And Hedge Fund HFT Algos

Facebook reported it’s Q4 earnings today.  Its “NON-GAAP” earnings “beat” the consensus “NON-GAAP” estimates.   As it stands, “GAAP” accounting standards have become an outright joke.   The use of “NON-GAAP” reporting has transformed the entire accounting industry into an adult cartoon.  “Beavis an Butthead” for corporate earnings reports.

Why even report financials?  Why not just report NON-GAAP earnings per share?  Feed the ducks what they want to eat.  “NON-GAAP” translated into English means, “here’s our earnings if you exclude all the expenses we take every quarter that we consider to be non-recurring.”  It’s income not including recurring “non-recurring” expenses.  It’s an absolute unethical perversion of financial accounting – kiddie porn for Wall Street analysts and moronic institutional investors.

Based on today’s GAAP earnings and the after-market level of trading, FB trades at 78x trailing EPS, 16x revenues, and 36x cash flow (EBITDA).  This is an insane level of valuation for a company with sales derived primarily from mobile advertising.  I guess a fact that escapes most investors is that as the global economy sinks deeper into recession, the decline in consumer spending will accelerate and advertisers will cut way back on ad spending budgets.  I’ll let you figure out what that will mean for companies like FB that derive their revenues from corporate ad spending budgets.

Perhaps even more confounding is the fact that the stock of AMZN, which reports its Untitlednumbers tomorrow after the close, jumped $10 in after-hours when FB reported.  I’m not sure why online widget sales would be correlated with the growth rate of the number of people who log onto Facebook, but it exemplifies the degree which the U.S. stock market has become disconnected from economic reality. (click image to enlarge)

Having said that, making money by trading irrationalities in the stock market is a big part of what my Short Seller’s Journal is all about.  I deliver a weekly newsletter to your email with one long-term fundamental short-sell play and one or two “quick hit” trade ideas. The quick hit ideas are designed to take advantage of stocks which pop in price in absence of any true bona fide fundamental reasons.  The textbook example of this is Weight Watchers. Just today in fact, the idiots on financial news tv were reporting how a tweet by Oprah caused the stock to jump 23% to close at $13.75.

What they didn’t tell you is that she pulled the same stunt right after Christmas – only stock after that closed at $23.05.   I put this stock in my Short Seller’s Journal released on January 3 at $22.95/share.  Subscribers who took advantage of this idea and held until Friday that week made 34% on their short position.  The ones who played the puts I SubscriptonGraphicsuggested made 600%.

SSJ is a monthly subscription with four reports each week.  I include some fundamentals-based research, ideas for using puts and calls to replicate shorting a stock and capital management suggestions.

I am one of your new subscribers. I am a novice in Option trading field. I am just writing to let you know that I enjoy SSJournal and especially examples of how trading strategies could be executed, with actual described cases – to me that is the best way of learning. I think that is most valuable for me. Shorting companies symbols are, of course, very important to get one going in the right direction as well. – subscriber from Sparta, NJ

Is AMZN’s Genie Finally Out Of The Bottle?

A curious news report hit the tape yesterday which described a “major shift in [Amazon’s] thinking” – AMZN Buys Rights To “Wiener-Dog.”  I find it curious because,  a) the author of the report clearly has not read my Amazon dot Con stock research report and b) there has not been a “major shift” in AMZN’s “thinking.”  (click to enlarge image)

UntitledThis move by AMZN has been endemic to the way Jeff Bezos operates since he transitioned the Company from a simple-model online book-store into a gigantic Ponzi scheme which has fomented one of the most overvalued high profile stocks in history.  Oh by the way, he’s fleeced shareholders for 10’s of billions of dollars over the last 20 years.

This news report embodies the myth of Amazon.  Every time Bezos rolls out a new add-on to his business model, the AMZN stock bulls herald his genius and the stock goes nuts.  We’ve seen this countless times over the years including recently:  drone delivery, restaurant menu delivery, same-day delivery, cloud computing, content delivery…And yet, curiously, Bezos has never been able to deliver bona fide net income to his shareholders from his add-on Ponzi business ventures.

His true business model is selling dreams to AMZN perma-bull shareholders as a technique to trigger a stampede into the stock.  Heck AMZN stock jumped when Bezos announced hisponzi_scheme personal venture to develop a space travel company.

But perhaps the market is finally catching on.  AMZN stock is down 2.5% today as I write this. I suspect the market may see the through the  transparency of  his latest “major shift in thinking.” He spent a few million dollars of shareholder money on a movie called “Weiner Dog” that was thoroughly panned by critics.   One might think a few million spent is a meaningless amount to a company with at $285 billion market cap.  The problem is that the “money spent” in recent years is being funded with junk bonds.

This is how Bezos has been operating over the last 20 years.  Spending money thrown at him by the stock market into business ventures that lose money and burn cash.  My Amazon dot Con report lays this out in detail.  The truth is that, over the last 20 years, Bezos has become one of the richest men in the world and AMZN stock recently hit a market valuation of $325 billion.  And yet Bezos has only been able to delivery $1.9 billion in net income cumulatively to shareholders over the last 20 years.

Hidden Financial Bombs Are Starting To Detonate

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The S&P 500/Dow have started to sell-off relentlessly since the beginning of the year.  This morning’s excuse was IBM and, once again, China.  I guess Obama’s “America is exceptional” speech infected the brains of more people than I thought.  The sell-off in the stock market surely can’t be attributable in any small way to the fact that the U.S. stock market never been more overvalued in its history.    Not only is it trading at record valuation levels, the “value” of the stock market is resting on a mountain of debt and derivatives in the U.S. financial system of unprecedented size and diminished credit quality.

Debts have continued to build up over the last eight years and they have reached such levels in every part of the world that they have become a potent cause for mischief.  – William White, form chief economist of the BIS – LINK

Unpayable debt and counter-party defaulted derivatives are the hidden financial bombs that are beginning to detonate both globally and in the United States.   Faux analysts like to point to the fact that consumer debt is lower now than in 2009.  However, the reason the amount of stated debt declined was a result lender write-offs – not consumers repaying any debt.   Now automobile and student loans are at all-time highs – over $1 trillion outstanding now in each.  Unlike mortgage debt, this debt is largely unsecured (cars are collateral that depreciate quickly in value).

Well-known/regarded hedge fund titan Ray Dalio of Bridgewater Associates was in the news today warning that “if assets remain correlated, there’ll be a depression”  LINK

Who am I to question Ray, but he’s got it wrong.  The mistake embedded in his assertion is that economic activity is currently connected to the massive global financial bubble. Sorry Ray, but if you use unmanipulated data, the world is already in an economic depression. The price of oil, the baltic dry index, the Cass shipping and freight index (LINK a volume-based index down almost 20% since 2013), etc – measurements of actual economic activity – are reflecting a level of economic activity globally and in the United States that is suggestive of a deep recession on Main Street.

I’ll say we are in trouble up here [Canada]. Aside from the obvious, oil and the Canadian dollar crashing in unison, we have a seriously over-priced housing market and a totally unsustainable condo boom in our two largest cities. Alberta is an unfolding disaster and, for all intents and purposes, the largest province by far Ontario, is bankrupt. Superimpose on that a neophyte federal government and a totally clueless central bank head and we are headed for very big trouble. At least gold is $1575 in Cdn. Dollars and will explode higher shortly.  – John Embry in an email exchange with IRD

The error in Dalio’s assertion is that financial assets drive economic activity.  The “wealth effect.” Unfortunately, while record hedge fund management fees might determine whether or not Mr. Dalio decides to bid on the latest Picasso up for auction or buy a new Ferrari this year, the majority of wealth accessible to most humans has nothing to do with the current price of AMZN or the dividend paid on KMI.  The “wealth effect” concept is yet another Keynesian rhetorical diaper wrapped around the mechanism by which the elitist suck wealth from the middle class.

Real Main Street economic activity has been receding since 2008.  The illusion of economic “growth” has been created by issuing more debt used by the hoi polloi to buy cars, unaffordable homes and online college degrees.  At this point in time, the relative trading level and correlation of financial assets has nothing to do with economic activity, other than maybe the ad rates that can be charged by the adult Nickelodeon channels:   CNBC, Fox Biz and Bloomberg.   This chart perhaps best illustrates this point – click to enlarge:

Untitled

This graph on the left plots Kinder Morgan stocks vs. the S&P 500 for the last two years.  KMI here represents real economic activity because its business is based on the price and demand for oil.   Even if you want to argue that KMI has take or pay contracts, if its customers can’t pay, KMI does not “take” revenues.  It’s no coincidence that KMI’s stock has crashed along with the price of oil (and gas).   The misnomer of “Dr. Copper” is that it should be “Dr. Oil.”  After all, for every pound of copper used it takes energy to mine that copper.  For every product produced with copper, it takes energy to produce that product.  For every copper-embedded product purchased, it takes energy to deliver to that product.  Get it?

It’s the human condition to believe irrationally that bad things can’t happen.  Denial and hope are the two strongest forms of the human emotional defense mechanism.  But bad things are starting to happen.  The price of oil is telling us that the world, including the U.S., is already entering an economic depression.

Referring back to that graph of KMI vs. S&P 500, KMI represents the “poster child” for the U.S. economic system.  KMI is loaded down with debt that will eventually become unpayable, some of it possibly by this fall.   It’s also emblematic of the proverbial stock idea that was supposed to be “can’t miss.”  It paid a huge dividend and it’s business model was “safe.” But KMI’s operating income has plunged 45% from Q3 2014 to Q3 2015.  How on earth is that reflective of a stable business model?

KMI is somewhat of a Ponzi scheme.  It relies on generating growth to fuel bullish stock reports and investor interest.  It relies on an unfettered ability to issue debt in order to pay its dividend.  I’m working on a big research report and you might be surprised at my conclusions.  Kinder Morgan stock has already decimated a large number of investor portfolios.  And yet, the indefatigable  bullishness on the stock coming from  the “it’s too cheap to sell” or “opportunity of a lifetime” CNBC zombies continues to blossom.

The orange line in the graph above is the S&P 500.  You can see just how disconnected the real economy, as represented by KMI stock, is from Ray Dalio’s “financial assets.”   And you can also see that the real economy is headed for a depression.  In other words, it’s too late to worry about whether or not correlation among financial assets will cause an economic problem.   “Financial assets” are a creature of Wall Street.   The real economy is a creature unto itself and adheres to natural laws uncorrelated with Wall Street’s money-making gimmicks.  Sorry Ray, but eventually your “financial assets” will be inextricably correlated with the real economy.

People want to believe that bad things don’t happen.  But the laws of nature don’t care about what people want to believe.  These laws are not necessarily correlated with human faith and bad things are about to happen out “there.”

If you want to hedge yourself against what is coming, subscribe to my Short Seller’s Journal.  Homebuilder stocks are getting hammered this week and I will be featuring two ideas connected to homebuilders that have not been sold down hard yet.

Amazon.com: Has The Bubble Finally Popped?

It’s good to no longer be a lone voice in the wilderness.  This latest commentary on the insane overvaluation of Amazon stock comes from Bill Bonner of Agora Research by way of the Acting Man blog:

Every AMZN bear has been made to look like an idiot – but that may soon change. As David Stockman recently pointed out, those who actually take the time to properly analyze its slippery accounting and business model (not the dead fish employed by the sell-side, obviously) cannot help but conclude that it is a giant Ponzi scheme – and the danger that this realization will penetrate the “market mind” is increasing. It remains a “river of no returns” – although consumers have every reason to love it. Investors buying it today pay 830 times net earnings for the stock – and said net earnings actually look somewhat dubious upon closer inspection.

Interestingly, a lot of AMZN critics still insist on describing AMZN as company that generates “cash flow.”  But, as my AMAZON dot CON report details, the metric being describe as “cash flow” comes from Bezos’ own quarterly earnings presentations in which he references “free cash flow.”

For those of us who bother to scour the footnotes of AMZN’s SEC filings, we find that AMZN discloses that its “free cash flow” metric does not conform to GAAP accounting standards. But I take that disclosure in my report and show, with details from AMZN’s financials, why the term “free” in reference to “cash flow” is highly misleading.  In fact, over the last two years the cash used by AMZN to “invest” in its business model has come largely from debt issuance and from gift card and Prime membership deposits.

Amazon Prime?  Bezos admitted about a year ago that Prime loses a couple billion, a fact confirmed by one analyst in July but ignored by everyone:  LINK.  The idea behind Bezos’ strategy is to do whatever it takes to generate sales growth.  The stock price soars when it looks like AMZN is growing rapidly.   However, as my report details with direct evidence from the financials, revenue growth is required in order for AMZN to pay its expenses.  In other words, the only way AMZN stays afloat is if “cash in” exceeds “cash out.”  That’s the definition of a Ponzi scheme.  AND, as a matter of fact, as I show in my report, AMZN has stretched out its accounts payables over the last few years.  This is a trick companies use in order to slow down the rate at which they pay their bills.  If revenues begin to decline, AMZN will hit the wall – quickly.

As I state in the introduction sent to new subscribers of my Short Seller’s Journal, it is impossible to time the top in AMZN.  But once it rolls over, it will drop quickly.   You might miss the move from $600 to $400, you can ride it from $400 to $100 or lower.  AMZN ran from $300 to almost $700 in less than a year.  It can easily complete that roundtrip in even less time.

There’s probably a core level of operations that can be a profitable business. But it is nowhere near the level that generates the current $100 billion of revenue.  AMZN spends at least $1 to generate every $1 of revenue.  That core level of potential profitability would likely imply a fundamental value per share well below $50.

I would not necessarily rush out and short AMZN right now.  It will probably start to move higher into its earnings report on January 28 (after the market close).  I have a feeling that Bezos will pull out all the stops to manufacture an earnings report that beats consensus estimates and the stock will gap up again as all the hedge funds that piled in short this week scramble to cover.  THAT is when you want to start pulling the trigger on shorting the stock.  My AMAZON dot CON report will help you prepare for that.

David Stockman: Amazon And The Fantastic FANGs…

A Bubblicious Breakfast Of Unicorns And Slippery Accounting

Consider the case of Amazon. Its PE multiple on LTM net income of $328 million has dropped from 985X all the way to…….well, 829X! Likewise, it’s now valued at 97X its $2.8 billion of LTM free cash flow compared to 117X at year end.  In the same vein, Facebook’s LTM multiple on net income has dropped from 108X to 96X.

So the reason to revisit the FANGs, and the Amazon bubble in particular, is not because their market caps have come down to earth; it’s because once you get inside, another characteristic of late stage bubbles comes lurking front and center. Namely, the tendency for the accounting income of momo tech stocks at bubble tops to be bloated with non-sustainable revenues and profits from Silicon Valley burn babies…

…I was reminded of this possibility by an excellent post by Dave Kranzler at Investment Research Dynamics. In a piece called “AMAZON dot CON” he took me to task for being too kind to Jeff Bezos’s ponzi accounting.  Among other things, Kranzler went all the way back to the beginning and offered an even more dramatic juxtaposition of the bubble in the stock versus the reality on the ground:

Throughout its 25-year history as a public stock, AMZN has delivered a cumulative total of $1.9 billion in net income to shareholders. Jeff Bezos made $16 billion on AMZN stock in 2014.

You can read the rest of Stockman’s commentary on AMZN here:  Amazon And The Fantastic Fangs

More On The Amazon Spin-Machine

Jeff Bezos’ greatest business trick is his ability to spin the illusion that AMZN is a money-making machine.  In fact, AMZN is remarkable  sales-generating machine,but it costs the Company more than a dollar to generate a dollar of sales.Bezos1

All of a sudden in 2015 AMZN had become a cloud computing services phenomenon.  The last two earnings report showed a rate of growth in its AWS business and the stock rocketed higher.  Of course no one seemed to care that outright the AWS business represents less than 10% of AMZN’s total revenues.  And of course nothing is ever mentioned about the quality of AMZN’s AWS-derived sales.

The truth is, and Bezos never discusses this, that the majority of AMZN’s AWS contract revenue comes from Silicon Valley unicorns.  Most, and maybe all, of them will not be around in a few years.  Here’s an accounting of this from someone besides me:

I would like to introduce a meme before the sell side or buy side catches on.  As you know AMZN was up 100% this year as Bezos revealed the AWS business to the world.  The meme is this: AWS growth is unsustainable.  Not only is it unsustainable I predict that the sell side forward revenue growth rate for AWS will  go to zero or negative by Christmas next year.   It has come to my attention that 50% of AWS growth comes from start ups and my guess is that the majority of those dollars are Unicorns.  AMZN has been an indirect beneficiary of QE largess.  The Fed’s easy money created a bubble in VC funded start ups.  That funding peaked this year and is now in decline as the Unicorn bubble is bursting.  I expect this bubble to unravel fast as we are in the part of the cycle where the capital markets shut down for companies burning cash.  –  AMZN:  The Ghost Of XMAS Yet To Come

My AMAZON dot CON report goes into further detail about the problems with Amazon’s AWS business modelAMZNnew and why, at some point, the market value being assigned to the part of AMZN’s business model will likely largely evaporate this year.

AMAZON dot CON

Any question about the role Amazon stock plays in helping the Fed/US Government prop up the S&P 500?Untitled2

The more time I spend researching and observing AMZN, the more I”m convinced that it’s the biggest Ponzi scheme in the history of the stock market.

Throughout its 25-year history as a public stock, AMZN has delivered a cumulative total of $1.9 billion in net income to shareholders. Jeff Bezos made $16 billion on AMZN stock in 2014. Here’s the details:  Bezos’ Ponzi Scheme

Here’s what’s behind Bezos’ drive to transfer as much money from the stock market to his bank account: Bezos Has Amassed A $59 Billion Fortune – And Wants More. If you read through that article you’ll get a sense of what drives Bezos and how he operates.

Amazon is a Ponzi scheme in the sense that its business model requires sales growth every quarter in order to generate enough cash flowing in to the Company to enable it to pay the cash expenses flowing out of the Company.  This is one of the reasons AMZN is constantly running Prime membership 1st-year fee deals.  It needs the cash it receives upfront in order to help it fund cash payment Untitledexpense obligations.   The graph to the right shows one of AMZN’s basic problems.  AMZN offers free two-day shipping to Prime members.   Its cost of shipping eats up an increasing percentage of its sales revenues.   AMZN hides a lot of its expenses by making liberal use of the increasingly “grey” areas of GAAP accounting rules.  But you would never know this unless you dig deeply into the murky abyss of the footnotes to its financials.

The genius of Bezos is his ability bamboozle big investors and retail chimps into piling into his stock every time he announces another “big” idea.  The current massive bubble embedded in the valuation of AMZN’s stock is the $150 billion of AMZN’s $297 billion attributed to AMZN’s cloud  computing services business, “AWS.”   This is a business that represents about 7% of AMZN’s revenues.    That $150 billion is  21-times AWS’ trailing twelve month revenues and about 150-times  AWS’ trailing twelve month operating income.  Insane valuation multiples.

David Stockman published a piece last week which discusses the degree to which AMZN is an epic stock bubble.  However, even he is bamboozled by AMZN’s numbers. He gives AMZN credit for spending $11.6 billion on R&D.   This is what Bezos wants the market to believe.  Tech companies get a lot of stock market “cred” for showing high R&D “investment.”   But the $11.6 billion AMZN spends is not R&D.   Market professionals like Stockman are getting this “R&D” number from an expense line item in AMZN’s income statement called “Technology and Content.”  They automatically assume that number is R&D’s expense.  But it’s not. I like to dig into the bowels of 10Q and 10K filings and kill the market with truth.   This is from the footnotes to AMZN’s SEC-filed financials:

Costs to operate our AWS segment are primarily classified as “Technology and content.” Technology infrastructure costs consist of servers, networking equipment, and data center related depreciation, rent, utilities, and payroll expenses. These costs are allocated to segments based on usage. During Q3 2015, we expanded our technology infrastructure principally by increasing our capacity for AWS service offerings globally.

What analysts like Stockman assume to be R&D spending are, in truth, mostly the expense of operating AMZN’s website and its AWS business operations.  I detail this in my AMAZON dot CON report. In other words, AMZN is getting $10’s of billions of stock market love based on the idea that it is pouring billions into R&D – R&D that is in reality nothing more than standard operating expenses.

David Stockman and everyone else also use in their analysis the number that AMZN reports as “free cash flow.”  But I show in detail, based on using information that is found by digging through the footnotes in AMZN’s SEC-filed financials and by applying a deep understanding of GAAP accounting, that AMZN’s true cash flow is not even remotely close to the number used and reported by analysts and critics in their reports.  Again, my report is available here:  AMAZON dot CON.

As for the quality of revenues and operating income at AMZN’s cloud business, most of AMZN’s contracts are with Silicon Valley start-ups, most of which will not be around very long.  Moreover, the pricing for cloud computing services has undergone extreme price compression from competitive pressures. Here’s an anecdote from a contact of mine who runs a technology-based healthcare company:

Here’s a funny fact on AWS [Amazon Web Services] that again everyone seems to ignore or miss. I have a company and our AWS bill is coming up for renewal and the prices have dropped 90%+ in 3 years. And yet, a hyper deflationary commodity, that is being sold in mass quantity to profit-less start-ups, is worth perhaps $150B or more of AMZN’s market cap.  Epic.

Cloud computing services is the contemporary version of fiber-optics.  Remember that business, which drove a large portion of the late 1990’s tech bubble?   Level-Three Communications (Warren Buffet), Qwest (Phil Anschutz), Global Crossing (A JP Morgan sponsored Ponzi business).   The cost of accessing fiber optic networks dropped like a rock as fiber-optic overcapacity and technological advances invaded the business model.  The same dynamic has invaded cloud computing.

Global Crossing went bankrupt and reorganized into Level Three; Qwest renamed CenturyLink is a quasi-utility phone/communications company and survived the fallout from the fiber-optic bubble but its then-CEO, Joe Nacchio, was prosecuted for insider trading and financial fraud and spent six years in prison;  Level Three still operates but it’s stock, on a split-adjusted basis, dropped from a peak of $1,769 on Jan 31, 2000 to a current price of $53.

These examples show the type of hype, fraud and malfeasance which belie extreme financial bubbles.  I am highly confident that the same type of activities are occurring behind the “curtain” at Amazon.

Clearly, from the graph above, the Fed uses AMZN as one of its props to hold up the S&P 500 in order to maintain the illusion that the economy is fine.  But at some point, just like with every bubble stock in history, the gravitational pull of fundamentals will engulf AMZN’s stock price and send it plummeting.  Perhaps this has already begun:

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Amazon (AMZN): Sheer Insanity

Amazon (AMZN) stock is breaking out to a new all-time high today.  The “catalyst” ostensibly was news reports out yesterday that AMZN added 3 million Prime members during the 3rd week of Decemeber (of course, reported by CNBC) – LINK.   The report suggests that AMZN has lifted “veil” on Prime.

But what is not reported in this article,  of course, is the fact that AMZN was offering a free one-month trial of Prime.  Hmmm,  a week before Christmas and I can get free two-day shipping on anything I order?  I’m surprised AMZN didn’t sign up 10 million Prime “members.”  I wonder if CNBC will do a follow-up report next month which discusses the “churn” rate on the 3 million new “members.”  “Churn rate” would be the number of free-trials which cancel after the free month.

CNBC also reported that AMZN had a “record breaking holiday” based on the fact that 200 million more items received free shipping this year, reaching a record number of shipments.  This may be a record in terms of shipments but “free” shipping costs someone money.  I don’t think UPS, Fed Ex and the USPS are shipping AMZN’s products at a loss.  Someone bears this expense.  In my AMZN dot CON report I show in detail how AMZN bears the cost of fulfillment and also does spectacular job of hiding this cost.

The Robo traders grabbed these headlines and started having a big party pushing the stock higher, which is up 32 points, or 4.8%, in less that two trading sessions.

Lost in all this excitement is notion that AMZN is the poster-child representing the fact that the U.S. financial markets are irrevocably broken.  The entire financial system, especially the stock market, has become one big fraud.  It’s reported that Apple’s shipments of the new iPhone from Taiwan manufacturers were cut 5-10%.  This is not happening because demand is strong.   The market doesn’t care, as AAPL is up over 2% today.

At $694/share, Amazon is trading at 988 times its trailing twelve month earnings per share of  70 cents.  This EPS is calculated using AMZN’s version of GAAP accounting.   Think about it this way:   How many of you would buy a business in which you pay $988 for every dollar that business earns?

The Fed likes to refer to a process in which it seeks to “normalize interest rates” – whatever that means.  Let’s assume we “normalize” AMZN’s p/e ratio based on the theory that AMZN can grow into a market p/e of 21 (roughly).   On a trailing twelve month basis, AMZN’s net income was $328 million.  AMZN’s net income margin over the last several years has been 1% or less.  Let’s assume AMZN’s net income margin can “normalize” to Walmart’s 5%.  In order to justify today’s price of $694/share, AMZN’s sales would have grow from $100 billion to well over $300 billion.   How realistic are these assumptions?

If AMZN were to price its products and services based on standard cost accounting methods, it would have to eliminate free shipping and raise the prices on the products it sells.  Many retailers are now matching any price on AMZN.  In this regard, AMZN’s “competitive” advantage is being eroded.  My stock research report shows in detail that AMZN’s reported “free cash flow” is highly misleading.  AMZN burns cash.

Oh but what about AMZN’s now-famously promoted cloud business?  Here’s an email I received from a reader who’s company uses AMZN’s AWS services:

Here’s a funny fact on AWS that again everyone seems to ignore or miss. I have a technology company and our AWS bill is coming up for renewal and the prices have dropped 90%+ in 3 years. And yet, a hyper deflationary commodity, that is being sold in mass quantity to profit-less start-ups, is worth perhaps $150B or more of AMZN’s market cap. Epic.

The point here is that – despite the heavy application of mascara on the wart-hog’s face – the bulk of AMZN’s cloud business is derived from the small tech start-ups being glorified by private equity firms but that will not be around in a few years.  The pricing of cloud computing services has been plummeting.   Sound familiar?  Anyone remember the “fiber optic” bubble that precipitated the internet/tech bubble?  Anyone remember a company called Global Crossing? GBLX filed bankruptcy in 2002.  i’m not suggesting AMZN will go BK, what I am suggesting is that AMZN’s cloud computing business is all hype and hope.  That $150 billion in market cap ascribed to AMZN’s cloud business will evaporate quickly at some point in time.

But here’s the coup de gras:  A friend/colleague who is a Prime member who brags about the fact that AMZN loses money on him forwarded an email to me he received from AMZN. He titled it “AMZN sinks to a new low.”   It turns out he received a “promotional credit” entitling him to a free digital HD copy of “Kung Fu Panda” on Amazon Video.  He has to use this credit by January 15, 2016.  The question is, who the hell wants to watch “Kung Fu Panda” even if it’s free?   Obviously this is a loss-leader marketing ploy designed to get him on to the website where he might pay for something.

The right to distribute this movie was not free for AMZN.  At some point someone along the food chain will have to pay for it.  AMZN pays for it up upfront and then washes the cost of this by capitalizing the expense on its balance sheet.  Eventually this game will come to an end, causing the stock to plummet.  Don’t ask me on the timing of this event.  No one knows.  Bezos doesn’t care because he unloads 100’s of thousands of shares every quarter.

Ultimately the shareholders will pay for this:  the funds who chased the stock price up to the stratosphere and the people who are invested in those funds.  It will not end well…

 

It’s Official: Black Friday Sales Plunge 10% From Last Year

Total sales in the US on Black Friday fell 10% to $10.4bn this year, down from $11.6bn in 2014, according to research firm ShopperTrak.  – The Guardian

Store-based sales dropped $1.2 billion, while online sales increased $150 million.   The media is going to highlight the increase in online sales.  But remember, online sales represent only 6% of total retail sales.  The plunge in brick-and-mortar sales was nearly 10x greater in total dollars than was the increase in cyber sales.

The bottom line is that consumer is dead on arrival.  Stagnating nominal wage growth, decline real (inflation-adjusted) median household income and skyrocketing non-discretionary expenses are eating the middle class alive.  Throw in the huge increase in Obamacare premiums and it’s like throwing gasoline into a bonfire.

The retailer stocks are going to get crushed, regardless of what happens with the five stocks used by the Fed and the banks to keep the overall S&P 500/Dow indices propped up (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Alphabet (Google) and Disney).

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Click on the image or here – Short Seller’s Journal for two great ideas to short the retail stock sector

The U.S. Economy Is Collapsing – Americans Are Out Of Money

Wall Street, fearful that consumers are running out of cash heading into the crucial Christmas retail season, are selling off retail stocks and everything else sensitive to consumer spending.  – New York Post

The retail sales report for October was much worse than expected.  Not only that, but the Government’s original estimates for retail sales in August and September were revised lower.  A colleague of mine said he was chatting with his brother, who is a tax advisor, this past weekend who said he doesn’t understand how the Government can say the economy is growing (Hillary Clinton recently gave the economy an “A”) because his clients are lowering their estimated tax payments.  Businesses lower their estimated tax payments when their business activity slows down.

In September the Fed released its Consumer Expectations survey which showed a collapse in consumer income and spending expectations.  This does not occur in an economic system which is experiencing growth.

The price of oil traded below $40 briefly this morning.  The propaganda machine would have you believe that OPEC is driving the price down to put the U.S. shale industry out of business.  This has to be one of the most idiotic rationalizations for a negative economic occurrence I’ve ever seen (that, and “the bad weather ate my homework”).   The price of oil is collapsing because demand for oil is collapsing.   Demand for oil is collapsing because economic activity globally, including and especially in the U.S., is collapsing.

Once again the Empire Fed Manufacturing survey for November continued to plunge deeper into negative territory.  It missed Wall Street analyst expectations once again by a wide margin.  The index fell to negative 10.74 vs the -6.34 forecast.  The average work week fell for the fourth straight week.   I have news for everyone, if the average work week falls, it means people are making less money.   Less money translates into a disaster for holiday sales.

Retail sales this holiday season are setting up to be a disaster.  Already most retailers are advertising “pre-Black Friday” sales events.  Remember when holiday shopping didn’t begin, period, until the day after Thanksgiving?  Now retailers are going to cannibalize each other with massive discounting before Thanksgiving.  Anybody notice over the weekend that BMW is now offering $6500 price rebates?   The collapsing economy is affecting everyone, across all income demographics.

Last week we saw the stocks of Macy’s, Nordstrom and Advance Auto Parts do cliff-dives after they announced their earnings.  I mentioned to a colleague that the Nordstrom’s report should be the most troubling for analysts.  Nordstrom in their investor conference call said that they began seeing an “unexplainable slowdown in sales in August in transactions across all formats, across all catagories and across all geographies that has yet to recover.”  

Nordstrom caters to the “keep up withe Jones'” middle class household who works hard to project an image of prosperity but uses credit cards, auto loans and home equity debt to keep the gerbil wheel spinning.

That game has hit a wall.

Amazon stock is down over 2% this morning without any meaningful news reported that would have triggered the selling.   But anyone who reads my AMAZON dot CON report will understand why AMZN is the most overvalued stock in the S&P 500 now:

USA Today:  Amazon breaks barrier: Now most costly stock  –  “The online retailer’s shares are now trading for 942 times diluted earnings over the past twelve months – making them most expensive in the Standard & Poor’s 500.”

Someone sent me a copy of Wall Street’s 2013 consensus analyst earnings estimates for Amazon in 2014/2015.  Back then Wall Street was forecasting that AMZN would earn $2.58/share in 2014.  The high-end estimate was $4.55.   AMZN reported  a 52 cent per share loss in 2014.  The consensus forecast for 2015 was $5.44 with $9.22 on the high-end.  On a trailing twelve month basis through Q3 2015, AMZN has reported earnings per share of 70 cents.

Amazon stock is going to crash – it’s just a matter of time…