Is It Time to Stop Chasing Netflix Higher?

Remember back in the day when Netflix Inc. (NASDAQ: NFLX) collapsed 80% in less than five months, from $295 to $63 a share? That was in 2011. It was catastrophic. It looked like a war zone. But now, look at a five-year chart and that catastrophe looks like barely more than a blip.

Four years ago, Netflix made one mistake, with quite bad timing. It decided to split its business into two: one streaming and one DVD delivery, which it called Qwikster. In a truly stunning show of consumer sovereignty over Big Business and how ruthless consumers can be, Netflix customers were outraged to the point where Netflix had to quickly reverse its decision one month after it announced it and publicly apologize. All because nobody wanted to navigate two different websites for what they wanted to watch on streaming versus what they wanted delivered.

At the same time that the Qwikster spin-off fiasco was going on that had its customer base seething, Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) and Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) had announced competing streaming services. The combination of these events tore Netflix stock down horrifically.

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Now, we’re back to all-time highs with a seven-to-one stock split and a price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio in the 170s that beats out even the biotech nosebleed leader Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: REGN). A company like Regeneron can at least be fueled by speculation about a possible new blockbuster drug somewhere down the line. But Netflix isn’t going to suddenly triple or quadruple its earnings due to some bureaucratic milestone.

Considering recent history with the stock and its mind-blowing valuation now, is it any wonder that Societe Generale and Citigroup both downgraded it to sell? This is not a story about earnings or fundamentals or finances. Netflix is doing just fine right now. Even in the best-case scenario that it keeps growing and growing, if general market conditions turn sour, Netflix will still be among the first to suffer. It does not even offer a dividend to justify the massive expense of holding it. Mark Cuban calls these stocks baseball cards. Those buying it are simply climbing an ever steeper cliff-face, trying to pass off the baton before the atmosphere gets too thin to breathe.

This is a matter of bull market mania, and SocGen is trying to call a top. Even if they are off by, say, 10%, what are the chances that Netflix can climb all that much higher than that, considering the vast space below? We have seen what happens when big companies even announce competing services against Netflix. What happens though if one of its competitors actually starts stealing some of its market share?

The point is not that Netflix will necessarily collapse. Let’s even assume it keeps succeeding as it has been. There are still better ways to spend $666 than buying one share of a nosebleed stock with no dividend and a history of collapse on singular mistakes, trying to pass it off for $700 to the next guy.

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With the Chinese equivalent of the Nasdaq just suffering its worst single day collapse ever, Greece in a possible imminent default in four days, and money supply still not moving anywhere as of Thursday’s Federal Reserve report, now is not the time to be climbing the Nasdaq’s Everest.