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Netflix stock is vulnerable in a recession, Nomura says

Daniel Roberts

In the event of a recession, Nomura analysts like Chewy, Amazon, Facebook and Alphabet—but not Netflix.

In a note published Monday, Nomura Instinet looked for lessons from the 2008 recession and concluded that the “continued digital shift” will help internet stocks outperform if we see a recession in the near future. And Nomura frames e-commerce stocks, specifically, as recession-proof.

“Our analysis suggests that e-commerce stocks are among the best to own in such an environment, especially those whose end markets tend to be resistant to economic shocks,” the note says. “We believe Chewy (CHWY)... fits this profile, with pet-care spend actually growing through the 2008 downturn. Amazon (AMZN)... is also well-positioned as a general-purpose retailer. In Digital Media, we would prefer to remain overweight companies with strong balance sheets and dominant market positions, such as Alphabet and Facebook.”

Netflix (NFLX) and Snap (SNAP), Nomura writes, don’t pass the same test—nor does the entire interactive entertainment space.

“We would be cautious regarding cash-flow-negative companies, such as Snap and Netflix, and those companies exposed to cyclical or discretionary end markets, such as ANGI Homeservices [parent company of HomeAdvisor and Angie’s List] and the Interactive Entertainment sector.”

So Nomura is betting that when times are tight, you’ll sooner cut down on digital television than scrimp on your dog’s favorite food.

Indeed, lately it has become popular to question whether Netflix is recession-proof. In 2011, amid the fallout of the 2008 recession, Netflix saw its stock slide 80% and lost a slew of customers. Netflix stock rises and falls mostly based on subscriber additions each quarter. And the assumption is that during a time of financial belt-tightening, Netflix is a discretionary luxury that consumers might cut.

There’s just one big problem with that reasoning: recent surveys suggest Americans are still at a point where they’re willing to add more subscriptions, not cut. And even as their subs pile up, people still feel they’re saving money by cord-cutting.

"Stranger Things" cast members Joe Keery (L) and Gaten Matarazzo pose at the second season premiere of the Netflix hit in Los Angeles, Calif., on Oct. 26, 2017. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

A 2017 Deloitte report on digital media subscriptions projected that by the end of 2020, half of adults in developed countries will be paying for at least four digital media subscriptions. More interestingly: Deloitte says that by that time, 20% of adults in developed countries will be paying for 10 digital media subscriptions, at a total average spend of over $100 per month.

In other words: the current average number of streaming subscriptions per person is going to go up before it levels off or declines.

Every original content creator is betting on that: Disney (DIS) and Apple (AAPL) are both launching new streaming subscription offerings in November, and WarnerMedia and NBCUniversal have offerings coming soon after that.

Just consider how bullish UBS analysts are on Disney+, which will launch Nov. 12 at a very cheap starting price of $6.99 a month. UBS surveyed 2,000 adults in the U.S. between April and May and found that 43% are interested in Disney+, well above Disney’s own projection of 20% to 30% of broadband households subscribing by 2024.

As all of these new offerings proliferate, there is still, for now, room for more—despite recession fears.

“I do believe that the pie is big enough,” CFRA Research analyst Tuna Amobi told Yahoo Finance earlier this year, “for Netflix, and Disney streaming, and all of these emergent players to continue to grow.”

If the U.S. does see a recession in the next two years and you need to cut costs, what’s the first digital subscription you’d cancel?