Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) closed out 2018 in encouraging fashion. Its 4.5% surge on Monday made it the S&P 500's biggest gainer for the day. The leading premium video streaming had a strong year for its stockholders, up a scintillating 39.4% in 2018. It was the best-performing FAANG stock, bucking the general market's malaise. Netflix nearly cracked the top 10 of the year's biggest gainers in the S&P 500, but investors probably aren't satisfied.
The stock had more than doubled when it peaked in June. Netflix went on to close 37% below the all-time high it hit a little more than six months earlier. It's still a blowout year. Most investors would take a nearly 40% pop in a down year. However, there's a tart aftertaste to the performance. History suggests that the year ahead could be better.
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The odd couple
Taking out the measuring tape to size up Netflix returns over the past few years shows a trend of big gains in odd-numbered years.
- 2013: 298%
- 2014: (7%)
- 2015: 134%
- 2016: 8%
- 2017: 55%
- 2018: 39%
Netflix was the S&P 500's biggest gainer in 2013 and then again in 2015. It failed to deliver the three-peat in 2017, but the stock still trounced the market with its 55% spike that year. This brings us to 2019, and the company's putting the stock in a great spot to succeed again.
The year begins with Netflix near the top of the app marketplaces. The surprising success of Bird Box -- with a third of Netflix's 135.1 million subscribers checking out the dystopian flick in its first week of streaming availability -- is turning heads. The gaming nature of Black Mirror's new "Bandersnatch" interactive episode where viewers get to stream various story paths along the way is also opening the door for new ways to make streaming television even more engaging.
None of this means that Netflix will move up in 2019. The stock got crushed in 2011, the year of the infamous Qwikster fiasco. It's easy to write off the stock's success in 2013, 2015, and 2017 as simply a coincidence. However, you will probably see conspiracy theorists and fans of odd numbers start to get giddy if Netflix comes through with another blowout quarter in two weeks.
Fundamentally, Netflix is hitting all of the right buttons to start off the new year. Bird Box and Black Mirror's gave it back-to-back hits in the final two weeks of December, and on Tuesday, it announced a summertime release date for the new season of Stranger Things. Netflix is making its service that much more essential, and we may be at the point where the fears of the rival services set to debut later this year are overblown.
2019 is going to be a good year for Netflix the company. It should also be a strong year for Netflix the stock -- but only because the dot-com darling is in a strong position to bounce back since correcting sharply through the latter half of 2018. It's not fate. It's not luck. It's just a bar-raising company getting back on track.
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