Anti-Amazon: A Favorite Investment Theme For 2018

It’s that time of year again. Time for the analysts and pundits to start looking ahead and muse about their favorite investment themes for the coming year in 2018. Despite the fact that the turkey was just removed from the dining room table only a few days ago, there’s no better time than the present to get out front with a few outlook appetizers for the New Year investment buffet. So, what’s among my favorite investment themes for 2018? The “Anti-Amazon” trade.

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Don’t Believe The Hype

It was not that long ago that Amazon shook the retail world with its acquisition of Whole Foods. The grocery store world was supposedly changing for good with the entry of the online retail giant into the highly competitive bricks-and-mortar grocery business. But with a few months under our belts now since Amazon closed its Whole Foods merger with great media fanfare, it is worthwhile to check in to see how the world has actually changed.

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Did Amazon Just Jump The Shark?

Online retailer Amazon.com stunned the investment world on Friday with the announcement that it had entered into a merger agreement with bricks and mortar grocery store chain Whole Foods. The stock market swiftly by ruthlessly punishing the shares of the traditional grocery store chains. But while investors are busy celebrating how the world of grocery retailing as suddenly been transformed, it is reasonable to consider whether Amazon has simply jumped the proverbial shark with this acquisition.

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Retail: Online Fox In The Office Supply Chicken Coop

A bomb was dropped in the retail industry this week. The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled to grant the Federal Trade Commission’s request to block the merger agreement between office supply superstores Staples and Office Depot. The decision took a heavy toll on the shares of these two companies, as both were sold off sharply on Wednesday following the ruling. And the market reaction was understandable, for it was an antitrust decision that is seemingly based on a market reality from many years ago that effectively clears the way for the emerging online fox to run free in the office supply chicken coop.

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The Consumer Mirage

It has been a common refrain over the last several weeks since the recent market bottom in late September. Sure, global economies outside the U.S. are continuing to struggle as evidenced by the fact that their central banks are compelled to ease even further. But the story in the United States is one of contrast and relative strength, which is supported by the fact that the U.S. Federal Reserve is feeling confident enough to begin the process of normalizing interest rates before the end of the year. And supporting the strong domestic economic thesis is the apparent vigor of the U.S. consumer, highlighted by the strength and leadership of consumer discretionary stocks during the recent stock price rebound. Perhaps, but if price is indeed truth, the apparent strength of the American consumer might just be a mirage.

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