Apple vs. Amazon Stock: Which Is the Better Buy?

Apple and Amazon May Already Be in Your Portfolio. But Which Has the Better Long-Term Upside?

Apple (AAPL) and Amazon (AMZN), two of Wall Street’s true heavyweights, have long been mainstays of many investors’ portfolios. Even the lay investor knows that, which is why they’re perhaps the two stocks my investing-agnostic friends and family members most frequently ask me about. Specifically, what they ask is: which is the better long-term investment going forward? That’s become a more pressing question now that stocks are in the midst of one of the worst collapses in market history. Eventually, stocks will bounce back, and these two mega caps are likely to lead the charge. With that in mind, I thought it might be useful to break it down with an Apple vs. Amazon stock tale of the tape.

There’s a lot to like about both companies, of course.

Apple remains a cash cow, generating $98 billion in gross profits over the last 12 months, and is in the midst of a $100 billion stock buyback plan in an effort to flex its financial muscle and lure more investors.

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Amazon, meanwhile, is arguably the most diversified company in America, having revolutionized the way people shop, launched a video streaming service that rivals Netflix (NFLX), created a profitable cloud computing wing, etc.

But there are nits to pick about each company.

Apple has become something of a one-trick pony under Tim Cook, churning out a seemingly endless line of iPhones but failing to innovate the way it did under the late Steve Jobs. With iPhone sales sagging – and critical production lines in China shuttered for the better part of a month due to the global coronavirus outbreak – it will need to create something new to really excite consumers (and investors) again. The new Apple TV+ streaming service, launched in November, looks like a nice start, though launching a streaming service isn’t exactly a novel idea (though it was quite well-timed for this era of social distancing and self-isolating). And it appears to already be lagging behind Disney’s (DIS) new (and higher-priced) Disney+ streaming service.

The problems with Amazon, meanwhile, have more to do with the stock itself—namely, its rich value. AMZN stock currently has a P/E of 83 (though it’s obviously falling), more than three times AAPL’s value. That Grand Canyon-sized chasm between the stocks’ valuations is a good place to start when examining the tale of the fundamental tape for Apple vs. Amazon stock.

Here’s a closer look at AAPL and AMZN, broken into a few key numbers:

Tale of the Tape: Apple vs. Amazon Stock

Trailing P/Es: AAPL 23, AMZN 83

Forward P/Es: AAPL 22, AMZN 65

Latest earnings growth: AAPL 11.4%, AMZN 8%

Latest sales growth: AAPL 8.9%, AMZN 20.8%

Cash per share: AAPL $24.49, AMZN $110.53

Institutional ownership: AAPL 62%, AMZN 57%

On current and future value, AAPL clearly has AMZN beat. And while Amazon has Apple beat in top-line growth, Apple’s bottom-line growth surpassed Amazon’s last quarter. Amazon has much more cash on a per-share basis despite having roughly half the total cash Apple holds. And the two stocks are similarly popular among hedge funds, though AAPL stock’s institutional ownership is a bit higher at 62%.

Now for the million dollar question: which company is likely to be hurt more by the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent recession? The easy answer is Apple. The supply chain problems in China and elsewhere are very real, and the impact on retail sales will be profound this quarter and likely next as the company announced on Tuesday that it is closing all its retail stores outside of China “until further notice.”

Amazon, on the other hand, is one of the few companies benefitting from coronavirus. That’s what happens when you’re the largest e-commerce company in the world, and the entire world has to do its shopping online. The company is adding 100,000 full- and part-time jobs to keep up with the demand, and paying employees in warehouse and distribution roles $2 per hour extra.

And while Amazon stock hasn’t been immune to the virus, AMZN hasn’t fallen nearly as much as the market, down “just” 15.9% from its late-February high, compared to a 29% cratering in the S&P 500 as of this writing. Apple’s losses have been more profound. AAPL stock is down 25% from its mid-February highs. That disparity, and just the practicalities of Amazon’s business being pandemic-friendly, and Apple’s not, is enough to give AMZN the nod in the battle of Apple vs. Amazon stock.

AMZN Stock is the Winner

It’s true that we’re talking about the long run here, not just the next six to nine months. Both AAPL and AMZN are stocks you’d be wise to hold in your long-term or retirement portfolio. But Amazon stock was growing faster than AAPL even before this coronavirus crash. Now that it’s held up much better during it, and given the nature of its business, Amazon looks like the better buy for the years to come.

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Chris Preston

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*This post has been updated from an original version.

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