Stock Market

Delta Variant Uncertainty Makes Peloton Too Opaque

Is Peloton (NASDAQ:PTON) a fad pushed artificially higher by the pandemic, or a trend that’s just taking off? That’s the question investors have been asking about PTON stock for quite some time. The company, which operates a fitness platform for live and on-demand indoor cycling classes, received an obvious boost as the pandemic shuttered gyms. 

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But it’s probably unfair to attribute the company’s early massive success to that factor alone. Pundits have long expected Peloton to slide on vaccine distribution and the reopening of businesses, and that is largely what has occurred.

PTON stock reached highs in the $160s in early 2021 following a massive run up. But share prices have slid since, and the stock now sits around $110. 

That volatility makes it too difficult to act on Peloton in either direction right now. 

The Delta Variant and PTON Stock

The delta variant is a current catalyst for Peloton, and it adds a confusing element to its narrative. It’s making the big picture unclear at best right now, and that’s why I would recommend holding PTON stock if you own it, but not buying shares if you don’t. 

According to Yale Medicine, the delta variant is now the predominant strain of Covid-19 in the U.S. The highly contagious strain is fueling worries that further lockdowns could occur. 

In such a scenario, the expected narrative for Peloton would be an increase in demand. And even if further lockdowns don’t occur, the threat of the variant alone could spike demand for its products and services. 

Current holders of PTON shares are aware of those dynamics and what they mean for share prices. That should make them hesitant to sell. 

But the other side of that coin is equally persuasive. Essentially, there is little to no indication how the delta variant will affect the economy in the latest wave of Covid-19 cases. As a result, it’s very difficult to recommend that anyone establish a position in Peloton right now. 

Peloton Is a Great Workout, But…

It’s hard to argue that running, spinning and the other exercise options Peloton offers aren’t good exercise. I’m sure that even the most hardcore gym rat would struggle to complete many of them. 

But at the same time, the truth is that some users who switched to Peloton in response to Covid-19 restrictions will leave once gyms open. Simply put, the company isn’t going to replace traditional weight workouts. Some of its current subscribers are itching to return to the gym. 

Even the most growth-oriented investors are quick to note this truth. My colleague Luke Lango asks and answers this question about Peloton:

Does working out at home work for everyone?

Certainly not. Some people need access to equipment they can’t feasibly purchase and store in their own home. Some people have different fitness goals than can be achieved using Peloton’s equipment and app.”

He, however, is more certain than I am that Peloton has potential beyond its pandemic gains. He’s certainly not wrong to note the company’s impressive growth thus far. 

Peloton’s Growth Continues to Confound Investors

Peloton’s growth trajectory has been nothing short of phenomenal. Connected fitness subscription growth has been impressive. In the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2020, Peloton counted nearly 1.1 million subscribers. That figure doubled in its most recent quarter. Revenue also doubled, hitting $1.262 billion in the same time frame.  

It’s easy to cherry pick any number of other statistics related to the company’s growth. Do so, and it’ll likely lead to the conclusion that PTON is a buy. But come to that conclusion at your own risk because again, uncertainty is very high right now. 

As an investment, Peloton comes down to a matter of taste. For the raw growth investor, it’s probably too tempting to avoid PTON stock right now. Wall Street is on its side, which helps. But for the risk-averse, there are simply too many pitfalls to avoid right now. 

On the date of publication, Alex Sirois did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the Publishing Guidelines.

Alex Sirois is a freelance contributor to InvestorPlace whose personal stock investing style is focused on long-term, buy-and-hold, wealth-building stock picks.?Having worked in several industries from e-commerce to translation to education and utilizing his MBA from George Washington University, he brings a diverse set of skills through which he filters his writing.