Friday File: Insurance and Tech Updates (and buys)

Quarterly updates from Amazon, Alphabet, AJ Gallagher, Brown & Brown, Markel, Goosehead and more... buying in five stocks this week, and selling in one

By Travis Johnson, Stock Gumshoe, April 30, 2021

This is one of the biggest weeks for earnings in the Real Money Portfolio, so I’ll mostly be checking up on the quarterly updates from some of my larger holdings for you today… but in analyzing quarterly updates and other news, I did find myself drawn to make a few purchases (and one sale).

If you’re looking for something to make you feel worrisomely like we’re in a market that rhymes with the bull-market peak of 1999 and 2000, then the headlines and rumors about Amazon (AMZN) maybe announcing a stock split this week probably lit up your screen with alarm bells (they didn’t announce a split on the earnings call, but lots of folks were talking up the idea). Stock splits don’t really mean anything, particularly in this world of fractional share trading, but small individual investors love them and they do tend to drive share prices up in the few months after a split announcement.

I have no idea what logic you might dredge up for why Amazon would split its shares for the first time since those heady days of 1999, unless Jeff Bezos has some desire to get included in the Dow (unlike the S&P 500, price per share makes a big difference for Dow inclusion), but it’s also true that some peer-sized companies (Apple and Tesla) did do big stock splits last year and rallied to new highs as a result. So maybe there’s hope for Amazon yet.

So how did those Amazon earnings look last night? Well, covering Amazon and Alphabet today means I’m probably going to run out of superlatives… but they were, frankly, just awesome. Alphabet went first, so we’ll start with them…

Alphabet (GOOG) posted a pretty extraordinary “beat” in its first quarter, a really strong sign that advertising is picking back up faster than analysts might have feared — Google has the benefit of being not just a stay-at-home stock, showing ads to homebound teenagers on YouTube, but also a big beneficiary of the “reopening” as some of the biggest segments of the advertising industry begin to recover (travel, restaurants, feature films, events — especially travel, which drove well above 10% of GOOG earnings pre-pandemic). I expect that will also be a good thing for all of the other ad-dependent companies out there, particularly those who are in the more flexible “turn it ...

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