Stock Market

After plunging earlier this month, due to the poorly-received launch of its A.I. platform Bard, the dust seems to have settled when it comes to Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOG,GOOGL). GOOG stock has found support in the mid-$90s per share.

Some investors may see this as a sign that now is the right time to enter/add to a position in the Google parent’s shares. After all, one can argue that the stock is reasonably-priced.

Investors have also absorbed the rising chances of the tech giant finally facing major competitive challenges to its core Search business. However, while GOOG may seem as if it’s already in the buy zone, you may not want to rush in.

In the coming months, a more opportune entry point could emerge for this stock. At least, given the high chances that there’s another broad market downturn between now and the end of 2023.

GOOG Alphabet $92.17

GOOG Stock Is Attractive Despite Challenges

There’s plenty to be concerned about when it comes to Alphabet shares. Not only is the company at risk of losing market shares, and seeing its profit margins squeeze, as Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), through its new partnership with ChatGPT developer OpenAI, integrates A.I. technology into its Bing search platform.

Competition is having a negative impact on the performance of Alphabet’s other key business units, including YouTube and Google Cloud. On top of all this, the company remains in the cross-hairs of the U.S. Department of Justice (or DOJ).

The DOJ has sued Alphabet’s Google unit, alleging that the platform has engaged in past monopolistic practices in the digital advertising space. Regulators, politicians and pundits alike continue to call for this tech behemoth to be broken up.

Yet despite these competitive and regulatory risks, alongside headwinds like the current tech slowdown, these issues are arguably more than priced into GOOG stock.

Shares currently trade for only 20.7 times earnings, a more-than-fair multiple for such a high-margin business. Furthermore, earnings per share could rise substantially over the next few years, as the tech sector bounces back, and recent layoffs produce cost savings that fall straight to the bottom line.

Why It’s Still Best to Wait

Patient investors with a long-term mindset could be rewarded handsomely, if they choose to buy GOOG stock while it’s out of favor. It may take a few years, but moderate earnings growth alone may be sufficient to get shares back to near their all-time highs (around $150 per share).

Nevertheless, even as that suggests more than a 60% upside, it may still be best to wait. As I mentioned above, the overall stock market remains at high risk of experiencing another sell-off as a result of interest rate policy.

The latest Consumer Price Index data signals that inflation is not cooling down fast enough. There’s now a greater chance that the Federal Reserve will get more aggressive with rate hikes, pushing rates much higher than the market currently expects.

If this plays out, GOOG, like other major stocks, will pull back, as higher rates will have an impact on the stocks valuation. In addition, higher rates could extend the tech market slump. The resultant fear, uncertainty, and doubt could result in GOOG re-testing its 52-week low ($83.45 per share), or perhaps, result in shares hitting a new 52-week low.

My Verdict on GOOG

At an entry price of $83.45 per share, or better, in the $70s per share, you can still win big with Alphabet. This is the case even if results come up short of the aforementioned forecasts.

The mere normalization of macro conditions, plus the impact of layoff-related cost savings, may enable the FAANG component to report the level of earnings necessary to produce double-digit annualized gains.

If a further worsening of the macro picture in 2023 only slightly extends the slump, earnings could still get back to near levels justifying a return to $150 per share, resulting in your position nearly doubling over a two or three-year timeframe.

Alphabet isn’t in screaming buy territory just yet, but it may get there in a matter of months. With this, keep GOOG stock on your watchlist, and pounce if it experiences another round of moderate weakness.

On the date of publication, Thomas Niel did not hold (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 InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.

Thomas Niel, contributor for InvestorPlace.com, has been writing single-stock analysis for web-based publications since 2016.

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