Will eBay Be the Next Wal-Mart?

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- It will be interesting to see how Wal-Mart's (WMT) second-quarter earnings report and conference call goes Thursday.

This behemoth with a market cap of over $242 billion has had a great run over the past year, as the chart below demonstrates. I've included a line on the stock's PEG ratio for general interest. Currently, the five-year expected PEG ratio is around 1.73, which doesn't make WMT exactly a bargain at current levels.

WMT Chart WMT data by YCharts

The bottom line: Wal-Mart's price and PEG ratio, by technical standards, is somewhat over-extended. That doesn't mean the stock may not exceed the 52-week high of $75.24 if the second-quarter numbers are much better than expected and/or next quarter's guidance is ebullient.

During its second quarter WMT did all it could to counter the negative impact of a slowing economy and reduced consumer spending. It also tried to help its growth by opening more of its Neighborhood Market grocery stores.

Since 1998 the company has expanded this division from its very first Neighborhood Market to 199 stores today. Eighty of those grocery stores were added in this fiscal year alone.

With its first Wal-Mart Express store opening last year, WMT is trying to win back some business it has been gradually losing to dollar stores like Dollar Tree ( DLTR).

The smaller Express stores have worked well for WMT in international areas including Brazil and United Kingdom. Wal-Mart hopes to expand its footprint and presence in China, the country where many of the products sold at WMT are either made or assembled.

The second quarter saw some embarrassment for WMT, as it was during that time period it was accused of using bribery to expand its Mexican operations. The accusations included a yet-unproven charge the powerhouse tried to cover up the corruption. Reportedly both the U.S. and Mexico are investigating.

Despite the charges of wrongdoing and company admissions of needing to improve on their productivity, WMT shares (as the chart above illustrates) have had an even better performance in the past two quarters.

This may partly be due to its investor-friendly $1.59 annual dividend plus the appearance that investors seem to buy the company's prospects for recovery and new impetus to expand its growth rate.

Whether or not the company has a stellar second quarter, investors may reward the idea that Wal-Mart seems to do better whenever the economy is sputtering.

Hopes for increasing dividends and more positive news down the road should help the shares stay buoyant. The bottom of the Bollinger Band range is just north of $70, and the 200-day moving average is around $63.

And Then There's eBay

The "Wal-Mart of the Web" is a story that may have even more upside potential than WMT, especially considering some big news that broke early Wednesday morning.

I'm referring to eBay ( EBAY), which set a new 52-week high during Wednesday's session after it announced its PayPal unit and Discover Financial Services ( DFS) have created a strategic partnership that will expand PayPal's payments platform to include over seven million merchant locations in the U.S. alone.

According to Jim Cramer, Stephanie Link, and TheStreet Research Team report at Action Alerts PLUS "... any merchant that accepts Discover credit cards will now be able to offer the PayPal service without any additional technology build-out -- certainly a positive.

"Discover will help promote the partnership and the PayPal network. Consumers can use their PayPal charge cards or pay by entering their mobile phone number and PIN at the terminal. And they can also order online and pick up purchases at the store."

For eBay, the partnership gives its PayPal unit immediate access to millions of vendors and tens of millions of consumers. The deal helps expand eBay's franchise, exposure, marketing and branding so that any merchant accepting Discover credit cards will now be able to offer the PayPal service without the need for new technology.

"Most importantly," according to the report, "this deal builds eBay's scale and credibility in the payments market."

When it comes to eBay stock, the positive perception of this alliance may cause the shares to test the $50-per-share price target. As the chart below shows, EBAY shares have also had a great year as its earnings-per-share growth lifted the stock price, as the late Jackie Wilson would phrase it musically, "higher and higher."

EBAY Chart EBAY data by YCharts

If the economy continues on a no-to-slow growth track, people aren't only going to shop at places like Wal-Mart and Dollar Tree. They're going online to buy and to sell all kinds of heirlooms, collectibles, no-longer-needed equipment and thousands of other items that cash-starved shoppers will want to either sell or bid on. That's going to continue to goose eBay's traffic volume and bottom-line profits.

The lower Bollinger Band for EBAY suggests a potential buy-in target price for new investors at around $43 and the 200-day Moving Average is rapidly ascending towards the $40-a-share level.

It's more than possible that an overall stock market pullback is coming in the days and weeks ahead, so patient investors may have the opportunity to buy EBAY below its current exuberant price.

Nevertheless, eBay's nearly 145% year-over-year second-quarter growth rate and 23% revenue growth rate suggests this company is on track for big growth ahead, and may emerge eventually as the biggest, most profitable "wholesaler/retailer" on the worldwide web, bar none.

At the time of publication the author had no position in any of the stocks mentioned in this article.

This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

Jim Cramer and Stephanie Link actively manage a real money portfolio for his charitable trust- enjoy advance notice of every trade, full access to the portfolio, and deep coverage of the latest economic events and market movements.

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