Three ways to play consumer spending in the face of the omicron variant, according to top strategist

It was a mixed weekend for the consumer.

First, in travel, the TSA screened more than 14 million travelers from Monday through Sunday, more than double last year’s total but still shy of 2019 levels. The emergence of the omicron variant also kept travel stocks on watch to begin the week.

Meanwhile in retail, Black Friday turnout disappointed, with store traffic falling nearly 30% this year compared with 2019. Analysts still anticipate healthy growth in overall holiday spending.

And then there’s the box office rebound. The holiday weekend haul in the U.S. and Canada topped $142 million thanks to “House of Gucci” and Disney‘s “Encanto.”

CNBC’s “Trading Nation” asked two market watchers where they’re investing in the consumer given Covid’s strangle on the return to normalcy.

“The omicron variant is a fly in the ointment partially because we don’t really know what it is yet,” Gina Sanchez, chief market strategist at Lido Advisors, said Monday. “We have expectations that we will continue to have a rebound. We really like, for example, Delta Air Lines here, even despite the watch that it’s been put on thanks to new travel bans cropping up.”

Delta has fallen 9% in the past week. It has dropped 31% from a March high.

However, if the emergent omicron threat is worse than feared, Sanchez says, it makes sense to double down on some of the more defensive stocks already in Lido’s portfolio.

Walmart is one of them. Walmart is a company that has been a big winner in the supply chain nastiness, and they have been able to manage their supply chain and have really been beating out the competition,” she said.

“The other is the digital play, which is Amazon … It’s had a harder time this year because of the reopening, but we don’t think that that story goes away,” she said.

Walmart and Amazon have both lagged the market this year. Walmart is down 1% in 2021, and Amazon is up 9%. The S&P 500, by comparison, has gained 24%.

Ari Wald, head of technical analysis at Oppenheimer, agrees with Sanchez that Amazon seems a likely winner. He says the stock is “the best it’s looked in a while” for multiple reasons.

“From the top-down viewpoint, it’s this idea that the macro trends are converging once again to support high-growth investing,” Wald said during the same interview. “As rates and commodities transition to a range here given some of these near-term uncertainties, we are seeing relative strength in those higher growth ideas [such as Amazon].”

“Looking at Amazon’s trend relative to the S&P 500, that really makes the case from a bottom-up viewpoint,” he said. “It’s been underperforming since July of 2020 when it last peaked relative to the market … and now is showing signs of stabilizing.”

Wald adds that a move back above its 200-day moving average relative to the S&P 500 would support even more gains ahead for Amazon.

Disclosure: Lido Advisors holds shares of Delta Air Lines, Amazon and Walmart.

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