The election is over, and that means investors are hunting for stocks they can buy, now that the election uncertainty has passed. We reached out to some of our top contributors to get their opinion on what big-cap stocks investors can buy, and they came back with Schlumberger (SLB 3.98%), Facebook (META), and Amazon.com (AMZN 1.21%). Read on to learn if these Goliath stocks are right for your portfolio.
Spring is coiled and ready to rebound
Tyler Crowe (Schlumberger): By just about every traditional valuation metric, oil-services giant Schlumberger doesn't exactly look like a cheap stock. That's the funny thing with companies in cyclical industries, though. When companies are at or near the bottom of the cycle, their valuation looks expensive because earnings have been depressed. Don't let that sway you from looking at this stock, though, because there's a lot of room to run for this $100 billion company.
Schlumberger is by far the biggest player in the oil and gas equipment and services business. Its market cap is larger than its next four largest competitors combined. This gives the company a little bit more pricing power than some of its peers and allows it to only select oil and gas projects that will generate sufficient returns, as CEO Paal Kibsgaard stated on the most recent conference call that the company would do.
One thing to keep in mind is that Schlumberger's largest focus is international and deep offshore drilling projects. This kind of oil-drilling activity is expected to take longer to recover than shale drilling on land. So investors will need to be patient with this stock. That said, there are signs that we are at or near the bottom of the oil cycle, and Schlumberger's profits are probably headed for big gains in the coming years.
Evan Niu, CFA (Facebook): Although Facebook is currently within spitting distance of its all-time high and is already valued at over $370 billion, I still think the social network has room to run. It's not common to see a company execute as well as Facebook has in recent years, particularly on the mobile front. It now seems like ancient history when the company wasn't monetizing mobile usage in any meaningful way. But as soon as the company started trying, it quickly silenced its skeptics. Mobile ad revenue now comprises 84% of ad revenue, a metric that has climbed every quarter without fail for the past four years. If you translate those percentages into absolute dollars, Facebook has now generated $17.4 billion in mobile ad revenue over the past year. The monetization engine is unstoppable at this point.
Even as up-and-coming social networks such as Snapchat attempt to carve out a place for themselves, Facebook seems destined to always be the dominant social network, given its sheer size and ubiquity. On top of that, the company is now exploring other areas where it can connect people, particularly at work. Facebook's new Workplace offering is a compelling enterprise play to facilitate collaboration within and across companies. As software companies mature, they quickly realize that there's a whole lot more money in the enterprise, and Facebook has already recognized that you need channel partners to succeed in the enterprise. The price points are also quite competitive, undercutting hot start-ups such as Slack. Facebook's R&D expenditures for Workplace are probably modest relative to the opportunity that it's pursuing, so the risk/reward looks very appealing and asymmetric.
Facebook is already a massive company, but I think Mark Zuckerberg is just getting started.
Profit from presents
Todd Campbell (Amazon.com): If you're looking for stocks to buy ahead of the holiday shopping season, perhaps there's no better stock to buy than Amazon.com. Amazon is a fast-growing retail Goliath, and the fourth quarter is historically the company's best in terms of sales.
Last year, Amazon dominated online Black Friday sales, capturing 36% of consumer shopping on the internet, according to Slice's package-tracking app. Further, Amazon benefited nicely from a 24% lift in online sales from Black Friday through Cyber Monday last year, according to ChannelAdvisor. Amazon didn't say exactly how much it generated in sales over that important shopping weekend, but its sales soared 22% to $35.7 billion in Q4, 2015, and its operating income reached $1.1 billion that quarter, up 88% from Q4 2014.
Obviously, there's no guarantee that Amazon will be similarly successful this year, but I think the odds are pretty good that consumers will continue shifting their holiday shopping online, and if I'm right, then Amazon will benefit. According to a Deloitte forecast, retail sales this holiday season will increase 3.6% to 4% from last year, with e-commerce sales growing much more rapidly. Deloitte estimates online sales will climb 17% to 19% this season, resulting in total e-commerce sales of $96 billion and $98 billion this year.