The year may have begun as bad as investors could have imagined, with all three major U.S. indexes losing at least 10% by mid-February. But with just three weeks to go before the end of 2016, all three indexes have pushed to new all-time highs.
As we head into 2017, growth stocks are likely to come into focus even more than they already have. Not only do Wall Street and investors look to faster growing stocks to lead the stock market higher during bull markets, but the current low interest rate environment remains conducive to borrowing, which should allow high-growth stocks to outpace their competition.
A recent Bank of America/Merrill Lynch report mostly corroborates this thesis, with value stocks outpacing growth stocks over the past 90 years, but growth stocks handily outperforming value stocks since the end of the Great Recession. As long as interest rates remain relatively low, growth stocks have a good chance of performing well.
With this in mind, let's take a look at three top growth stocks that should be on your radar and very well could be worth buying in 2017.
Ligand Pharmaceuticals Inc.
You certainly don't have to look far in the biotech industry to find growth. Profits, on the other hand, are pretty rare. With Ligand Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:LGND), an owner of royalty assets in the biotech space, you get both.
The allure of Ligand is both the diversity of its potential revenue stream and its business structure, which leads to low overhead costs. Based on Ligand's investor presentation from November, there are more than 150 drugs in development that are utilizing Ligand's intellectual property. That's up from just nine in 2008. Furthermore, 14 drugs are now generating an average of 3.5% to 4.5% of net sales for Ligand, up from just one in 2008. Having more than 90 licensing partners gives Ligand excellent revenue diversity, and it means the failure of a single drug in clinical trials won't wreck its long-term outlook.
Ligand's business structure is also a positive for investors. The company's focus is on acquiring assets, not the typical research and development that's both costly and time-consuming for most biotech companies. The result is significantly lower costs, allowing Ligand to be highly profitable on what would normally be a revenue figure that's too small to lead to recurring profits for traditional drug companies.
Over the past three years, Ligand's revenue has more than doubled from $49 million in 2013 to an expected $112 million at the midpoint in 2016. After generating a little over $2 in full-year EPS in 2015, Ligand is on track for $8.65 (per Wall Street's consensus) in full-year EPS by 2019. It's a strong growth stock that should be high on your radar.
Yamana Gold Inc.
Though the mining industry is not often thought of as an industry that breeds growth stocks, Yamana Gold (NYSE:AUY) is a name that investors won't want to forget about in 2017.
While gold prices were falling between 2011 and 2015, many of Yamana's peers were reducing their spending and shuttering mines. Yamana Gold, on the other hand, has been busy acquiring properties and advancing a number of projects which are expected to see the light of day in 2018 and 2019.
On the acquisition front, Yamana Gold acquired the gold and copper Riacho dos Machados mine for less than $50 million from Carpathian Gold earlier this year. On pace to produce 55,000 ounces of gold in 2016, Riacho dos Machados is expected to be fully ramped up by 2018, with annual yield of 100,000 ounces of gold.
But that's just the beginning for Yamana. In addition to Riacho dos Machados, the C1 Santa Luz development is expected to begin commercial production in the first quarter of 2018 and yield an initial output of 130,000 ounces of gold. Over the first seven years, the average output is expected to be 114,000 ounces. Cerro Moro is also expected to begin commercial production in early 2018. Finally, the Suruca development at one its flagship mines, Chapada, is anticipated to add 45,000 to 60,000 ounces per year for the four-to-five-year lifespan of the mine beginning as early as 2019. Yamana's production is set to spike higher, and once it brings these mines to commercial production, its capital costs should drop considerably. This win-win could result in a tripling to quadrupling in Yamana's full-year EPS between 2016 and 2019.
Using our binoculars, Wall Street's expected $0.43 in EPS by 2019 looks particularly attractive next to Yamana's current share price of just $3.02.
In the technology space, the growth stock you should be monitoring closely and considering on any weakness is none other than social media giant Facebook (NASDAQ:FB). Despite nearly sextupling in price over the past five years, Facebook continues to put Wall Street's profit projections to shame. And here's the kicker: it's still scratching the surface in terms of how to monetize its media platforms.
The third-quarter earnings results at Facebook speak for themselves. Daily active users shot higher by 17% year-over-year to 1.18 billion, while mobile daily active users have now hit 1.09 billion. Facebook also announced 1.79 billion monthly active users, or nearly a quarter of the people on the planet.
What's most impressive about Facebook's Q3 performance is that its 59% year-over-year advertising revenue growth led to a 166% jump in net income. Expenses are growing at less than half the rate of revenue, and it's a clear indication of Facebook's pricing power as an advertiser, a testament to its data culling prowess for advertisers, and an indication that businesses are eager to use Facebook's advertising services.
The aforementioned kicker is its flagship Facebook website represents just one of the many channels it can use to generate revenue. Facebook hasn't done much of anything with Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp, but that doesn't negate the fact that these are potentially lucrative future growth avenues for the company. For instance, WhatsApp's mobile messaging app passed 1 billion monthly active users in February 2016. These are dollar signs for Facebook when it does decide to fully monetize the platform.
The bottom line is this: until Facebook gives Wall Street a reason to worry, don't. With its full-year EPS expected to essentially double from an estimated $4.09 in 2016 to $8.08 by 2019 on the back of a $30 billion increase in revenue from $27 billion to $57 billion, Facebook remains an intriguing growth stock that could be worth buying.
Sean Williams owns shares of Bank of America, but has no material interest in any other companies mentioned in this article. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen name TMFUltraLong, and check him out on Twitter, where he goes by the handle @TMFUltraLong.
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