One great stock, to own right now and well into the future. Which one?
That's the question we recently put to a group of Foolish specialists. Here's why they singled out Google parent Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL), Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC), and Facebook (NASDAQ:FB).
On top of a tsunami-sized trend
Cory Renauer (Alphabet Inc.): My pick for the best stock to own right now is benefiting from a huge shift in the way companies advertise, and the best is yet to come. According to PwC, global revenue from internet advertising exceeded that of traditional television for the first time last year.
The shift was largely due to surging mobile ad sales, an area Google's parent company is poised to dominate for the foreseeable future. The company recently announced that its Android operating system powers more than two billion devices. Going forward, Alphabet's "AI-first approach" will have more data to inform the ads it serves than any of its peers, perhaps more than its only serious competitor in the space, Facebook.
When I picked up my shares of Google in 2012, the stock was depressed because the market assumed the company wouldn't be able to effectively monetize mobile traffic as well as that from desktops. Since then, the company's trailing total revenue has more than doubled, and the stock has more than tripled.
Although recent success has pushed Alphabet's stock price up to an eye-watering multiple of 29 times this year's earnings estimates, I still think there's fuel in the tank to push it even higher. The same study from PwC found that mobile ad spending jumped from 35% of the total internet ad revenue pie to 51% last year. By 2021, mobile ads are expected to surge to 75% of total internet ad revenue, a market expected to be worth $116 billion.
An opportunity hiding in plain sight
Chuck Saletta (Wells Fargo): Banking titan Wells Fargo was a darling of Wall Street as we emerged from last decade's financial crisis. One of the stronger megabanks going into the meltdown, it was among the first to emerge and begin restoring its dividends. Yet its recent scandal from opening phony accounts for customers and firing whistleblowers who called out that bad behavior knocked the bank off of its growth trajectory.
Its business has suffered in the aftermath, and its shares currently are trading near their lows thus far this year. If you believe Wells Fargo will survive the fallout from this crisis, the market's recent price for the company at around 13 times trailing and 11.6 times expected earnings looks reasonable. If you believe it will not only survive but resume thriving, then its shares look downright cheap.
Indeed, Wells Fargo's current price relative to a reasonable return to growth makes it a candidate to be considered the best stock to own today.
There are risks involved, of course. As Wells Fargo shareholder Warren Buffett famously said, "It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it." If customers don't return after the scandal, that growth may not really return. As a potential warning, its dividend has held static for five consecutive quarters. That's the first time since the end of financial crisis the company hasn't increased its dividend at least once every four quarters.
The market's memory is short, though. If consumers believe Wells Fargo has truly turned around its bad behavior and can again be trusted, then they will return, and those buying shares while the bank was struggling could be richly rewarded.
Disclosure: Chuck Saletta owns shares of Wells Fargo.
A still-young giant that could grow for years to come
John Rosevear (Facebook): Here's a company with a $450 billion market cap that grew its revenue 54% in 2016, after growing 44% the year before. It seems preposterous that a company that big is still growing that quickly, but that's the reality of Facebook -- and the growth could continue for a long time to come.
Whether you love or hate Facebook, you probably use it. So did nearly 2 billion users a month in the first quarter. (That was up 17% from a year ago, by the way). Facebook has become a key part of how people all over the world communicate and keep up with far-flung friends and family. What's more, it's still growing rapidly and seems set to keep growing for years to come.
With that growth have come fat profits, just over $3 billion last quarter, and a fast-growing cash hoard that totaled $32.3 billion as of quarter end. Did I mention that Facebook has no debt? That cash can be put to work via acquisitions or "moonshot" technology initiatives to boost profits, returned to shareholders, or both: Either way, shareholders stand to win big over time.
Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has plenty of skin in the game and is very well-regarded by Facebook employees (he's consistently among the highest-rated CEOs on Glassdoor.) His vision, paired with COO Sheryl Sandberg's execution, have put Facebook on a fast-growth path that looks likely to reward its shareholders for years to come. I'm happy to be among them.