There's arguably no better way to predictably generate wealth than to buy shares of solid businesses and hold them over the long term. Thus -- with the caveat that it's wise to touch base from quarter to quarter to ensure your thesis remains intact -- it's a useful exercise to seek stocks you can comfortably buy and forget about.
So we asked three top Motley Fool investors to each pick a stock that they believe fits that mold. Read on to learn why they chose Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE:CMG), Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN), and Align Technology (NASDAQ:ALGN).
Buy and let Chipotle do the work
Steve Symington (Chipotle Mexican Grill): With shares of Chipotle down nearly 60% from their 2015 highs, including a more than 30% drop over the past three months alone, it's been a rough ride for shareholders of the fast-casual burrito chain. That's not to say Chipotle's fall from grace was entirely unmerited; as if diners weren't already skittish after the initial food-borne illness scares that set off its string of painful results a couple of years ago, investors now fear that a more recent norovirus outbreak at a single Virginia location has derailed the significant progress made in its turnaround through the first half of 2017.
But Chipotle is forging forward with its plans to right its ship, including the nationwide rollout of queso earlier this week, and carefully implemented price increases in certain areas -- pending favorable consumer sentiment and visit habits, of course -- which should collectively help bolster its traffic and margins going forward.
This doesn't mean Chipotle's upward trajectory will be smooth. Shares are down around 10%, after all, since I argued in July that Chiopotle stock was absurdly cheap based on a conservative view of its earnings potential, solid profitability despite its troubles, and its steadily growing base of over 2,300 locations.
So for investors willing to pick up shares now and stop watching the news while the company implements its recovery strategy, I think Chipotle is a mouthwatering bargain right now.
Dominating multiple growing trends
Danny Vena (Amazon.com, Inc.): If you want to buy a stock you can forget about, there are several characteristics that can help an investor sleep at night. A company at the intersection of a paradigm shift in consumer behavior, coupled with leading-edge technology, and a relentless focus on customer service will help to ensure that an investment grows for decades to come. Amazon is just such a company.
Amazon is the undisputed worldwide e-commerce leader, and online shopping is just getting started, accounting for only 8.2% of all U.S. retail sales. Customers of Amazon's growing Prime loyalty program spend nearly twice that of nonmembers.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) takes the crown in cloud computing, accounting for 34% of the cloud infrastructure services market, with its nearest competitor controlling a mere 11%. AWS accounted for only 8% of the company's revenue, but 73% of operating profits in 2016.
Amazon is a commanding presence in nascent area of artificial intelligence, using the science to improve customer purchase recommendations, enhance logistics, and produce new product categories. The Echo smart speaker was the first of its kind, giving birth to an industry, and Amazon's Alexa-enabled devices currently control an estimated 82% of the market.
Last year, the e-tailer produced revenue of $136 billion, up 27% over the prior year, while net income nearly quadrupled to $2.4 billion, impressive growth for a company with a market cap of $464 billion.
Once you buy this stock, you can fuhgeddaboudit!
A stock to keep you smiling
Cory Renauer (Align Technology, Inc.): Thanks to this company, clunky metal braces are going the way of pay phones and cursive handwriting. Awkward teenagers aren't the only demographic grateful for Align Technology's nearly invisible dental aligners, scores of adults unhappy with their teeth have become Invisalign customers as well.
Although Invisalign systems can be made from old-fashioned putty impressions, digital blueprints created with laser guided 3D scanners are far more efficient. Convincing orthodontists to use fancy new technology after they spend years perfecting manual techniques isn't always easy. That's why it was extremely encouraging to see second-quarter sales of Align's iTero scanners jumped 36.7% compared to the same period last year.
Expectations for more rapid growth have driven the stock's price up to about 63 times trailing earnings. That's high enough to expect some big price fluctuations in the years ahead, but I still think this is a stock you can tuck away and forget about. Align Technology's total sales have been climbing by double-digit percentages for years and appear to be accelerating. In the second quarter, total sales rose 32.3% over the previous year period to $357 million.
While we can reasonably expect competition in the years ahead, the company has a huge head start. Invisalign is just about the only brand of dental aligners patients ask for by name. Plus, using a new brand of medical device nearly always involves training costs that discourage switching. Put it together and this looks like a stock that won't need any more attention than its invisible aligners generate.
Cory Renauer has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Danny Vena owns shares of Amazon and Chipotle Mexican Grill and has the following options: short January 2018 $560 calls on Chipotle Mexican Grill, long January 2018 $530 calls on Chipotle Mexican Grill, short January 2018 $520 calls on Chipotle Mexican Grill, and long January 2018 $470 calls on Chipotle Mexican Grill. Steve Symington has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Align Technology, Amazon, and Chipotle Mexican Grill. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.