Buying and holding high-quality stocks is far and away the most effective way to predictably create wealth. And the longer you can hold those stocks -- we're talking years, not days, weeks, or months -- the more time you'll have to watch the power of compounding returns multiply your gains.
But finding the market's best stocks isn't easy. So to help get you started, we asked three Foolish investors to pick a growth stock that they believe investors would be wise to buy now and hold for the long term. Read on to learn why they like Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN), and Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL).
Don't overlook the bigger picture
Steve Symington (Facebook): Amid the fallout of Facebook's data-privacy scandal with Cambridge Analytica, I'm not saying it's going to be easy for Facebook to appease regulators, shareholders, and consumers. But with shares down nearly 20% from their peak in early February, I think the stock is an enticing buy for shareholders willing to bet that its situation will ultimately turn for the better.
For one, while some users have certainly abandoned their Facebook profiles in outrage, multiple industry surveys indicate that they won't have a meaningful negative impact relative to Facebook's enormous base of 2.13 billion monthly active users.
What's more, remember that Facebook the company isn't only comprised of its namesake social media platform. Facebook also owns messaging platform WhatsApp, which crossed 1.5 billion monthly active users last quarter, and Instagram, a picture-centric site that serves around 800 million people. Most users won't correlate Facebook's challenges with those two wildly popular brands.
Finally, Facebook's own Internet.org initiative regularly reminds us that two-thirds of the world's population still doesn't have access to the internet, leaving the company with a massive runway for growth long after it resolves the data-privacy challenges it faces today.
The amazing Amazon
Anders Bylund (Amazon.com): This e-commerce giant has its fair share of skeptics. After all, the stock has raced 66% higher in the last 52 weeks and trades at a mind-boggling 316 times trailing earnings. Surely this skyrocketing ticker must come down to earth someday soon, right?
Well, maybe. But if it does, that would just be a short refueling stop before the next takeoff. Amazon's investment value as a growth stock for the long run is both crystal clear and ironclad.
Starting out as a one-trick pony, the online bookstore has grown into an international e-commerce giant with plenty of profitable side businesses. Above all else, Amazon's cloud computing operations represented just 8.4% of the company's total sales in the holiday quarter -- but 64% of total operating profits. That segment, which grew out of Amazon's own heavy reliance on cloud technology, is opening whole new worlds of profitable growth opportunities.
In short, Amazon is not afraid to try out new business ideas as the market changes. That makes for a flexible long-term strategy, keeping the company healthy and relevant for many years or decades to come.
And if you ever doubted Amazon's growth prospects, let me just remind you of the company's skyrocketing business trends, starting at the top line and only growing stronger when you move further down the income statement and cash flow sheet:
That's a growth stock I'm willing and prepared to own for a very long time.
Just Google it
Keith Speights (Alphabet): When you want to find out something quickly, what do you do? For millions of people across the world, the answer is to just Google it. That's how dependent many have become on Alphabet's Google search engine. And it's Google that contributes most of Alphabet's revenue.
The reality is that Alphabet enjoys a tremendous moat with Google (and YouTube, for that matter). Others have entered the search engine and video sharing markets, but Alphabet's reign hasn't been seriously threatened. What that means, practically speaking, is that the advertising revenue generated by these products creates an enormous amount of cash for Alphabet to invest in ways to produce even more growth.
One area where the company is investing that I think could especially pay off in a major way down the road is in artificial intelligence (AI). Alphabet's AI expertise is already helping it improve its core businesses. It also could enable the company to lead in a specific application for AI with huge growth prospects: self-driving cars. Alphabet's Waymo unit already appears to be gaining a dominant position in self-driving technology.
Another area where Alphabet is placing some big bets is in healthcare. The company's Verily subsidiary is working on some intriguing projects, including smart contact lenses that detect blood glucose levels. Another subsidiary, Calico, has an even more ambitious goal: increasing the human lifespan.
For investors looking for a great long-term growth opportunity that is in solid financial shape already, I think Alphabet's a smart pick.
The Foolish bottom line
Though each of these three fast-growing companies has already handsomely rewarded patient investors in recent years, no one can absolutely guarantee that they'll continue to outperform the broader market. But whether we're talking about Facebook overcoming its current data-privacy scandal, Amazon's flexible strategy and favorable industry trends, or Alphabet's healthy core Google business and promising bets on the future, we think chances are high that these winners will keep on winning.