The market giveth, and sometimes the market taketh away. To be crystal clear, it does far more giving than taking over the long run, with the average return for the market totaling 7% per year, inclusive of dividend reinvestment and when adjusted for inflation. But stock market corrections -- i.e., declines of at least 10% from a recent high -- are a natural part of the investment world, and ultimately far more common than you probably realize.
Whereas short-term investors might view a correction as an opportunity to head for cover, long-term investors view them as opportunities to make money. That's because each and every correction in the stock market since 1950 has eventually been completely erased by a bull market rally. More often than not, this happens in a matter of weeks or months, rather than years. This suggests that bargains may abound for investors right now.
Recently, we looked at three value stocks that are cheaper than they've been in a long time and could make for excellent buys right now. Today, we'll examine the other side of the coin: growth stocks. Following the stock markets' swoon, the following three growth stocks are easy to like.
I'm certainly not after creativity points with this selection, but following a more-than-$550 decline in the share price of e-commerce and cloud giant Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN), it's certainly worth a look.
Amazon's fall from grace is a combination of two factors. First, short-term trading emotions are likely taking hold. As the market sinks, investors are looking to lock in gains, or perhaps tax-based losses, prior to the end of 2018. And secondly, we're seeing a reaction to weaker-than-expected sales forecast for the holiday season from Amazon. Like Apple, Amazon isn't all that aggressive with its outlook, so its forecast should probably be taken with a grain of salt by Wall Street and investors.
Most folks are acutely aware of Amazon's dominance in online retail, but what many may not realize is just what a powerhouse it's become for small- and medium-sized businesses in the cloud. Amazon Web Services (AWS) recorded 46% year-on-year sales growth in the third quarter to go along with an operating margin of 31% ($2.08 billion in operating income on $6.68 billion in sales). Meanwhile, the company's core retail operations traditionally have a single-digit operating margin. AWS has been growing considerably faster than Amazon's e-commerce operations, which is great news since it's a considerably higher-margin business.
In terms of value, few fundamental investors would consider Amazon based on traditional metrics. On the basis of its forward P/E of 56, most fundamentally focused investors are going to look the other direction.
But traditional metrics are a poor way of valuing Amazon, which enjoys dipping its toes into new ventures, such as through its purchases of organic and natural grocer Whole Foods Market and online pharmacy PillPack. Rather than focusing on earnings per share, cash flow per share is a more accurate measure of this company's value. And looking ahead, Wall Street expects Amazon's cash flow per share to catapult from $37.39 in 2017 to $143 by 2021. Having historically been valued at 25 to 30 times cash flow per share, Amazon is now trading at less than 11 times Wall Street's projected 2021 cash flow. That, to me, is a bargain for a growth stock with improving margins.
In the healthcare sector, surgically assisted robotic device maker Intuitive Surgical (NASDAQ:ISRG) is a growth stock that's looking considerably more attractive with each major down day in the market.
One of the more mind-boggling trends during corrections is the retracement often seen in healthcare stocks -- as if fewer people get sick when the stock market drops or when economic growth is slowing. Sure, we may see a modest slowdown in elective surgical procedures and a push to generic medicines, but folks don't have any control over when they get sick or what ailment they have. This creates a relatively steady stream of patients and cash flow for many healthcare companies that simply won't be disrupted by a stock market correction or economic contraction.
That being said, Intuitive Surgical offers much more than just steady cash flow. Whereas you might think that the company's pricey da Vinci surgical systems are where it generates most of its profits, that's not the case. These machines are intricate and quite costly to build, and therefore generate relatively low margins.
Rather, it's the instrument and accessory sales with each procedure, as well as regular servicing needs for the various da Vinci models, that are generating the bulk of Intuitive Surgical's operating margin. This is an important point, because as the number of installed da Vinci systems grows, Intuitive's higher-margin instruments and services revenue should increase as well. Essentially, like Amazon, Intuitive Surgical's margins should get better over time.
Also, don't overlook that the company is just touching the tip of the iceberg on what its system could do for soft tissue surgeries. Already a surgical leader in gynecology and urology procedures, the da Vinci system has plenty of opportunity for expansion into thoracic and colorectal surgeries, where Intuitive's more precise system could improve recovery times and reduce damage to healthy tissue. With annual topline growth of 10% to 15%, and steady profit growth of 15% to 20% through 2021, this healthcare growth stock could be a cure for all your portfolio's ills.
Some pundits have suggested that recent data scandals have sapped Facebook of its rapid growth prospects. However, the data suggest otherwise. The largest social media company in the world by market cap saw 33% sales growth to $13.5 billion in the third quarter as the number of monthly active users rose 10% to 2.27 billion. This includes average revenue per user (ARPU) gains in all geographic breakdowns, including an ARPU of $27.61 in Q3 2018 in the U.S. and Canada, up from $21.20 in Q3 2017. ARPU also grew by 29% in Europe, 18% in Asia-Pacific, and 14% in the rest-of-world category from the year-ago quarter.
Investors can also ask this logical question: Where else can users go to get a similar social media experience? WhatsApp possibly... but, oh yeah, Facebook owns that, too. The same goes for Instagram, which Facebook also owns and is in the relatively early stages of monetizing. Advertisers know that user options are limited if they want an all-encompassing social media experience, which is what gives Facebook such incredible pricing power with these advertisers.
Facebook is also actively increasing its head count as it aims to improve user engagement and enhance its push into video and streaming content. Adding new employees is bound to be a temporary drag on the company's operating margin, as expenses rise faster than revenue. But the last time we witnessed something similar happen, Facebook's margin soon picked up and those previous worries turned out to be short-term white noise. That could be the case once again.
Like Amazon, Facebook is a company best examined under the microscope of cash flow per share, since it loves to put its operating cash flow to work in a variety of endeavors. Currently expected to generate $12.47 in cash flow per share by 2020, per Wall Street, Facebook is also valued at less than 11 times cash flow per share. Yet, it's averaged a price to cash flow of 31.4 over the past five years. That would suggest Facebook is quite the bargain for the growth it can still bring to the social media table.
John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Sean Williams has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Intuitive Surgical. The Motley Fool has the following options: long January 2020 $150 calls on Apple and short January 2020 $155 calls on Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.