These are unprecedented times for many Americans, and for most people around the globe. The spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), a lung-focused illness that's killed almost 5,800 people as of March 15, has caused the U.S. and other countries to consider and implement mitigation measures that would never have been believable even a few short weeks ago.
The actions being taken by federal and local government around the globe have ranged from suggested social distancing to the mandated shutdowns of all non-essential shops, the latter of which has occurred in France, Belgium, Spain, and Italy.
While the actions begin undertaken are designed to limit the spread of coronavirus and ensure that hospitals don't become overwhelmed by sick patients, they could ultimately wreak havoc on the U.S. and global economy over the short term. This fear of recession is what's spiraled stocks into a bear market faster than any previous correction in history.
However, not every company is necessarily going to be harmed by the proliferation of coronavirus. With the personal belief that this illness is a relatively short-term drag on the U.S. and global economy, here are seven stocks that coronavirus can't touch.
I may not personally be a huge fan of Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) given the company's ongoing net-cash outflow that's tied to its aggressive international push, but I'm also not oblivious to a clear and obvious winner of social distancing and self-quarantine when I see one.
Although new shows or movies will almost certainly be put on hold for an indefinite period of time, the prospect of gaining U.S. and international streaming subscribers should certainly pick up for Netflix. Not to mention, it becomes a lot more palatable for folks who aren't able to work from home to cancel a triple-digit-priced cable package in exchange for a monthly subscription with Netflix that'll cost just a fraction of that price. Again, while I'm not in the camp that Netflix stock is cheap, it does look like a company that coronavirus isn't going to adversely impact.
2. Teladoc Health
Maybe the most notable positive impact on a specific stock from the spread of coronavirus can be seen with virtual healthcare services provider Teladoc Health (NYSE:TDOC). In fact, shares of Teladoc have gained 9% since Feb. 19, with the broader market down approximately 20% over the same period.
Teladoc is a no-brainer beneficiary given that the healthcare system will likely be overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases. Companies like Teladoc will provide a means of receiving personalized care without the patient having to leave their home, thereby reducing any potential for illness spread. While there are constraints to telemedicine, investors shouldn't be shocked if telemedicine visits skyrocket in the weeks ahead.
One of the easier ways to avoid being hammered as an investor by coronavirus panic is to buy into companies that supply a basic-need good or service. Clorox (NYSE:CLX), which provides an assortment of household and cleaning products, is an excellent example.
Obviously, Clorox is going to benefit from the run on cleaning supplies to contend with the spread of coronavirus. But the thing is, Clorox's assortment of household items was a staple in American and international households long before COVID-19 reared its head. Clorox has brand-name staying power and exceptional pricing power on its household products. It's never going to wow investors with it sales or earnings growth rate, but it consistently delivers on its income statements, year in and year out.
4. American Water Works
Keeping with the theme of basic-need good and services, America's largest publicly traded water utility, American Water Works (NYSE:AWK), shouldn't see any disruptions or cash-flow abnormalities tied to the spread of coronavirus.
There are two factors to take note of here. First, consumers rarely change their water consumption habits based on the health of the economy. If anything, the weather has more effect on water usage habits. This suggests highly predictable cash flow for American Water Works for the foreseeable future.
Secondly, the company's water and wastewater services are regulated, which means it needs to ask permission from state-level utility commissions before passing along price hikes to its customers. You might think this sounds like a growth inhibitor, but it's great news since it keeps American Water Works from being exposed to potentially volatile wholesale pricing.
5. Campbell Soup
Have I mentioned the importance of basic-need goods and services yet? If you've caught onto that theme, then you'll understand why canned food products provider Campbell Soup (NYSE:CPB) makes for an excellent investment in the current environment.
In the wake of coronavirus-induced hoarding within the U.S., Campbell announced that it was preparing to ramp-up production about two weeks ago. With some U.S. states shutting down access to restaurants, save for delivery and take-out, this production increase looks to be prudent. Considering that Campbell Soup's sales were somewhat stagnant prior to the emergence of COVID-19, this event could prove to be just what the company needs to engage with a new generation of consumers and reinvigorate sales growth for the long term.
6. Molina Healthcare
In general, the emergence of COVID-19 is a push-pull event for insurers. It'll likely have consumers rushing for insurance in the weeks and months to come, but may lead to higher costs for health insurers. However, that's not going to be the case for Molina Healthcare (NYSE:MOH).
Molina differs from most health insurance companies in that it specifically targets lower-income patients and families. The reason? Low-income individuals and families will be covered by Medicaid or Medicare. Although the reimbursement for services provided by Medicaid or Medicare can be lower than in the private health insurance marketplace, Medicaid and Medicare dollars provide guaranteed cash flow with no worries about collection since payment is being made by the government. With coronavirus spreading rapidly, the number of patients currently eligible for Medicaid or Medicare that seek medical care may skyrocket, ultimately putting big bucks into Molina's pockets.
Finally, look for supermarket chains like Kroger (NYSE:KR) to have success in the current environment. One needs to only look to their local evening news report to see that supermarket bare essentials have been gobbled up by the public in recent days. Even though supermarkets operate on relatively low margins, this surge in consumer purchasing is bound to help.
The other factor here, which echoes with the likes of American Water Works, Campbell Soup, and Clorox, is that people are going to visit supermarkets no matter how well or poorly the economy is performing. Spending may not be as robust if the economy really takes a hit from the spread of coronavirus, but many of the goods provided by Kroger are a necessity.