What we are witnessing now is truly unprecedented. Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), a lung-focused illness which originated in Wuhan, within the Hubei province of China, has become a global threat to our physical and financial well-being.
As of March 16, Johns Hopkins University pegged the number of worldwide coronavirus cases at more than 181,500 people, leading to over 7,100 deaths. What's particularly unnerving is that, while the number of new cases in Wuhan has slowed to a crawl, COVID-19 confirmed cases are climbing rapidly around the globe.
In order to slow the transmission of coronavirus, countries around the world have implemented stringent mitigation measures, some of which involve complete lockdowns of their citizens. While such moves can save lives and keep respective healthcare systems from being completely overwhelmed, the economic disruption caused by coronavirus will prove historic. One need only look at the recent record-breaking volatility in global stock markets for confirmation of this.
But there is good news. Namely, vaccine research will eventually yield results, meaning that even if coronavirus is here to stay, it almost certainly won't be the deadly threat it is now over the long term.
The coronavirus crisis has also created a unique opportunity for investors. You see, stock market corrections are relatively common occurrences, and every previous correction in equities has eventually been put into the rearview mirror by a bull-market rally. In general, the steeper the decline, the bigger the long-term opportunity for new buyers.
With that being said, coronavirus has made the following three stocks screaming buys.
Bristol Myers Squibb
Easily one of the biggest head-scratching moments of the coronavirus scare has been watching novel drugmakers plummet in value. Regardless of how well or poorly the economy performs, or whether or not there's a pandemic, we don't get to control when we get sick of what ailment(s) we develop. This makes healthcare one of the most surefire sectors when it comes to cash flow predictability and consistent growth potential.
When it comes to cheap healthcare stocks, Bristol Myers Squibb (BMY 1.64%) and its sub-7 forward price-to-earnings ratio are really difficult to top. Its inexpensive valuation is even harder to understand if you really dig into the details of its future growth prospects.
Bristol Myers Squibb completed its acquisition of Celgene in a cash, stock, and potential contingent-value right deal this past November. Buying Celgene brings one of the faster-growing, top-selling cancer drugs in the world (Revlimid) under Bristol Myers' umbrella. Considering that Celgene worked out a deal with generic-drug producers to keep a flood of generic Revlimid off pharmacy shelves until the end of January 2026, this gives Bristol Myers roughly six years to rake in the cash flow from a cancer drug easily capable of $10 billion-plus in annual sales.
This is also a company with plenty of label expansion opportunities, especially for cancer immunotherapy Opdivo and leading oral anticoagulant Eliquis (Eliquis is co-marketed with Pfizer). Sales of the latter grew 23% worldwide in 2019, with Opdivo a likely candidate to expand its numerous approved indications depending on the outcome of a multitude of ongoing trials.
Yes, I am aware that there's probably not a less-sexy pick in the technology sector than IBM (IBM 2.62%). However, "Big Blue" saw it first close under $100 a share since early 2009 on Monday, March 16, pushing it forward price-to-earnings ratio down to just 7. This makes it a stock that value investors shouldn't pass up.
While IBM is still contending with the ongoing slowdown of its legacy sales – a wind-down that's been a drag on the company's top-line for more than six years – there are a number of clues to suggest that the company is taking more steps forward than backward at this point. For example, even though global technology services and systems sales respectively declined in 2019 by $1.8 billion and $430 million, gross margin for these segments rose by 40 basis points and 330 basis points last year. IBM may not be able to turn the tide on legacy sales, but it's had little trouble trimming the fat and making its company more profitable with each dollar collected.
It's also worth noting that, while late pushing into the cloud, IBM continues to generate a greater percentage of sales from high-margin cloud services. Last year, $21.2 billion of $77.1 billion in sales came from its cloud services, with total cloud revenue up 14% (when adjusting for divested businesses and currency movements). Growth in cloud sales is especially important considering that gross margin in this segment is light year's higher than its other operating divisions.
IBM is still a work-in-progress, but it nonetheless managed $9.4 billion operating income in 2019, as well as $11.9 billion in full-year free cash flow. Tack on a now-plump 6.5% yield and it becomes evident that IBM is a screaming buy for value investors.
Discover Financial Services
The coronavirus crisis has been particularly harsh on the financial sector and companies like credit-services provider Discover Financial Services (DFS 5.39%), which has lost about half of its value since market volatility really picked up four weeks ago.
The issue for financials is that the industry is highly cyclical. Though a few companies can prosper during a recession, it's not the norm. The Federal Reserve pushing down it federal funds target rate means smaller net interest margins for lenders, while the prospect of a recession raises the possibility of rising credit delinquencies. This is all generally bad news for the financial sector.
But, as noted, there's a good likelihood that COVID-19 isn't a long-term, or even intermediate-length issue. An at-worst quick recession would allow Discover to get back to what it does best: double dip. Not only does Discover Financial Services offer payment processing solutions to merchants, but it had a whopping $95.9 billion in loans outstanding at the end of 2019, yielding $2.94 billion in revenue, net of interest expenses. It's quite possible we actually see consumers lean on their plastic even more during this expected sharp downturn in the U.S. economy over the next couple of weeks/months.
Ultimately, there's a decent chance Discover's 2020 and 2021 profit projections are revisited by Wall Street. But with the company currently valued at 4 times Wall Street's 2021 consensus profit estimate and sporting a 4.6% yield, you'd be hard-pressed to find a cheaper stock in the financial space.