If you have some cash available, you now have a golden opportunity to put it to work. The coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on the stock market. But it's also made many stocks more attractively priced than they've been in quite a while.
How should you invest your cash? Here are three smart steps to take along with some specific ideas for stocks you can buy right now to profit over the long term from the coronavirus market meltdown.
1. Invest in your near-term financial security
My view is that the most important way to invest your cash is to first ensure your near-term financial security. This means building up a nest egg that can cover at least three months of expenses (six months would be even better) if you haven't already done so.
The coronavirus outbreak makes an emergency fund more important than ever. Some companies have already laid off employees. More staff reductions could be on the way. Even if you think your job is secure, err on the side of caution.
Here's the important thing to know about this investment: Don't put your emergency savings in stocks. There's likely to be a lot of volatility in the stock market for weeks and probably months to come. Better places to park your cash for emergencies include certificates of deposit, money market accounts, and savings accounts with banks that offer relatively high interest rates.
2. Invest incrementally over time
Once you've established an emergency fund, begin to invest your cash in stocks incrementally over time. You might wonder why it wouldn't be better to jump head-first right now and invest all of your cash. The reason is that there's no way to know what's going to happen next with the stock market.
It's quite possible, and I'd say probable, that the bear market will get worse before it gets better. We're still likely several weeks away from reaching the peak number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. As the number of cases rise, many investors will become increasingly anxious.
On the other hand, a lot of stocks are really attractive at current levels. Don't try to time the bottom. Instead, buy stocks a little at a time over a longer time.
3. Invest with a long-term perspective
Keep the long term in mind as you buy stocks. Sure, many companies will experience major challenges over the next few months. However, we'll move past the coronavirus crisis. The strongest businesses will not only survive but thrive.
Practically speaking, this means that you shouldn't buy a stock only because it's going up right now. Investors have piled into some stocks knowing that their business will enjoy an immediate boost. But unless these companies will continue to grow after the crisis is over, it's better to stay away.
Where to invest your cash
The question of how to invest cash during the coronavirus market meltdown includes the implied question of where to invest your cash. I think that there are three kinds of stocks to buy.
This is a great time to buy strong dividend stocks that have higher yields thanks to the market sell-off. One stock that I like is Medical Properties Trust (NYSE:MPW). The company is a real estate investment trust (REIT) that primarily owns acute care hospitals. Its dividend yield currently stands at more than 7%.
Medical Properties Trust shares have been hit hard. But the long-term prospects for the company's business remain strong. MPT has a solid balance sheet, so it shouldn't run into financial difficulties over the short term. And with super-low interest rates, the company will be able to fund expansion at lower costs once the battle against COVID-19 has been won.
Value-seeking investors should have a field day in the current market. Bristol Myers Squibb (NYSE:BMY) is a dirt cheap bargain right now, in my opinion. The big pharma's shares trade at well under 10 times expected earnings. Its growth prospects make its valuation even more attractive.
BMS has two of the biggest blockbusters of the next few years in its lineup with Eliquis and Opdivo. Its pipeline is also loaded with potentially huge winners thanks to its acquisition of Celgene last year. To add icing to the cake, the drugmaker's dividend yield is close to 3.7%. There's also the little detail that Bristol-Myers Squibb's products should keep on selling regardless of what happens with COVID-19.
Last, but not least, buy stocks of wonderful businesses that might not pay dividends nor necessarily claim really low valuations but have strong growth prospects. Robotic surgical systems pioneer Intuitive Surgical (NASDAQ:ISRG) ranks high on my list in this category.
It's likely that there will be fewer elective surgical procedures performed over the next few months, which could cause Intuitive's revenue to fall some. However, Intuitive shouldn't have any problems absorbing any temporary effects, especially with its huge cash stockpile of more than $5.8 billion.
More importantly, Intuitive Surgical's long-term prospects remain very good. As people across the world age, they're more likely to require the kinds of procedures for which Intuitive's robotic systems are ideally suited.
If you've already built an emergency fund, investing your cash incrementally over the next few months by buying shares of Medical Properties Trust, Bristol Myers Squibb, and Intuitive Surgical should allow you to seize the golden opportunity that the coronavirus market crash is providing right now.