We are truly witnessing some unprecedented events unfold before our eyes. In about a month, coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) went from being a sparse illness in the U.S. that was primarily ravaging parts of China to a global pandemic.
As of Monday, March 16, more than 181,500 cases of COVID-19 has been reported worldwide, leading to over 7,100 deaths, per Johns Hopkins University. But it's the quintupling in confirmed U.S. cases over a one-week stretch (ended March 16) that has the stock market on edge. Having seen how China handled its problem, a number of major U.S. cities have adopted similar mitigation measures. As a result, economic activity in certain regions and industries has come to a grinding halt, lending to the growing idea that a recession may be inevitable.
Coronavirus leads to a record-breaking crash on Wall Street
With the stock market focused on forward-looking profitability, it should come as no surprise that the sudden mitigating measures undertaken, and the uncertainty surrounding how long these measures may be necessary for, have led to record-breaking volatility.
Take the 123-year-old Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI 2.68%) as a perfect example. Over a 17-session stretch (Feb. 24 through March 17), the Dow logged eight of its 10 largest single-day point declines in history, as well as five of its six biggest single-session point increases of all time. To add, three of the Dow's big down days now rank among its 13 largest single-day percentage losses since May 1896. This wasn't just a modest decline in the stock market -- it was a coronavirus stock market crash.
But the thing about stock market crashes is that they've historically opened the door to excellent long-term buying opportunities for investors. Not including the current downturn, the benchmark S&P 500 has undergone 37 stock market corrections since the beginning of 1950, and each one of these downswings were eventually put well into the rearview mirror. This means that if investors have a long time horizon, this short-term pain could equate to long-term gains.
In the wake of the coronavirus market crash, the following three deeply discounted stocks look to be must-owns for long-term-minded investors.
I know what you're probably thinking: How is e-commerce giant Amazon.com (AMZN 3.58%) considered a deeply discounted stock? The answer to that question can be found by looking beyond traditional valuation metrics.
Pretty much everyone knows that Amazon is a giant in the retail space. According to eMarketer in June 2019, it was expected to garner a whopping 38% e-commerce market share in the United States. But while the Prime membership Amazon sells has done an excellent job of generating revenue and keeping members within the Amazon ecosystem, retail is ultimately not Amazon's future. Rather, it's all about the cloud.
Last year, Amazon Web Services (AWS) was responsible for 12.5% of the company's total sales, up from 11% in the previous year. But what's more important here is that AWS' cloud services accounted for $9.2 billion of the company's $14.5 billion in operating income, despite only contributing 12.5% of total sales. Cloud services is a considerably higher-margin segment for Amazon, and it'll like grow into a larger percentage of total sales in the coming years. This means an almost assured jump in cash flow generation.
Although Amazon may still look pricey on a forward earnings basis, focusing on earnings per share isn't the best way to value this company. That's because Amazon tends to reinvest most of its capital into e-commerce, AWS, and its numerous other ventures. Thus, cash flow is a much better gauge of value. Having consistently traded between 23 times and 37 times cash flow over the past decade, Amazon is currently valued at about nine times Wall Street's consensus cash flow for 2023.
Amazon is dirt cheap at these levels and should be bought by long-term investors on this dip.
Lately, I've been beating down the door on rare-disease drug developer Alexion Pharmaceuticals (ALXN), but I believe there are a number of very good reasons to be excited about its short- and long-term prospects.
To begin with, we don't get the luxury of choosing when we get sick or what ailment(s) we develop. Just because the stock market crashes and the U.S. economy suffers doesn't mean that people stop needing medical care. This suggests that revenue for drug developers should be largely uninterrupted as mitigation measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 are implemented.
More specific to Alexion Pharmaceuticals, it has the added bonus of being an ultra-rare-disease drug developer. Targeting indications with very small patient pools is typically a good way to avoid competition, while also allowing the company to pass along high price points for its therapies. The good news is that insurers widely cover these medications, leaving Alexion sitting pretty in the cash flow predictability department.
Another important development for Alexion is the introduction of Ultomiris, the company's next-generation therapy that'll, in all likelihood, replace current blockbuster Soliris in many of its indications. Whereas Soliris needs to be injected by patients every two weeks, Ultomiris is a protein that's recycled through a patient's body, requiring injection only every eight weeks. And since Ultomiris was only recently introduced, it's as if Alexion Pharmaceuticals has restarted its patent exclusivity clock on the ultra-rare indications it's targeting.
With the coronavirus stock market crash pushing Alexion down a forward price-to-earnings ratio below 7, now is the time for opportunistic investors to strike.
Bank of America
Few industries have been beaten down worse over the past month than banks. As an example, highflier Bank of America (BAC 0.72%) has lost approximately 40% of its value since this record-breaking volatility began. Bank of America is among the more interest-sensitive banks, meaning the Federal Reserve's 150 basis points' worth of rate cuts over the past couple of weeks will lead to lower net interest income generation. There's also the growing likelihood of a recession, which doesn't bode well for the cyclical banking industry.
Nevertheless, BofA has made incredible progress since the financial crisis and has quickly become a portfolio staple for long-term investors.
For instance, Bank of America has made strides to substantially reduce its noninterest expenses, all while still managing to improve its operating efficiency. For BofA, reducing costs has meant closing some of its branches. However, this hasn't been costing the company customers as it's made significant investments in digital banking and mobile applications. BofA ended 2019 with more than 38 million digital banking users and 29.2 million active mobile banking users (that's up 10% from the prior-year quarter). Since digital and mobile banking transactions are far and away cheaper for the company than in-person or phone transactions, this will prove to be a smart move over the long run.
Additionally, even though Bank of America recently halted its aggressive share buyback program in the wake of the coronavirus stock market crash, years of share repurchases have had a net-positive impact on the company's earnings per share.
Right now, investors can buy Bank of America stock for 80% of its book value and approximately 7 times next year's profit potential. That's a bargain investors shouldn't pass up.