What we've witnessed over the past month in financial markets has been truly unprecedented. In a 19-session stretch ranging between Feb. 24, 2020 and March 19, 2020, the 123-year-old Dow Jones Industrial Average went on to log nine of its 11 largest single-day point declines in history, as well as five of its six biggest single-session point increases.
We also witnessed the stock market plunge into bear market territory faster than any other bear market on record -- it took just 16 trading sessions.
This record-breaking volatility has been caused by the spread of COVID-19 and the uncertainty associated with its containment, especially within the United States. Mitigation measures that range from social distancing to mandated lockdowns are being used to slow its spread and are expected to have an incredibly negative impact on the U.S. and global economy.
However, what's important to remember in the wake of the coronavirus crash is that every single stock market correction and bear market have eventually been put into the rearview mirror by a bull-market rally. No matter how dismal things have appeared, reason and long-term organic growth always triumph over even the harshest bear markets.
What this means for investors is that they now have the opportunity to put their cash to work into great businesses that may, one day, make them rich. If the idea of taking control of your financial freedom sounds good, then may I suggest buying the following three stocks.
Discover Financial Services
To begin with, investors looking to build substantive long-term wealth should consider buying payment-processing and lending company Discover Financial Services (DFS -0.54%).
Credit-service providers have been absolutely decimated during the coronavirus crash, with Discover declining from north of $75 on Feb. 19, when the stock market hit its all-time high, to as low as $23 on March 19. At this point, Wall Street believes it's a given that we'll see a rise in delinquencies with select Discover cardholders out of work as a result of localized mitigation measures to battle COVID-19. But if Discover Financial could power through the financial crisis and return more than 1,500% to patient investors, there's no reason to believe it can't survive a short-term decline in consumer credit quality.
It's also worth pointing out that Discover is a payment processor, so it'll potentially be able to offset some of its credit charge-offs with processing fees. Between 2007 and 2009, the amount of purchase volume on Discover's credit card networks wound up declining by a mere 2%, which was actually the top performance among payment processors. This suggests that Discover cardholders may be more resilient than Wall Street is giving them credit for.
Right now, investors buying Discover Financial Services are getting a company valued at 22% below book value that generated $6.3 billion in operating cash flow over the trailing 12 months and earned more than $9 per share last year (it closed at $28.33 a share on March 19). This is the type of opportunity that can make investors rich.
Innovative Industrial Properties
There's little doubt that the marijuana industry has been an utter disappointment of late for investors. But no next big thing investment is exempt from a maturation period, and that's exactly what the cannabis industry is dealing with. However, U.S.-based Innovative Industrial Properties (IIPR 0.74%) isn't like your traditional cannabis stock, and investors who want to get rich over the long run should consider buying it right now.
Innovative Industrial Properties is a cannabis-focused real estate investment trust (REIT), which means it acquires cultivation and processing sites and leases them out for long periods of time (typically 10 to 20 years). Not only does this allow IIP to reap the rewards of rental income with relatively low operating costs, but it's able to pass along annual rental increases and property management fees to its tenants to stay ahead of the inflationary curve.
Innovative Industrial Properties is also in the driver's seat of the U.S. cannabis industry given its focus on sale-leaseback agreements. Because marijuana is a Schedule I drug at the federal level, banks and credit unions are leery about offering loans and lines of credit to pot companies. IIP resolves this by purchasing cultivation and processing assets from multistate operators (MSO) and leasing these assets right back to MSOs. This provides MSOs with much needed cash and bulks up IIP's asset portfolio.
As of March 19, Innovative Industrial Properties owned 53 properties in 15 states with a weighted-average remaining lease length of 15.9 years and an average return on invested capital of 13.2%. In other words, it'll take just 5.5 years for IIP to net a complete payback on its investments. With a forward price-to-earnings ratio of just nine and a dividend yield of 7.7%, this is a stock that could make you rich.
Palo Alto Networks
You don't need to go digging around among microcap stocks in the technology space to find companies that are capable of doubling in value many times over in the future. Large-cap cybersecurity company Palo Alto Networks (PANW 2.23%) will do just fine for patient investors.
Since the coronavirus crash began, Palo Alto has shed roughly half of its value. With non-essential businesses now closed in Silicon Valley and throughout California, the palpable concern is that demand for cybersecurity products may slow in the near term. But the thing to realize here is that cybersecurity isn't optional. It's a necessary service for every enterprise big and small, which puts Palo Alto in a more enviable position than its current valuation reflects.
Additionally, Palo Alto Networks was in the midst of making major investments in cloud-computing protection when the COVID-19 crisis hit. Management has been pretty clear that 2020 isn't about reducing expenses, but is instead focused on building the company's product and subscription offerings in the rapidly growing cloud space. Thus, Palo Alto is sacrificing some short-term operating efficiency for long-term gain. This has provided even more temporary downside pressure, which is allowing investors to buy in at this perceived-to-be bargain price.
Lastly, don't overlook the fact that Palo Alto is primarily a subscription-based model. Subscriptions of basic-need services are unlikely to see much in the way of customer churn, and they provide much beefier margins than Palo Alto's product offerings. Continuing to lean more heavily on cloud-focused subscriptions is what's going to make investors in Palo Alto rich.