Let' be brutally honest: The past five-plus weeks have been especially trying as an investor.
Whether you're a seasoned vet that's been investing for perhaps five decades or you've dipped your toes into the water for the first time within the past year, you've witnessed something historic in recent weeks. The panic caused by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), and the subsequent mitigation measures that are bringing economic activity to a near halt throughout a number of major cities, pushed the U.S. major indexes into bear market territory faster than any previous bear market.
What's more, the volatility investors have witnessed is unprecedented. Over a 22-session stretch, the broad-based S&P 500 logged 10 of its 13-largest single-day point declines and its six-biggest single-session point gains in history. The CBOE Volatility Index, or VIX, which measures the expected fluctuations in S&P 500 options contracts over the next 30 days, also hit a new all-time high, surpassing the wild volatility witnessed during the peak of the financial crisis in 2008.
Yet despite this seemingly dismal outlook for the stock market in the near-term, there's solace in knowing that bull-market rallies have a perfect track record of eventually pushing bear-market declines into the rearview mirror. In other words, if you add money to the stock market now and buy an assortment of high-quality companies, there's a very good chance you're going to make money over the long run.
The thing is, you don't need to be Warren Buffett or Bill Gates to invest in this market. Adding even $250 to an assortment of top stocks can make a big difference over the long-term. If you have disposable cash to spare that won't be used to pay bills or for your emergency fund, then adding $250 to these four stocks right now is a move you won't regret.
One of the one dozen new stocks that I've added to my portfolio during the COVID-19 crash is social media platform Pinterest (PINS -0.36%). Shares of the company were more than halved in the span of a month, with clear concerns being shown by Wall Street over the near-term state of the ad market. However, with a cash-rich balance sheet following its 2019 initial public offering, these short-term worries are of no real concern to Pinterest.
Like most social media platforms, Pinterest generates the bulk of its average revenue per user (ARPU) in the United States. But it's actually the international market that offers this company the best opportunity to grow at a double-digit rate for the remainder of the decade. Last year, U.S. ARPU jumped 34% to $12.07, but international ARPU more than doubled to $0.54 from $0.25. This coincides with 35% monthly active user (MAU) growth in overseas markets. If Pinterest can continue to generate faster international ARPU growth than aggregate overseas MAU growth, it's going to see its cash flow and profitability soar.
At the same time, Pinterest is working on a number of initiatives that'll drive growth worldwide. For example, the use of video, as opposed to static images, has been driving improved user engagement. Pinterest has also, arguably, just scratched the surface on its role as an e-commerce intermediary.
If you buy $250 worth of Pinterest stock, you won't regret it.
Another of the one dozen stocks I dove into during the coronavirus crash is health-solutions provider Livongo Health (LVGO).
Livongo is a company that utilizes wirelessly connected devices to help people better manage chronic health conditions -- most notably diabetes. Today, 34 million people in the U.S. have diabetes (about a quarter are undiagnosed), with another 88 million exhibiting the signs of prediabetes. The market potential for diabetes is massive, but the biggest issue diabetics face is often themselves. In other words, they fail to take the proper action to control their disease. That's where Livongo comes in.
Livongo attacks this disease by attempting to alter the behavioral habits of diabetics to ensure they take better care of themselves. If diabetics stay on top of their blood glucose levels more often, they're more likely to have a positive outcome. Businesses and patients would seem to concur that there's real value to Livongo's solutions. The number of total people using Livongo's services almost doubled to 222,700 in 2019, with the number of enterprise clients up 95%.
Given the untapped market potential surrounding diabetes -- as well as hypertension and obesity -- Livongo Health could be profitable on a recurring basis by as early as next year, with a double-digit growth rate a real possibility for the remainder of the decade.
Investors would also be wise to take $250 and put it to work in payment and point-of-sale solutions company Square (SQ 16.13%). Credit-service companies have been hit especially hard because of the COVID-19 mitigation measures, with Square losing over 60% of its value at one point in a span of just a couple of weeks.
Like many businesses, Square bit the bullet this past week and announced that its previously issued full-year guidance would be pulled, and that its first-quarter guidance wouldn't hit expectations. The thing is, the company's updated guidance wasn't nearly as bad as pessimists had expected. Gross profit in January and February was up 47% from the previous year, which suggests strong gross processing volume, at least until COVID-19 slowed everything down.
It's also worth pointing out that Square isn't just a payment and point-of-sale solution being implemented by small and midsized businesses. A growing percentage of its sales are now derived from larger enterprises, which should help accelerate growth in the company's Seller ecosystem.
But the real excitement here might be just be Cash App, which allows users to send and receive money. Cash App's gross profit more than doubled from the prior-year period in January and February. As my colleague Danny Vena recently noted, Cash App is trying to lay claim to a $60 billion opportunity.
With Square's sales expected to more than double by 2023, it looks to be a smart stock to invest in.
Finally, even though cannabis stocks have been nothing short of a train wreck for a full year now, don't turn your back on the one Canadian grower that has its stuff together, OrganiGram Holdings (OGI 2.02%).
To date, OrganiGram is still the only Canadian grower that's been able to generate a no-nonsense quarterly operating profit (which is did in Q3 2019). This means it didn't need fair-value adjustments or one-time benefits to generate an operating profit.
The secret to OrganiGram's success can be boiled down to two factors. First, there's location. It's the only major grower located in an eastern Atlantic province. Even though eastern Canadian provinces are far less populated than say British Columbia or Ontario, cannabis-use rates among adults are much higher in these regions, providing OrganiGram an easy way to secure market share. Keep in mind, though, OrganiGram is one of only a handful of pot stocks with a wholesale supply agreement in every Canadian province.
Secondly, it's all about efficiency. OrganiGram has just one operating facility in Moncton, New Brunswick, which means it can more easily adjust production and expenses to meet prevailing market conditions. It's also utilizing a three-tiered growing system at Moncton that should yield two to three times the cannabis per square foot than its peers.
If there's a Canadian marijuana grower that can thrive, OrganiGram Holdings is it.