Among the different styles of investing, growth investing and value investing are two of the most popular approaches. Growth-oriented investors seek to maximize capital appreciation by investing in companies that are expected to grow their revenues, or their earnings, at a faster rate than most other companies within the same industry. 

By contrast, value investors look for companies that are trading below their intrinsic value, as computed by such financial metrics as the price-to-earnings (PE) ratio. There are good arguments for both of these styles of investing, and preference for one over the other often comes down to each investor's goals, risk tolerance, and investing horizon. 

However, growth stocks are often perceived as being riskier and more volatile, in part because they typically carry much richer valuation metrics, but also because many growth-oriented companies aren't consistently profitable. And given the recent market sell-off caused by the COVID-19 pandemic -- and the dire economic consequences that will almost certainly ensue -- it is worth wondering whether trading your growth stocks for value stocks right now is a good idea. 

Man holding briefcase standing in front of two diverging paths.

Image source: Getty Images.

Are value stocks outperforming growth stocks?

First, it would be useful to examine how growth stocks and value stocks have handled the recent market crash. An excellent way to do so is by measuring the performance of several growth-oriented and value-oriented ETFs year to date. The graph below does just that with four popular ETFs: iShares Russell 1000 Growth ETF (NYSEMKT:IWF), iShares Russell 1000 Value ETF (NYSEMKT:IWD), Vanguard Growth ETF (NYSEMKT:VUG), and Vanguard Value ETF (NYSEMKT:VTV)

IWF Chart

IWF data by YCharts

As you can see for yourself, both growth-oriented ETFs have performed much better than both value-oriented ETFs year to date, which suggests that growth stocks have generally outperformed value stocks since the beginning of the year. To drive this point home, let's compare four more popular ETFs: Vanguard Small-Cap Growth ETF (NYSEMKT:VBK), Vanguard Small-Cap Value ETF (NYSEMKT:VBR), iShares Russell Midcap Growth ETF (NYSEMKT:IWP), and iShares Russell Mid-Cap Value ETF (NYSEMKT:IWS)

VBK Chart

VBK data by YCharts

Once again, the growth ETFs outperform their value-oriented counterparts, which confirms our earlier conclusion. Based on this analysis alone, trading growth stocks for value stocks at the moment doesn't seem like a particularly good idea.

What you should focus on instead

Even if it is true that growth stocks generally performed better than value stocks during the recent correction, it doesn't follow that every growth stock outperformed every value stock. And merely knowing that growth stocks performed better does little to help those investors whose growth stocks seriously tanked. Furthermore, some may point out that just because growth stocks have fared better so far does not mean that the trend will continue.

While these are all legitimate concerns, I think there's a more pressing matter to address, namely whether the investment theses behind the growth stocks in your portfolio have fundamentally changed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This issue is particularly important for investors focused on the long term. Equity markets will always fluctuate as a result of any number of factors, and on occasion, we will experience a full-blown bear market. Sticking with companies that have a robust outlook and a strong economic moat through thick and thin is the key to earning above-average returns in the long run.

However, if a company no longer displays those characteristics -- be it as a result of a pandemic or otherwise -- it is worth considering putting your money elsewhere. And if you do decide to trade in your underperforming growth stocks because you no longer think their prospects are enticing, replacing them with value stocks is not necessarily the right move. What's more important is to replace them with stocks that check several important boxes, whether they fall within the growth stock or the value stock category. 

In that spirit, here is one of each type of stock you can buy right now. 

Growth: Vertex Pharmaceuticals

Vertex Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:VRTX) is a biotech company that holds a monopoly in the market for drugs that treat the underlying cause of cystic fibrosis (CF). This genetic condition affects internal organs like the lungs and the digestive system. The company's revenue has grown rapidly in recent quarters, as the following table shows.


Q4 2018

Q1 2019

Q2 2019

Q3 2019

Q4 2019

Year-Over-Year Revenue Growth






Data Source: Vertex Pharmaceuticals 

I expect Vertex's revenue to continue growing at a fast pace, for one major reason. Since there are over 100 genetic mutations that cause CF, not all patients with this life-threatening disease are eligible for Vertex's medicines. However, in October of 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Vertex's Trikafta as a treatment for CF. This approval was a big deal because about 90% of CF patients are eligible to be treated with Trikafta.

For context, there are about 75,000 patients with CF in North America, Europe, and Australia. Before the approval of Trikafta, about 44,000 of those patients were eligible for Vertex's drugs; that number has now increased to approximately 68,000. Thanks to Trikafta, Vertex should see its top line continue to increase at a good clip. Note that the company's shares are up by 7.5% year to date, whereas the S&P 500 is down by 22.2% over the same period. Vertex should continue to outperform the broader market thanks to its dominance in the market for CF drugs. 

Value: Bristol Myers Squibb

One value stock you should consider buying is Bristol Myers Squibb (NYSE:BMY). This pharma giant is currently trading at just 8.9 times future earnings, and its price-to-earnings growth (PEG) ratio is only 0.91. Beyond its attractive valuation metrics, though, Bristol Myers Squibb presents exciting prospects. First, the company boasts several blockbuster drugs, including blood thinner Eliquis and cancer drugs Opdivo and Revlimid. According to the research firm Evaluate Pharma, all three of these products will be among the five best-selling medicines in the world in 2022.

Bristol Myers Squibb's Zeposia -- a treatment for multiple sclerosis -- was also recently approved by the FDA; this product presents strong prospects as well. Moreover, the company has several pipeline candidates that could further strengthen its lineup. For instance, the company's ide-cel and liso-cel are being investigated for use against several forms of cancer. Bristol Myers Squibb boasts a rich pipeline, and that, combined with its current products and its low valuation metrics, make the company a buy.