For many, the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has been a nightmare on two fronts.
First, this respiratory illness has been confirmed in more than 937,000 people worldwide, as of very early morning April 2, with the United States representing the epicenter of the outbreak. Earlier in the week, President Trump braced the nation for what could amount to between 100,000 and 240,000 deaths tied to COVID-19 in the United States.
And second, in addition to be a direct threat to our physical well-being, the coronavirus is wreaking havoc on our finances. The mitigation measures put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19 have brought nonessential economic activity to a near-halt in a number of states and developed countries. This'll probably result in a sharp recession in 2020, with the stock market absolutely taking it on the chin.
And yet, some businesses are actually thriving amid this chaos. Although the coronavirus crash has been largely indiscriminate of sector or industry, here are three stocks whose sales could very well soar because of COVID-19.
While a number of U.S. retail operations have moved entirely to an e-commerce setting for the time being, grocery stores have been especially busy. But arguably none have been drawing in customers quite like warehouse club Costco Wholesale (COST 0.15%).
Costco's entire premise is built on its members buying products in bulk. With stay-at-home orders being put in place in a number of populous states, as well as President Trump extending federal social distancing guidelines through April 30, the table couldn't be set more perfectly for Costco to supply its members with bulk food and household goods.
Over just the past month, Wall Street's consensus estimate for full-year 2020 has jumped by $0.12 per share. This may not sound like much, but it translates to another $53 million in net income for Costco, and, based on its profit margin, probably $2 billion in additional full-year sales.
The uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 has also allowed Costco's membership platform to shine. The fees the company charges its members to shop at its stores help boost what are usually thin retail margins. At the same time, these memberships are what keep consumers loyal to the brand. In other words, if you're going to spend a minimum of $60 a year just for the right to buy groceries and household goods at bulk pricing, then you're going to do as much shopping as possible at Costco. We're seeing this in action, right now.
If you thought the oil and gas industry was a complete train wreck, take a gander at marijuana stocks, many of which have fallen by between 50% and 95% over the past year. A shakeout was certainly expected for the high-growth industry, but no one foresaw just how bad the pot stocks would be pulverized by uncertainties tied to the coronavirus. However, one U.S. cannabis stock, Trulieve Cannabis (TCNNF 0.15%), may be bucking this perceived weakness.
Trulieve Cannabis is a U.S. multistate operator, which is a fancy set of words that simply means it controls the planting, harvesting, processing, and retail sale of marijuana in the states that it chooses to operate. While it does have a retail or licensing presence in four states, Trulieve is almost entirely devoted to medical marijuana-legal Florida. In total, 45 of the company's 47 open dispensaries are located in the Sunshine State.
What's particularly notable is that, following an initial spike in mid-March, adult-use weed sales tapered off considerably toward the end of the month in a number of key markets, such as Colorado, Washington, and California. However, Florida doesn't have an adult-use market. Only medical marijuana is legal -- and it's one of the older states by the average age of its population. In my view, this makes Trulieve likely to benefit from a surge in medical marijuana purchases in advance of stay-at-home orders from regulators, which are now in place in the Sunshine State.
Furthermore, Trulieve was already at the head of the class among the most profitable pot stocks. Its laser focus on Florida has kept its operating expenses considerably lower than its peers, while allowing the company to effectively build up its brand and image with medical pot patients. Currently holding the lion's share of the Florida cannabis market, Trulieve looks to be a surprising COVID-19 beneficiary.
A third stock that looks to have completely shrugged off the coronavirus crash is telemedicine specialist Teladoc Health (TDOC -6.13%). Teladoc helps facilitate virtual medical visits by charging recurring subscriptions to insurance companies, as well as fees to those folks without insurance.
As you can imagine, there's an immense benefit and growing demand for telemedicine platforms at the moment. With hospitals and doctor's offices swamped in certain regions, and healthcare officials advising people with mild-to-moderate symptoms to stay home, telemedicine applications are stepping up to provide patient personalization and social distancing at the same time.
When U.S. states initially began to impose shelter-in-place orders during mid-March, Teladoc noted that the number of patient visits on its platform rose 50%, from the previous week, with the company seeing approximately 15,000 patients per day. This jibes with the theme that Teladoc has laid out since going public, which is a rapidly growing base of paid memberships. As a reminder, Teladoc ended 2019 with 36.7 million paid memberships in the U.S., up 61% from the prior-year period.
It's also worth pointing out that a number of national health insurers have waived telemedicine fees during the coronavirus pandemic, which is only going to further coerce those suffering from mild or moderate symptoms to choose telemedicine as opposed to an in-person consultation.
Don't be surprised if Teladoc's 2020 revenue forecast continues to tick higher throughout the year.