The market is awash in deals after the bludgeoning stocks took in March. As the COVID-19 pandemic quickly spreads, it's becoming all too clear that widespread economic pain is here, with more on the way. People are staying home -- some willingly, others by decree -- and job losses are mounting.
While economic activity is falling, the tech economy is looking in good shape. After all, money doesn't stop moving in times of recession, but disruption can reshape the trajectory the business world was on. In the case of the coronavirus crisis, it looks like the already fast migration to digital systems is going to get a big boost. Three tech stocks to buy in April that should be able to capitalize in the years ahead are Fastly (FSLY -0.63%), NVIDIA (NVDA 2.39%), and Intuitive Surgical (ISRG -0.05%).
Web content delivery a critical infrastructure need
Content delivery networks (CDNs) have been some of the best-performing stocks in recent weeks. That's because web traffic has surged, driven by increased internet use from consumers stuck at home as well as employees connecting to work via internet video. That means a big one-time bump for CDNs, which are responsible for the management of the global web traffic system.
One such CDN company that could benefit is Fastly, a software-defined network delivery upstart that went public over the summer of 2019. The small technologist is trading below its IPO price, but is handily beating the market 2020 to date with a negative 11% return (compared with negative 24% for the S&P 500).
The young technologist's fortunes could quickly change, though. Besides the current widespread bump in internet traffic, longer-term trends were already headed that direction anyways. Internet infrastructure giant Cisco (CSCO 5.81%) has said that a combination of rising internet users, billions of new connected devices, and more web-based video content means traveling across the worldwide web will grow by double-digit percentages for the foreseeable future. That bodes well for Fastly's global distribution network.
Though it still operates at a loss, 2019 revenue grew 39% to $200 million. Much of that growth was provided by existing customers with dollar-based net expansion coming in at 135.5% last year, implying the existing customer based increased spending by 35.5% in 2019. With many of its top clients operating in the online retail space, that does pose a risk in the near term as economic activity takes a hit. But Fastly is making its CDN platform ready for other industries as well, including streaming video and media, and the company allows web developers to try its services on a free trial. With ample space to expand as the internet grows in importance, Fastly looks like a timely stock. Just remember to start with a small position and acquire more shares in small batches over time.
Video game graphics now, AI later
Graphics processing unit (GPU) pioneer NVIDIA is well-positioned for a world post-coronavirus. Over the long term, GPUs are getting put to use in a myriad of new applications -- from AI systems that process and generate natural-language speech to robotics and industrial equipment, autonomous vehicles, and 5G mobile networks. That should provide plenty of opportunity in the years ahead.
In the here-and-now, though, NVIDIA should also do well. With stimulus checks on the way and people confined to home with extra free time, the leader in high-end video game graphics should be able to pick up plenty of new business as consumers upgrade their machines. The company was ready, having just announced over 100 new laptops from its partners powered with next-gen NVIDIA chips that can handle the most demanding games. AI systems and ray tracing are also under the hood, making the sleek new laptops ideal for those working from home as well.
This is significant as over half of NVIDIA's revenue is still derived from gaming and professional visualization sales. Thus, the GPU leader is in good shape as the reasons for upgrading older PCs and laptops are stronger than ever before. The chip designer has a competitive advantage when it comes to profit margins and its balance sheet. Adjusted operating profit margin was an enviable 34% in the last year, and cash and equivalents net of long-term debt was $8.9 billion. Suffice it to say NVIDIA was in good shape headed into this crisis and has the wiggle room to price its hardware to maximize sales during the upgrade cycle.
The stock is up 7% year-to-date -- likely on expectations that business will be just fine during the coronavirus lockdown -- but is down 20% from all-time highs. Shares do trade for a premium 36.3 times the last year's worth of free cash flow (revenue minus cash operating and capital expenses), but not an unreasonable sum given this chip giant's potential, both current and long-term.
A short-term bump in the road for robotic surgery
Healthcare has come into focus, and technologists within the industry have done well, as investors look for safe havens. Two such outfits are life science cloud-computing provider Veeva Systems (VEEV -0.32%) and telemedicine leader Teladoc Health (TDOC -2.48%). Both are handily outperforming the market so far in 2020 with returns of 10% and 89%, respectively. One stock that hasn't fared so well in the healthcare technology industry is Intuitive Surgical, which is down 22% in 2020 to date. The robotic surgery leader deserves some serious attention, though.
To free up space and conserve supplies, many elective surgeries have been canceled and postponed by hospitals and surgery centers. Intuitive, which makes the bulk of its money selling disposable supplies needed during operation of its da Vinci robotic surgery systems, is thus likely going to report a dip in revenue for a quarter or two. This should be a short-term situation, though. Demand for elective procedures will be brimming once the pandemic-induced crisis subsides, so Intuitive's losses will be made up later.
Plus, along the way, this company has been in tip-top shape. Its adjusted operating margin was a massive 56% in 2019; the company had no debt; and had $5.85 billion in cash and equivalents on its books. This early pioneer in robotic-assisted procedures is thus in prime position to take advantage of disruption in the healthcare space and make moves to set itself up for future expansion. To that end, Intuitive recently finished its acquisition of Orpheus Medical, furthering the company's reach to now include hospital data management and IT services.
Hardly cause for concern, the recent drop in Intuitive Surgical's share price looks like a gift for investors eyeing the long-term potential of technology as a part of the healthcare system.