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3 Stocks to Buy During the Coronavirus Pandemic

By David Jagielski – Apr 7, 2020 at 6:48AM

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These businesses will continue to see demand for their products and services even as people stay indoors.

The coronavirus pandemic is sending many stocks into the gutter. But that doesn't mean that every stock is a bad buy right now. Investors need to adapt to a different consumer lifestyle, especially as many governments have forced non-essential businesses to shut down.

The three stocks below are going to continue to see demand for their products and services even as the pandemic continues, and now could be a good time to buy them.

1. Canopy Growth

Canopy Growth (CGC 4.41%) consumers depend on cannabis in their day-to-day lives, either for medical use or to relieve stress during a very tumultuous time. There may be a drop in demand, especially in recreational pot, which is less crucial for users than medical marijuana, but the company will still be able to sell its products. The Canadian government has classified cannabis as essential during the pandemic, as have many provinces, including Quebec, British Columbia, and Alberta -- four of the largest and most critical to the industry's growth. That means that pot shops can remain open, allowing consumers to continue purchasing cannabis during the pandemic.

Canopy Growth has shut down some of its corporate stores to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. The company moved to a click-and-collect model at some locations while in Manitoba and Saskatchewan it shifted to focusing on e-commerce sales, allowing it to continue generating revenue during the pandemic. But Canadians can still buy pot at other stores and in March, cannabis was on their shopping lists as folks stocked up for prolonged stays at home. Stores saw surges in demand, with one store noting that sales in one weekend were up at least 80% compared to the prior week. But even if consumers don't want to go into stores, delivery is an option as well. Delivery services saw increases in consumer demand during March, and that trend could continue as more and more people stay at home.

Cannabis edibles, including cookies.

Image source: Getty Images.

Canopy posted an impressive third-quarter result in February, with its sales soaring 49% from the prior-year quarter. But with the pandemic, it's unlikely that the stock will be able to maintain anything close to that level of sales growth for the remainder of this year, as tough economic conditions will likely weigh on all industries.

2. Netflix

Netflix (NFLX -4.49%) is another company that's seeing an uptick in demand of late. In March, AT&T (T -1.42%) said the streaming giant's data traffic reached all-time highs, and video streaming in general has been up as well. Netflix reduced the quality of its streams in Europe and Canada to lessen the load on the internet and prevent it from "breaking" due to the soaring demand. As more people stream content, users are consuming significantly more bandwidth, and that makes it difficult for service providers to ensure everyone has access to a quality internet connection.

Given the lack of entertainment options for people who are stuck at home, Netflix is an easy choice. There are even browser add-ons that people can use to have a virtual "Netflix Party" so they can watch a movie or TV series in sync with other people, even though they aren't physically together. And with more than 1,500 TV shows and over 4,000 movies to choose from, Netflix has a broad catalog that gives users many options to choose from.

The company's been focusing heavily on growing its content and subscribers internationally as well. At the end of 2019, Netflix had 106,047 paid memberships in its international segment. That's nearly double the 57,834 that it had as of the end of 2017. And it's also well above the 61,043 paid domestic subscribers the company had as of the end of this past year. The international segment is a key part of Netflix's future growth as it continually expands and develops its libraries in other countries. 

Netflix's revenue reached $20.2 billion in 2019, which was up 28% from the prior-year total of $15.8 billion. Its profit margin of 9.3% this past year was also a big improvement over prior years, when it wasn't uncommon for the streaming company to see less than 5% of its top line trickle through to net income.

3. Visa

Visa (V -0.98%) is a good stock to buy whether there's a pandemic or not. With people staying at home and many businesses offering only delivery, consumers may have to rely on credit cards more than in the past. Avoiding cash is also a way to help follow social distancing rules by using credit cards online or contactless payments. 

However, that's not to say that the coronavirus isn't adversely affecting Visa. The credit card company saw transaction volumes in March fall because there's less spending on restaurants, entertainment, and other leisure and social activities. Although users may need credit cards, the total amount spent on Visa's network is likely to remain down until the economy is back and operating at full force.

With many stores not operating and the economy looking much weaker for the foreseeable future, it's going to be a difficult time for both Visa and rival Mastercard (MA -1.60%) during this pandemic. While transaction volume will continue to be strong, there will be a drop-off as consumers suffer job losses and have less disposable income.

In fiscal 2019, Visa reported sales of $23 billion and net income was slightly more than half that amount, or $12 billion. The company's been a profit-making machine, with its bottom line doubling from a net income of $6 billion just three years earlier.

Which stock is the best buy of the three?

These three stocks have all gone in very different directions thus far in 2020. 

V Chart

V data by YCharts

Given the volatility in the cannabis sector so far this year, Canopy Growth is the riskiest of the three to own today; for most investors, the choice will be Netflix or Visa.

The credit card company is the only one on this list that offers a dividend. But at 0.78%, it's relatively modest and well below the 2% that investors can typically get with an average S&P 500 stock. However, with the stock trading at 28 times its earnings compared to the near 90 times earnings that Netflix trades at, it's a much better value buy. Canopy Growth, for the record, has posted a loss in each of its past four quarterly reports.

For value and dividend investors, Visa is the safe choice today and for the long term. But if you're a growth-oriented investor, then Netflix may be the more appealing option today, given its popularity and strong viewership.

David Jagielski has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Mastercard, Netflix, and Visa. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Stocks Mentioned

Netflix, Inc. Stock Quote
Netflix, Inc.
$226.41 (-4.49%) $-10.64
Visa Inc. Stock Quote
Visa Inc.
$183.96 (-0.98%) $-1.83
Canopy Growth Stock Quote
Canopy Growth
$2.84 (4.41%) $0.12
AT&T Inc. Stock Quote
AT&T Inc.
$16.01 (-1.42%) $0.23
Mastercard Incorporated Stock Quote
Mastercard Incorporated
$293.58 (-1.60%) $-4.78

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