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The 3 Best Small-Cap Stocks to Buy With Your Stimulus Check

By Sean Williams – Apr 12, 2020 at 9:07AM

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Bargains abound, even among higher-growth small-cap stocks.

Despite a bit of a relief rally over the past two-plus weeks, it's still been a seven-week stretch that Wall Street and Main Street are never going to forget. After all, it's not often the stock market blows all-time records out of the water when it comes to the swiftness of a 20% or 30% decline.

At the heart of this record-breaking uncertainty is the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), which has killed more than 10,000 Americans and over 81,000 people worldwide, as of April 7. This respiratory illness has completely changed our societal habits, and has for the meantime shut down most nonessential businesses.

A U.S. Treasury check and a couple one hundred dollar bills laid atop an American flag.

Image source: Getty Images.

However, a light at the end of the tunnel scenario does exist. Drug developers around the world are working around the clock on treatments and antiviral options to combat COVID-19. Likewise, central banks and federal governments are doing everything they can to soften the economic blow that mitigation measures have exacted on workers.

Within the U.S., lawmakers passed and President Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act just a few weeks ago. Aside from doling out $500 billion to distressed industries and $350 billion to small business loans, the CARES Act also apportions $260 billion to expand the unemployment program and sets aside $300 billion for direct payments to Americans. These stimulus checks, which can total as much as $1,200 per adult and are based on income, should begin finding their way into bank accounts this coming week.

For some workers and their families, a stimulus check is very much needed to help pay bills and purchase basic-need goods. But for others who have a large emergency fund, an up to $1,200 stimulus check could be the perfect opportunity to go shopping for discounted stocks. Considering that the stock market has a flawless track record of eventually erasing bear market declines, now might be the time to get aggressive and seek out higher-growth small-cap stocks for your portfolio. Here are three of the best small-cap stocks you can buy with your stimulus check.

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Image source: Getty Images.

Intercept Pharmaceuticals

First up, I'd encourage prospective stimulus check recipients to take a long look at biotech company Intercept Pharmaceuticals (ICPT 4.57%), which comes in with a valuation of about $2 billion.

Although pretty much all eyes are on a potential cure or treatment for COVID-19, you may have overlooked Intercept's possible game-changer, Ocaliva, as a treatment for nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). NASH is a liver disease that affects between 2% and 5% of U.S. adults, and can lead to liver fibrosis, liver cancer, and even death. There currently is no Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved treatment for NASH, which is viewed as a $35 billion market opportunity.

In late-stage trials, Intercept's highest dose of Ocaliva met one of its two co-primary endpoints, which was a statistically significant improvement in liver fibrosis without NASH worsening, relative to a placebo. The concern being this high dose also led roughly half of all patients to experience pruritus (itching), which is why Intercept's stock has fallen out of favor recently. However, with a PDUFA decision date upcoming, a big pop or drop likely awaits.

In my view, FDA approval seems likely, even if physicians choose to only focus Ocaliva on a smaller subset of NASH patients. Intercept's Ocaliva has an opportunity to be the first NASH drug on the scene, and it might stay that way for longer than Wall Street expects given the failure rate associated with NASH clinical studies.

With Ocaliva already approved to treat primary biliary cholangitis -- an indication that might generate $300 million in annual sales at its peak -- and potentially NASH, $1 billion in annual sales isn't out of the question within a few years.

A stack of gold ingots atop a one hundred dollar bill, with Ben Franklin's face to the right of the stack.

Image source: Getty Images.

SSR Mining

Precious-metal mining is generally not thought of as a high-growth industry. But when the price of your primary product (gold) has risen significantly, and production improvements yield higher output, gold-mining stocks can actually be a source of surprising growth. That's why I'm choosing to (again) highlight SSR Mining (SSRM -0.37%).

To be clear, SSR Mining hasn't escaped the hardships associated with the coronavirus. Its silver-mining operations in Argentina were shut down for 11 days at the end of March, and its Seabee mine in Canada will be shuttered for a little over four weeks, until the end of April, in order to do its part to slow the spread of COVID-19. But there's not much to be worried about considering that SSR Mining is one of only a handful of gold-mining companies with a net-cash position. It ended 2019 with approximately $288 million more in cash and marketable securities than long-term debt, and almost certainly added to this figure in the first quarter.

SSR Mining should also be a prime beneficiary for what I believe is the best-case scenario for physical gold in modern history. Global bond yields are virtually nonexistent, and central banks are pumping liquidity into their respective economies at a rapid rate. This means it's going to be especially difficult for investors to find safe, guaranteed returns, and likely makes gold a preferred store-of-value choice. It would not be out of the question to see gold hit $3,000 within the next two years.

More specific to SSR Mining, it's delivered record output from Seabee every year since acquiring Claude Resources, and fully expects output at its flagship Marigold mine in Nevada to grow 30% between 2018 and 2021. With relatively low operating costs and expanding margins, SSR Mining looks as lustrous as ever.

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Image source: Getty Images.

Ping Identity

Another smart way to invest your stimulus check is to seek out high-growth, small-cap stocks that provide a basic-need good or service. That's why Ping Identity (PING) really needs to be on your buy list.

As the company's name implies, Ping Identity provides identity solutions for enterprises around the world in both traditional workplace settings and within the cloud. Since identity security is something every business needs, regardless of how well or poorly the economy is performing, there's some degree of security regarding the demand for Ping's solutions. It also doesn't hurt that 94% of the company's fourth quarter revenue was from subscriptions. This means Ping Identity's cash flow is often highly predictable. 

What separates Ping identity from a crowded field of identity security providers is its use of artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms. Ping's products are able to identify instances where multi-factor authentication may be required to ensure that a computer program or non-employee aren't attempting to access a company's data center. This differentiation, and the fact that virtually all of its clients are on a subscription, tends to create longtime clients.

Because enterprises continue to move data well beyond the workplace and into the cloud, there's likely a long-term opportunity for Ping Identity to grow its sales by, at minimum, 10% annually for the foreseeable future.

Sean Williams owns shares of Intercept Pharmaceuticals and SSR Mining Inc. The Motley Fool owns shares of Ping Identity Holding. The Motley Fool recommends Intercept Pharmaceuticals. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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