For nearly two months, it's been chaos on Wall Street. Uncertainties surrounding the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) wound up pushing equities into the fastest bear market in history. In fact, it took just 33 calendar days for the benchmark S&P 500 to shed 34% of its value. For context, bear markets that lose 30% typically take an average 336 calendar days to accomplish such a feat.
But amid the chaos is opportunity. You see, every single stock market correction and bear market in history has eventually been put into the rearview mirror by a bull-market rally. This means investors who purchase high-quality stocks during corrections tend to come out ahead over the long run.
The real question that needs to be asked is, which approach should investors take: Should they be seeking out growth stocks to buy, or are value stocks the better play? The answer isn't as cut and dried as you might think.
Growth stocks or value stocks? It really depends on your investment time frame
Four years ago, Bank of America/Merrill Lynch released a report that analyzed the performance of growth stocks and value stocks over a 90-year period (1926-2015) -- and the results were telling.
For 90 years, growth stocks averaged an annual return of 12.6%, whereas value stocks returned an even more robust 17% per year. To be clear, investors wouldn't be complaining with either of these annualized returns over the long run. Then again, the nominal dollar difference between these returns is massive. Assuming a $100 investment in growth stocks and value stocks in 1926, the growth stock investment would have been worth about $4.4 million by 2015, while the value stock investment would be worth a whopping $137 million. That's the difference between a 12.6% annualized return and 17% per year.
Additionally BofA/Merrill Lynch analysts note that growth stocks have historically performed best when the economy is growing slowly, whereas value stocks performed best when the U.S. economy was running on all cylinders.
However, since the Great Recession, we've witnessed somewhat the opposite. With lending rates being pushed to record-low levels, growth stocks have been given the ability to cheaply borrow and expand their businesses. As long as access to cheap capital persists, growth stocks may be standout investments relative to value stocks.
But over the very long run, the data pretty clearly favors value stocks, which have outperformed growth stocks in approximately three out of five years over the analyzed period.
Thus, your choice to focus on growth or value really depends on whether you're in investing for the next five to 10 years, or perhaps the next 30 to 50 years.
Growth stocks to consider for the next decade
If your goal is to access your investment capital within the next five to 10 years, then growth stocks are probably the smartest way to go, especially with the low interest rate environment likely to persist for the foreseeable future. Here a couple of growth names that might be worth adding to your portfolio.
For instance, surgical system developer Intuitive Surgical (NASDAQ:ISRG) has the potential to grow sales at a double-digit rate this entire decade as robotic-assisted surgeries become more mainstream. Intuitive Surgical has almost 5,600 da Vinci systems installed worldwide, making it the undisputed leader in assisted surgical procedures, and it's really just scratched the surface in terms of what's it's capable of with regard to soft tissue surgeries. Since the bulk of Intuitive Surgical's margins are tied to the instruments it sells with each procedure, as well as the servicing performed on the da Vinci systems, it's a company whose profit growth should outpace sales growth over the long term.
We've also witnessed consistent double-digit growth rates from payment processing facilitators like Mastercard (NYSE:MA). Mastercard holds about 22% market share in the U.S., in terms of network purchase volume on credit cards, and it's grown its debit card market share by 7 seven percentage points over the past decade to 29%. With numerous underbanked regions of the world to branch out to (e.g., the Middle East, Africa, and southeastern Asia) and steady growth in consumption within the U.S., Mastercard looks poised to deliver for investors.
Value stocks to buy and hold for the next 30 years
Then again, if you're a younger investor who plans to put their money to work for many decades to come, history has shown that value stocks are the smart way to go. Here are a select few value stocks that may be worth buying.
One idea is Big Pharma Bristol Myers Squibb (NYSE:BMY), which recently completed its acquisition of Celgene and is currently valued at around 8 times next year's consensus profit estimate, according to Wall Street. For context, Bristol Myers has averaged a forward price-to-earnings ratio of 18 over the past five years. The addition of Celgene brings blockbuster multiple myeloma drug Revlimid into the fold, which has consistently grown by a double-digit percentage over the past decade and may be on track for $12 billion in 2020 sales. Meanwhile, Bristol Myers Squibb's cancer immunotherapy Opdivo is being examined in dozens of clinical studies and is already bringing in north of $7 billion in sales each year.
Another value stock to consider buying is storage solutions provider Western Digital (NASDAQ:WDC). While there's no question that the competition is fierce among hard drive and solid-state drive manufacturers, there's ample opportunity for Western Digital to capitalize on growing data needs in the cloud via data centers. The next phase of gaming consoles will also require revamped storage solutions, providing a bit of a near-term sales pop, as well. At roughly 6 times next year's earnings, Western Digital is currently valued about 33% below its average forward P/E over the past five years.
In sum, you can't go wrong with growth stocks or value stocks – but it certainly helps to know your investment time frame.