After several weeks during which equity markets fell significantly as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, investors finally got some breathing room last week as the market recovered some of its losses. The S&P 500 gained about 12% from April 6 through April 10, while the Dow Jones Composite Average climbed by approximately 13%. These gains were caused in part by the actions of the U.S. Federal Reserve and its attempts to boost the economy. Despite these developments, though, there are several reasons to think the stock market could plunge again in the not-so-distant future.
First, many companies will suffer financially as a result of the ongoing health crisis. We will start to see the full effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the financial performances of corporations as this earnings season begins. Further, businesses could continue to feel the financial impact of the outbreak long after it ends. As many businesses have closed and unemployment has soared, it could take a while for the economy to fully recover. With that many people out of a job, the disposable income of countless families will take a hit, which could lead to a decrease in consumption. A decrease in consumption could, in turn, affect the earnings of corporations.
Intuitive Surgical's business takes a breather
Intuitive Surgical is one of the leaders in the market for robotic-assisted surgery. The company's signature device -- the da Vinci Surgical System -- has been highly successful since it was first approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) two decades ago. There are more than 5,500 of these devices installed worldwide, and that number keeps growing. The bulk of Intuitive Surgical's revenue is recurring and comes from leasing its da Vinci systems, as well as the sale of instruments and accessories that go along with these systems.
Much of this revenue is dependent on the number of procedures performed with the da Vinci systems. However, because of the recent crisis, procedures have slowed down, and that will affect the company's bottom line. Intuitive Surgical recently released preliminary first-quarter results, in which managhement noted "disruption of procedures in countries with healthcare systems impacted early by the COVID-19 outbreak," adding that "procedure volume and system placement disruption [will] expand as the COVID-19 pandemic [intensifies], and the total impact of these disruptions could have a material impact on our financial results."
Even with these near-term headwinds, I believe Intuitive Surgical is a strong buy. The COVID-19 pandemic won't last forever (hopefully), and once we move past these dark times, Intuitive Surgical should pick up where it left off. Its da Vinci systems will continue to be the leading robotic-assisted surgery device in an industry that's ripe for growth; according to estimates by Medtronic (NYSE:MDT), one of Intuitive Surgical's competitors in this industry, a meager 2% of surgical procedures performed worldwide are done using robot assistance.
That number will likely grow in the coming years, and Intuitive Surgical, thanks to its leading position in the field, will be one of the winners. In short, despite the ongoing public health crisis, Intuitive Surgical remains a healthcare stock worth buying.
This leading electronic payment company still has room to grow
Visa's business model is fairly simple: The company's digital network handles financial transactions, and Visa pockets a fee for each transaction. Visa is one of the most well-established players in this field, and the company's revenue and earnings continue to grow at a decent clip. During its latest reported quarter -- the first quarter of its fiscal year 2020 -- Visa's net revenue of $6.1 billion was up by 10% year-over-year, while its net income of $3.3 billion and its earnings per share of $1.46 had increased by 10% and 12%, respectively, compared with the prior-year quarter.
With that said, though, Visa's financial results will very likely be negatively impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. The current economic climate will lead to a decrease in payment volume, and as the company itself says: "Payments volume is the primary driver for our service revenues, and the number of processed transactions is the primary driver for our data processing revenues."
However, I believe Visa's long-term prospects remain attractive. The war on cash is still raging, and Visa is ideally positioned to continue to profit from a decreasing reliance on physical money. The company boasts a strong competitive advantage in the form of the "network effect" -- which means that the value of its offerings increases as more people use them.
As Visa's payment ecosystem grows, it attracts more merchants, and as it attracts more merchants, it becomes more convenient for consumers, thus attracting even more customers, and the cycle repeats itself. Of course, Visa isn't without its competitors, but the company has continuously been able to perform well despite the competitive nature of its industry. Over the past five years, Visa's stock performance has easily outpaced that of the S&P 500.
I expect that trend to continue once the COVID-19 pandemic is behind us, and those who buy shares of Visa now will likely be glad they did so in five more years.