I'll admit right out of the gate that any list of the smartest stocks to buy will be debatable. After all, the smartest stocks for a person in their thirties are likely to be very different than the stocks for a person in their seventies. Different investing goals require different strategies.
However, there are stocks that are so attractive that they're good picks for nearly any investor. I'm talking about the stocks of companies that have exceptionally strong businesses. Their competitive advantages are solid. They have tremendous growth prospects. And they're generating consistently high growth in both revenue and profits.
Several stocks meet all of these criteria. But here are three that especially stand out in my view as the smartest stocks to buy right now.
There's no way that I could leave Amazon (AMZN -0.54%) off the list. For a company with a market cap of $1.2 trillion to deliver 23% year-over-year revenue growth and 41% earnings growth as Amazon did in the first quarter is impressive.
Think of an important growth area, and it's likely that Amazon is a leader in that area. Obviously there's e-commerce. Artificial intelligence? Just ask Alexa. Cloud? Amazon Web Services ranks No. 1. Digital payments? The company has Amazon Pay. Gaming? Check out Twitch. Streaming TV? Hello, Amazon Prime Video.
Amazon has already taken some important steps to move into new markets, notably including healthcare. My view is that it could be the next big new growth driver for the company. Amazon is also reportedly looking to get into the self-driving car market with a potential acquisition of Zoox.
Perhaps the greatest risk for Amazon is that it becomes so big that regulators split up the company. Even if that happens down the road, I think many of the individual businesses within Amazon would be successful on their own.
2. Intuitive Surgical
The smartest stocks to buy don't have to have as many irons in the fire as Amazon. Big winners often focus on one niche that they dominate. That's what Intuitive Surgical (ISRG -1.83%) has done in the robotic surgical systems market for two decades.
Intuitive Surgical routinely delivers year-over-year revenue and earnings growth of over 20%. While the company's growth slipped some in the first quarter, there was a good reason. The COVID-19 pandemic caused hospitals to delay non-urgent procedures, which negatively impacted Intuitive. However, this is only a temporary problem. Expect the pent-up demand to fuel a big jump for the company's sales and profits in the second half of 2020.
What about the prospects of new competition? Sure, companies including Medtronic and Johnson & Johnson have entered the robotic surgical systems arena. However, I think the market is big enough to support multiple players. And Intuitive's long track record and huge install base give the company a big advantage over newcomers.
More importantly, the robotic surgical systems market should expand over the next several decades. Aging demographic trends will be a major tailwind. In addition, technological advances will enable robotic surgical systems to be used in more procedures. I think these long-term growth drivers make Intuitive Surgical a fantastic healthcare stock for long-term investors.
3. The Trade Desk
I've already mentioned that TV streaming is a high-growth market that Amazon has targeted. But there's another way to play the growth in streaming that's quite attractive. Many of the streaming services are ad-supported. And that gives The Trade Desk (TTD -1.02%) a huge growth opportunity.
The Trade Desk provides the industry-leading buy-side programmatic advertising platform. Programmatic advertising uses software to enable ad agencies to buy advertising spots instead of back-and-forth personal negotiations. It's faster, easier, and more cost-effective.
We're "in the middle of a once-in-a-lifetime consumer shift to connected devices and streaming content," according to The Trade Desk CEO Jeff Green. While the COVID-19 pandemic caused some curtail of advertising budgets, that should only be temporary. In fact, the Trade Desk is already seeing a big bounce in connected TV (CTV) ad spend.
But CTV isn't the only opportunity for The Trade Desk. The company recently partnered with TikTok in a deal that opens up the short-form video platform to The Trade Desk's advertisers. And the overall shift to programmatic advertising will provide a huge boost to the company's fortunes. With rising revenue and profits and a massive opportunity ahead, I think that The Trade Desk is absolutely one of the smartest stocks for investors to buy right now.