Stocks were rallying from COVID-19 lows before Thursday's sharp sell-off. If there's one thing that we can all agree on, it's that the market is a volatile machine these days. Investors will keep investing, and if anything, the wild price swings will provide some interesting entry points.
The neat thing about investing is that you don't need a lot of money to get started or build up your existing portfolio. With a growing number of brokers slashing commissions on stock trades and offering fractional shares, even $2,000 can get you into some pretty interesting growth stocks. I like Pegasystems (PEGA -2.61%), Baidu (BIDU -0.20%), and Dropbox (DBX 0.93%) here. Let me spell out my reasons for naming these as three stocks where $2,000 can go a long way.
Pegasystems might not be the first company that you think about when sizing up enterprise software stocks. There are obviously bigger names in the CRM, or customer relationship management, space, but Pegasystems is starting to get into a good groove with its cloud software for customer engagement and enhanced operational performance.
Things seemed uninspiring a couple of years ago when Pegasystems was shifting away from one-time legacy software sales and upgrades to a cloud-based subscription sales model. The transition weighed on its top line. Revenue growth was flat in 2018, only to move just 2% higher last year. However, we've seen accelerating revenue growth for four consecutive quarters, culminating in a 25% year-over-year top-line surge in its latest quarter.
Annual contract value -- management's preferred growth metric since it's the best indicator of future growth -- rose 21% in its latest quarter. With all but 5% of its first-quarter commitments now coming in for its cloud-based offerings, it's easy to like where Pegasystems is heading in the near term.
Shares of China's leading search engine provider haven't participated in this year's tech rally. It's still trading lower in 2020, and some of that retreat is earned. The online ad market has been weak in China, and revenue has declined in three of the past four quarters. Baidu is no longer a dot-com darling, but it's still a force with growing reach in the world's most populous nation.
Thursday's sell-off wasn't kind to Baidu, but the factors weighing on the market -- the stateside spike in COVID-19 cases and crumbling economy -- are old hat in China. Chinese coronavirus cases peaked before our shutdown, and the country's unemployment rate may have topped off at 6.2% in February. An out-of-favor Chinese growth stocks with a huge online audience seems like a compelling purchase here. More than a quarter of its market cap is spoken for by its $10.6 billion in cash on its balance sheet, and it trades at a revenue multiple that is just 2.1 times its enterprise value.
The shelter-in-place phase of the pandemic made Dropbox a hot commodity. There are now more than 600 million members relying on Dropbox for its cloud-based data storage platform. Most of the users are freeloaders, but that growing audience is fertile soil for its premium products.
Dropbox saw an uptick in free trials for its premium products -- on both the consumer and enterprise side -- during the early stages of the country's shutdown. The party doesn't end for Dropbox now. File portability matters now more than ever with folks bouncing from commutes to working from home.
Dropbox isn't the only game in town when it comes to online data storage, but it's not having a problem growing. Dropbox also has an impressive track record of beating Wall Street's profit targets, having posted double-digit percentage beats in all eight of its quarters as a public company.
These three growth stocks are at different stages these days. Growth is bouncing back at Pegasystems, in a funk at Baidu, and steady at Dropbox. However, all three stocks are attractive investments with the right ingredients to beat the market from here. Investing $2,000 into these three stocks could be a smart move right now.