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The Nasdaq's Surprise Winner on a Down Market Day

By Dan Caplinger – Jun 19, 2020 at 3:00PM

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Even as markets cooled off, one company is positioned to keep climbing.

The stock market had an up-and-down day on Friday, and investors weren't able to get over uncertainties related to the coronavirus pandemic. As of 2:45 p.m. EDT, the Nasdaq Composite (^IXIC) was down, although it didn't lose as much ground as some broader-based market benchmarks. The Nasdaq 100 index also suffered modest losses.

Many of the stocks that have been investor favorites during the pandemic are joining the index in losing ground on Friday. However, there's one stock that many people haven't even heard of, but that's poised to benefit from the same trends now hitting its home region of the world that have helped its industry peers in the U.S. and elsewhere. That stock is MercadoLibre (MELI 6.59%), which is up almost 3% today as of 2:45 p.m. EDT in the down market, and it's found ways to grow even as COVID-19 cases have picked up dramatically in several countries in South America.

Person with hands behind head, looking at a 4-screen setup with a city skyline behind.

Image source: Getty Images.

MercadoLibre's story

MercadoLibre has followed a similar trajectory to that of U.S.-based e-commerce marketplace provider eBay (EBAY 1.11%). The Argentina-based company has developed arguably the most important online market in Latin America, helping millions of users make purchases via e-commerce channels and linking them to businesses that want to sell their goods online.

From there, MercadoLibre has expanded the scope of its business to provide several key adjacent services. The company's Mercado Pago electronic payment service started out as an adjunct to its online marketplace, essentially acting as a captive payment channel for MercadoLibre users. Over time, though, the company has realized the full potential of Mercado Pago for independent payment processing that has nothing to do with business over the MercadoLibre marketplace, and it's looking to take advantage of fintech innovations as well.

Similarly, MercadoLibre provides shipping and logistics support through its Mercado Envios service. It extends financing to merchants through its Mercado Credito platform. With everything it does, MercadoLibre is broadening the funnel of business that flows into its ecosystem, encouraging users to make broader use of everything it has to offer.

The impact of COVID-19 on MercadoLibre

The coronavirus pandemic has stopped many businesses in their tracks. MercadoLibre has definitely had to deal with the negative impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak, with nervousness among consumers causing them to pull back on purchases.

Yet over time, MercadoLibre has started to benefit from the greater use of e-commerce channels during the health crisis. Since March, activity levels have rebounded sharply, restoring impressive growth rates for the company's various segments by April. On the loan side, MercadoLibre hasn't yet seen deterioration in credit quality have a dramatic impact on its results, and it's being prudent in extending further credit to make sure it doesn't create a problem unnecessarily.

Unfortunately, it looks like many of the trends that have helped push consumers toward e-commerce services like MercadoLibre in Latin America are accelerating. The company's key Brazilian market is dealing with a huge upsurge in COVID-19 cases to more than 1 million. That's second only behind the U.S. and its 2.6 million cases as of June 18. Mexico, Peru, and Chile have also seen sizable surges, and although Argentina hasn't yet shown the same problems, it's possible that the virus will spread there as well.

MercadoLibre has a lot going for it, and even in the middle of a crisis, it's taking steps to grow its business and become even more important in the lives of those it serves. With the stock up more than 50% year to date and nearing the $1,000 per share mark, you can expect MercadoLibre to get a lot more attention in the future.

Dan Caplinger has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends MercadoLibre. The Motley Fool recommends eBay and recommends the following options: long January 2021 $18 calls on eBay and short January 2021 $37 calls on eBay. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Stocks Mentioned

Mercadolibre, Inc. Stock Quote
Mercadolibre, Inc.
$882.30 (6.59%) $54.52
NASDAQ Composite Index (Price Return) Stock Quote
NASDAQ Composite Index (Price Return)
$10,575.62 (%)
eBay Inc. Stock Quote
eBay Inc.
$37.22 (1.11%) $0.41

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

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