It's a big roll of the dice with investing in the stocks of some companies focused on fighting COVID-19. If they're successful, you could make a ton of money. But if they're not, your loss could be catastrophic.
The good news is that the stakes aren't always so high. There are some stocks of companies developing COVID-19 diagnostic tests, drug candidates, and vaccine candidates that are relatively safe bets. If you've got $5,000 or so to invest, here are three coronavirus stocks you can buy in July without losing any sleep.
1. Abbott Labs
Abbott Labs (ABT 0.37%) could be the poster child for blue chip stocks. The company made nearly $32 billion last year in sales. It's been in business since 1888. Fortune ranked Abbott as the No. 1 most admired company in the medical products and equipment industry seven years in a row. Abbott is also a Dividend Aristocrat, with an impressive streak of 48 consecutive years of annual dividend increases.
You don't have to give up solid growth prospects by buying shares of this stable healthcare giant, though. Wall Street analysts project that Abbott will deliver average annual earnings growth of more than 10% over the next five years.
Abbott's COVID-19 tests should play a key role in helping the company achieve analysts' growth expectations. The company currently markets COVID-19 diagnostic tests across five platforms. As of July 1, 2020, Abbott had shipped more than 20 million COVID-19 tests.
Even without its coronavirus-focused products, though, Abbott would be in a great position to deliver strong growth. The company recently won FDA clearance for FreeStyle Libre 2. The integrated continuous glucose monitoring (iCGM) system should be a huge commercial success. Abbott also markets other products with fast-rising sales, including its Alinity family of lab diagnostics systems and Mitraclip device for leaky heart valves.
AstraZeneca (AZN 2.65%) ranks among the biggest drugmakers in the world, generating over $24 billion in sales last year. The company was founded in 1999 with the merger of Swedish drugmaker Astra AB and British pharma Zeneca Group. Its roots date back to 1913 when Astra AB began operations.
Some investors could be drawn to AstraZeneca for its dividend, which currently yields around 2.6%. However, the big pharmaceutical company's growth prospects should even more appealing. The consensus analysts' estimate calls for AstraZeneca to achieve average annual earnings growth of more than 19% over the next five years.
That level of growth should be a piece of cake for AstraZeneca if the COVID-19 vaccine candidate that it's developing with the University of Oxford is successful. World Health Organization chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan views the experimental vaccine as the leading candidate among the 19 (and counting) COVID-19 vaccine candidates in clinical testing.
AstraZeneca claims several other growth drivers in addition to its COVID-19 vaccine candidate. Sales continue to skyrocket for cancer drugs Calquence, Imfinzi, Lynparza, and Tagrisso. The company's pipeline could also provide new winners, including potential asthma treatment tezepelumab and anemia drug roxadustat.
3. Eli Lilly
Eli Lilly (LLY -0.01%) runs neck-and-neck with AstraZeneca in terms of market cap. It made over $22 billion in sales in 2019. The big pharmaceutical company opened its doors way back in 1876.
Wall Street analysts like Lilly's growth potential. They expect the drugmaker to increase its earnings by an average of close to 13.5% annually over the next five years. Lilly's dividend, which yields 1.8%, should add to the stock's total returns.
It's quite possible that Lilly's prospects will be even better than analysts think. I think the company's coronavirus programs could be big winners. Lilly partnered with AbCellera and Junshi Biosciences to develop antibody therapy candidates targeting COVID-19. The drugmaker is also evaluating Olumiant as a potential treatment for the viral disease.
Meanwhile, sales for Olumiant are soaring as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. Lilly's cancer drugs Verzenio and Cyramza are gaining momentum. It's a similar story for diabetes drugs Jardiance and Trulicity. Add anti-inflammatory drug Taltz and migraine drug Emgality to Lilly's list of fast-rising stars as well. The company's pipeline is also loaded with strong late-stage candidates including immunology drug mirikizumab and pain drug tanezumab.