To say that the stock market has come back from its March lows with a vengeance would be a massive understatement. As of July 28, the S&P 500 was flat for the year and was 47% higher than where it bottomed out in late March -- a remarkable rebound in just a few months.
However, that's not to say we're out of the woods just yet. The COVID-19 pandemic is still progressing at alarming levels, and things could get worse before they get better. Just to name a few hypothetical scenarios, state governments in hard-hit areas could choose to shut down their economies to slow the spread of the virus and unemployment could remain in the double digits well into 2021. Economic activity has largely been fueled by government support, and Congress could have trouble agreeing on any further stimulus. And the market is assuming a vaccine will be ready to go by the end of 2020 or early next year -- while this certainly looks likely, it's not a given.
The point is that the market could certainly crash again before the pandemic is over. And two stocks to own if it does are Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS) and Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK.A)(NYSE:BRK.B). Here's why these businesses are well positioned to make it through any tough times and are also set to thrive if the economy recovers quickly.
A stock for the recovery and the stay-at-home times
Disney has obviously been a victim of the COVID-19 pandemic in several ways. Its cash-cow theme parks shut down as the pandemic worsened, and although Walt Disney World has reopened, crowds are limited and it's not likely to bring in anywhere close to its typical level of revenue. In addition, Disney's cruise line remains shut down, and there's no way to know for sure when movie theaters will actually reopen on a wide scale.
Having said that, Disney's brands are powerful enough to make it through the tough times. When the pandemic is over, demand for the theme parks will be as strong as ever. Disney's numerous movie franchises are likely to bring in billions at the box office once again. And at some point, Disney's cruise ships will sail again.
In the meantime, the pandemic has given Disney's young streaming business a jolt. The company had set a (seemingly ambitious) target of 60-90 million subscribers by 2024. Well -- there were 54.5 million as of May 4 of this year. It's entirely possible that Disney will have reached its 2024 goal this year.
In a nutshell, Disney has enough liquidity to make it through the tough times, and is doing a great job of building up a massive stream of recurring revenue in the meantime. At about 20% less than where it started the year, Disney is a stock to own no matter how the rest of the pandemic plays out.
Buffett is finally putting money to work
Investors have been disappointed with Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett's lack of investment action for years, as the company's cash hoard grew to $137 billion by the end of the third quarter. And it makes sense -- this is more than one-fourth of Berkshire's market capitalization that was sitting around generating virtually no returns.
However, this seems to have changed recently. Berkshire's recent acquisition of Dominion's (NYSE: D) natural gas assets and the purchase of another $1.2 billion in Bank of America (NYSE: BAC) stock show that Buffett and his team may finally be seeing the compelling opportunities they've been waiting for.
If the market crashes again, it could open the door to even more investment opportunities. And with a collection of mainly recession-resistant businesses like GEICO and its many utility operations, Berkshire is well-positioned to stay profitable no matter what the stock market or economy does.
Two excellent long-term investments
To sum it up, Disney and Berkshire are two stocks that work well during the good times and can also allow you to sleep soundly at night knowing that if the stock market crashes again, they are relatively safe stocks that should make it through the turbulence in one piece.