The present state of the stock market can be confusing. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the S&P 500 has officially turned positive year to date -- but that is a bit misleading.

Aside from stocks in the technology (up over 23% this year), consumer discretionary, and healthcare sectors, all the other sectors are down. Hidden in those down sectors are a few companies with the staying power to become great long-term investments.

Here are four of these companies whose stocks are on sale and worth buying right now.

The silhouette of a bull standing tall against the morning sun

Image source: Getty Images.

1. Starbucks

Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) just reported its first quarterly loss in about seven years as revenue fell by 38% year over year. But Starbucks expects its next quarter to be profitable and full-year non-GAAP (adjusted) earnings per share in the range of $0.83 to $0.98. As the quarter progressed, Starbucks began seeing improvements as more and more stores reopened, with 96% of U.S. stores open by quarter's end, compared with just 44% open at the beginning of the quarter. With the worst seemingly behind it, Starbucks is confident that a recovery will continue. It expects comparable-store sales (comps) to improve in China by the end of this year and in the U.S. by the end of March 2021. 

As for the long term, Starbucks reaffirmed its intentions to gradually shift to a leaner business model that involves leveraging drive-thrus, curbside pickup, the development of 50 Starbucks Pickup stores in the next 12 to 18 months, and mobile ordering from its extremely loyal rewards members. I love this direction for Starbucks and am happy to collect a 2.1% dividend yield while I wait for its new strategy to unfold.

2. Disney

Shares of Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS) remain down around 12.1% in 2020 and 20.7% from its 52-week-highs -- and for good reason. As impressive as the Disney+ subscription streaming service has been and will likely continue to be for years to come, Disney simply isn't as strong in a world without its theme parks open or blockbuster films in theaters. Parks, experiences, and products combined with studio entertainment made up 54% of fiscal year 2019 revenue and 64% of profit. Then there's the slowdown in sports entertainment from Disney-owned ESPN and Fox, which affects its highest income segment -- media networks.

As bad as things are for Disney right now, it's hard to ignore the dominance of its brand and the growth prospects of Disney+. For long-term value investors, picking up shares at a 12.1% discount and being patient for a few years could be a wise move.

3. Southwest Airlines

Shares of Southwest Airlines (NYSE:LUV) are down over 40% this year, and management has blatantly stated that things are bad. The airline industry is bruised and bloodied, but it has vastly improved daily cash burn rates compared with April.

Like Disney, investing in Southwest Airlines is a wager that picking up a few shares of a leader in a suffering industry is a good long-term investment -- and there's plenty of evidence that suggests Southwest has the strongest balance sheet in the industry.

There is a considerable amount of risk that should be considered before investing in airlines right now. If COVID-19 cases continue to increase, air traffic could begin to fall from its improved June levels, which would likely bring airline stocks, even the best ones like Southwest, further down.

4. Honeywell

Honeywell International (NASDAQ:HON) shares are on sale for 15.5% off since the industrial conglomerate is heavily reliant on its top segment -- aerospace -- which had a 27% decrease in organic growth in the second quarter. The rest of Honeywell's business isn't doing all that great, either, because the industries it serves simply aren't as productive as they were before the pandemic. However, Honeywell does have one big advantage: its balance sheet.

Honeywell has arguably one of the best balance sheets of any industrial, with very little debt. Although its second quarter was bad, Honeywell took a relatively minor hit to free cash flow, which even now is plenty to cover Honeywell's dividend. Honeywell yields 2.4% at the time of this writing. 

A diverse basket

Each company on this list is a leader in an industry that has been impacted by the pandemic -- so it's not surprising that their stocks are on sale. Strategic shifts in Starbucks' strategy and the success of Disney+ suggest that both companies could be even stronger in a few years than they were before the pandemic. Honeywell's impressive balance sheet gives it precious wiggle room to work within a slowly improving economy. Southwest is the riskiest stock on this list, but it's also down the most this year.

Together, these four stocks form a diverse basket that could be a great way for long-term investors to play an economic recovery over the next few years.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.