This has been a record-breaking year on Wall Street in more ways than one. Since the year began, investors have dealt with:
- The fastest and steepest bear market drop in history.
- The quickest rebound to new all-time highs from a bear market low.
- A brief period of negative oil prices.
- The highest volatility reading ever for the CBOE Volatility Index.
And, as a reminder, we still have four full months to go before we say goodbye (and possibly good riddance) to 2020.
But this heightened volatility hasn't been all bad news. Investors with a long-term horizon have been able to buy into high-quality companies at attractive valuations. Even with the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite taking out one new high after another, there's still plenty of value out there for patient buyers.
Plus, you don't need to be rich to put your money to work in the stock market. With fractional investing picking up steam and commission-free trades becoming the industry norm, you can forge your path to financial freedom with as little as $100 these days.
If you want to declare your financial independence, consider buying these three smart stocks with your $100 right now.
One of the most exciting companies that won't cost an arm and a leg to buy into is social media up-and-comer Pinterest (PINS -2.73%). Although shares of Pinterest are up 82% year to date and have more than tripled off their March 2020 lows, the company is really just scratching the surface of its long-term potential.
Most social media sites eventually contend with stalled user growth, but this hasn't even remotely been the case for Pinterest. The company ended June with around 416 million monthly active users (MAUs), which is up 116 million from the year-ago period.
What's particularly notable about this increase is that roughly 106 million of these MAUs are from outside the United States. Since U.S. MAUs generate far more average revenue per user (ARPU) for Pinterest, this figure might seem like a downside, but adding boatloads of international MAUs actually allows Pinterest to double its ARPU many times over. It more than doubled overseas ARPU in 2019, and I believe it has the potential to do so a couple of times throughout this decade.
Pinterest is also just starting to stretch its legs in e-commerce. With a platform that encourages users to share their interests and ideas, it makes complete sense for Pinterest to give small businesses the opportunity to turn these motivated pinners into buyers. Pinterest has partnered with e-commerce platform Shopify to aid small businesses, and it's been relying more on video to keep users engaged.
All told, Pinterest is a $20 billion company today that could be worth $100 billion (or more) in 10 years.
Another smart way for investors to put $100 to work would be to buy shares of cannabis multistate operator Cresco Labs (CRLBF -2.32%).
Marijuana is projected to be one of the fastest-growing industries this decade. Of course, this won't be without growing pains for a still-nascent industry. These hiccups have helped bring pot stock valuations back to reasonable levels, allowing investors to buy into Cresco Labs on the cheap.
Cresco Labs has two significant growth drivers over the next couple of years. First is its plan to gobble up share in the Illinois recreational market. Illinois became the first state to legalize the consumption and sale of adult-use weed entirely at the legislative level. Sales for recreational pot began on Jan. 1, 2020, with estimates suggesting the Land of Lincoln could hit north of $1 billion in annualized sales by 2024. Cresco has opened nearly half of its operational dispensaries in Illinois and will assuredly maximize its presence in the state as allowable by law.
The second growth catalyst is Cresco's acquisition of Origin House, which closed in January. Origin House is one of a select few pot stocks that held a cannabis distribution license in California. By purchasing Origin House, Cresco Labs gained access to more than 575 dispensaries in the Golden State. Since California is the largest legal marijuana market in the world by sales, placing its pot products into these dispensaries will be a big key to Cresco's success.
According to very fluid estimates from Wall Street, Cresco Labs' full-year sales are expected to catapult from $128.5 million in 2019 to $1.31 billion by 2024.
Investors looking for a bargain should also consider old-school tech stock Western Digital (WDC -2.93%), which has been hammered by a perfect storm of issues over the past two years.
Western Digital, which provides data storage solutions and devices, has been contending with increased competition, a NAND flash supply glut, and order disruptions due to the novel coronavirus. It has completely suspended what had been a juicy 5%-plus-yielding dividend. And yet, the company looks to be a screaming buy at these depressed levels.
In the very near term, Western Digital is likely to benefit from the rollout of new gaming consoles. New console debuts don't happen very often, but almost always entail the need for beefed-up storage solutions.
However, the big-time catalyst for Western Digital is the ongoing move for enterprises out of the traditional office environment and into the cloud. This is a move that's only been accelerated because of the coronavirus pandemic. With remote and shared clouds taking on greater importance, demand for data center and off-premises storage is expected to skyrocket in the years to come. While Western Digital's hard-disk drives (HDD) remain staples in data centers for now, the company's NAND flash memory drives are likely the future of data center storage. Since NAND technology is far more reliable and enduring than HDD, it's more likely to gobble up data center market share in the years to come.
Though there could still be some near-term hiccups, Western Digital appears to be quite the bargain at just 7% above its book value and five times next year's projected earnings per share.