This has been a year that the investors won't soon forget. Initially, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic sent the broad-based S&P 500 lower by a whopping 34% in less than a few weeks. This was the steepest bear market decline from recent highs in history. But it was also followed by the most ferocious five-month rally of all time, with the S&P 500 ascending to a record high in August.
If we've learned anything as investors over the years, it's that every single stock market correction or bear market represents a buying opportunity for long-term investors. Bull market rallies eventually erase every notable move lower in equities.
But just because we're approaching new all-time highs doesn't mean there's not plenty of value for patient investors. As we move into September and prepare for the leaves to change color, consider putting your money to work in the following three top stocks, all of which have the potential to make you richer this month and well beyond.
Despite more than doubling on a year-to-date basis, telemedicine giant Teladoc Health (TDOC -2.57%), which is in the process of merging with Livongo Health (LVGO) in a cash-and-stock deal, is still a smart buy for long-term investors.
There's no question that 2020's "game script" has aided Teladoc. Doctors want to keep potentially COVID-19-infected patients out of their offices, as well as ensure that immunocompromised folks stay home. These objectives have led to a significant uptick in telemedicine usage over the past six months. Teladoc's June-ended quarter featured 2.8 million total telemedicine visits -- a figure that's up 203% from the prior-year period.
But the thing to understand here is that COVID-19 didn't give rise to telemedicine and precision medicine. It was simply a shot in the arm of an already rapidly growing trend. In Teladoc's case, its revenue from subscriptions telemedicine services and fee-only visits has surged from $20 million in full-year 2013 to what might be $1 billion in 2020. That's a compound annual growth rate of approximately 75% since 2013.
Furthermore, demand for telemedicine isn't going to slow down. That's because it benefits the entire healthcare chain. Physicians are able to assist more patients with telemedicine visits, and patients can "meet" their doctor or specialist from the comfort of their bed or couch. As for insurers, telemedicine visits often cost less than in-person office visits. It's a win-win for everyone.
The imminent addition of Livongo Health is only going to make Teladoc the single-greatest healthcare stock to own this decade. Livongo's healthcare solutions collect copious data on patients with chronic illnesses like diabetes and utilize artificial intelligence to send tips and nudges to its members to elicit long-term behavioral changes. In other words, Livongo aims to help chronically ill people live healthier lives and take better care of their conditions.
Livongo is already profitable and just now scratching the surface of an enormous patient pool that includes 34.2 million diabetics, as well as tens of millions of hypertensive and overweight Americans. The combination of telemedicine and precision medicine is a match made in heaven for investors.
Purchasing mining stocks is another smart way to put your money to work in September. The one that catches my eye -- and that also happens to be my largest portfolio holding -- is gold miner SSR Mining (SSRM -5.91%).
To understand why SSR Mining is a top stock that can make you richer, it's important to look at both the macro and company-specific catalysts that can push its valuation higher.
On a macro level, the outlook for physical gold has never shone more brightly. Global and domestic bond yields have plunged, giving income seekers few avenues to generating safe income that also outpaces inflation. This will presumably encourage investors to park their cash in physical gold as a store of value.
Also, the U.S. Federal Reserve has pledged to keep interest rates at or near record lows for years to come, all while using unlimited amounts of quantitative easing to buoy financial markets. This suggests that the U.S. money supply is going to continue to balloon higher, which will weigh on the U.S. dollar. Since the dollar and physical gold have an inverse relationship, dollar weakness should beget a higher spot price for the lustrous yellow metal.
When it comes to SSR Mining, there are a number of reasons to buy now, aside from just the fact that higher spot prices lead to juicier cash operating margins. For instance, the company was required to close two of its three operating mines due to COVID-19 precautions, and Wall Street clobbered it for weak second-quarter results that were wholly expected. With the highly efficient and low-cost Seabee mine back online and the company's Argentinian silver operations ramping back up, SSR Mining has all the tools necessary to blow past Wall Street's expectations moving forward.
SSR Mining is also in the process of merging with Alacer Gold in an all-stock deal. When complete, the combined company will be able to produce roughly 780,000 ounces of gold a year, delivering $450 million in annual free cash flow through 2022. This is noteworthy given that SSR Mining already has a net cash position. I fully expect a dividend and/or share repurchase program to be instated following completion of the deal.
At about seven times next Wall Street's projected cash flow per share for 2021, SSR Mining looks to be a big-time bargain in the mining industry.
A third top stock that can make you richer in September and beyond is regional banking behemoth U.S. Bancorp (USB -0.84%).
As you can imagine, there are a lot of headwinds working against bank stocks at the moment. While the Fed's dovish monetary policy is great news for gold stocks like SSR Mining, it's terrible news for banks. That's because low lending rates mean less in the way of interest income on new and variable-rate loans. This decline in interest income also comes as loan delinquencies are expected to soar. Banks will thus get hit from both ends due to the coronavirus pandemic.
But it's important to realize that U.S. Bancorp has been here before, and it's navigated its way through a number of recessions. Its secret to success has always been to avoid risky derivative investments and stick to the bread and butter of what makes banks great: growing loans and deposits. In the second quarter, U.S. Bancorp reported a 10% year-over-year increase in outstanding loans and a 16.8% bump up in deposits from Q2 2019.
It's not just that the company's conservative approach to banking is paying off. It also has to do with the fact that it's one of the most efficient regional banks out there. U.S. Bancorp's roughly 1.6% return on assets (ROA) during periods of economic expansion is about 60% higher than the 1% ROA that most banks target, and well above the average ROA for money-center banks. Though its ROA is suppressed by a recent increase in credit-loss provisions, U.S. Bancorp has a history of generating above-average profits relative to its total assets.
Maybe the most under-the-radar advantage of all for U.S. Bancorp is that digital engagement is soaring. Between May 2018 and May 2020, the total number of digital transactions (i.e., online or mobile) rose from 65% to 76%. This digital push was even more noticeable with regard to loan sales, where digital sales accounted for 46% of all loans in May 2020 (up from 25% in May 2018). Because digital banking interactions cost only a fraction of in-person ones, this online and mobile-banking push allows U.S. Bancorp to close branches and lower its noninterest expenses.
At only 22% above its book value, U.S. Bancorp is as cheap as it's been since the financial crisis more than a decade ago. And as the icing on the cake, investors will receive a 4.5% yield while they patiently wait for the U.S. economy and banking industry to recover.