It's a conundrum, to be sure. The Nasdaq Composite is struggling, touching its lowest lows since July this past week and acting as if it could keep edging lower. Yet, Nasdaq-listed names Peloton Interactive (NASDAQ:PTON), Zoom Video Communications (NASDAQ:ZM), and Roku (NASDAQ:ROKU) are bucking that overall trend by continuing their upward march. Are these companies simply so strong that the environment doesn't matter? Or, is this persistent bullishness a setup for some serious selling in the very near future?
It's tough for some veteran investors to stomach the idea that overvalued stocks will continue an already-unlikely bullish charge. But, in this particular scenario, these may well be names worth owning right now -- for all the wrong reasons.
Winners winners chicken dinners
The Nasdaq Composite may be up to the tune of 19% for the year thus far, but it's down more than 11% from its early September peak. For perspective, Zoom shares have zoomed higher by nearly 600% since the end of 2019, gaining on the order of 40% this month alone. Peloton stock's 20% gain this month means it's up 220% year to date. Roku has rallied a more modest 33% this year, but it reached a record high earlier this month thanks to its incredible recovery from March's low. Investors who can stomach the volatility have been well rewarded.
The question remains though: Should you buy these high-flying Nasdaq stocks?
In a word, yes. There's a huge footnote to add to that answer, though. That is, don't mistake any of those picks for an actual investment. They're purely speculative trades, meant to capitalize on undeniable momentum against a backdrop that uniquely favors each of their backstories.
That backdrop is, of course, the coronavirus pandemic. It's shaken the world up, forcing consumers and corporations alike to figure out how to do many things at home that were previously done a different way. Videoconferencing outfit Zoom was unknown to many before February when COVID-19 made landfall in the United States. Peloton was a bit more recognizable thanks to some savvy advertising of its interactive fitness equipment, but it didn't take center stage until the pandemic forced gyms to shut down. Roku has been a set-top streaming powerhouse for years, but it would be naive to believe stay-at-home orders didn't accelerate consumers' efforts to maximize their video entertainment dollars with the purchase of new streaming hardware.
The common thread is clear. COVID-19 is steering new customers to each of these companies.
Not investments, but still red-hot trades
There's the rub, of course, and the ultimate question: Will worry about COVID-19's impact keep these names moving higher through a (hopefully) curbing of the outbreak, through a contentious presidential election, through what's sure to be an odd holiday shopping season, and then through winter? For that matter, will any other stock currently buoyed by coronavirus concerns continue to be lifted for the foreseeable future?
They probably will, with investors looking past their currently wobbly fundamentals and focusing more on a particular company's premise or business model. The market loves great stock stories even more than it loves results, and the COVID-19 story is proving particularly powerful. A recent Harris poll suggested over a third of the United States' consumers would be OK with never setting foot in a retail store again.
In a similar vein, new data from Digital TV Research indicates that the number of streaming video subscriptions in the U.S. alone will grow from last year's 203 million to 317 million by 2025, and eMarketer predicts 6.6 million traditional cable TV customers will end up cutting the cord this year.
They're all signs that consumers are creating a new normal for a post-COVID-19 world. COVID-driven stocks like Peloton and Roku should be able to keep climbing that wall of worry for at least a bit longer, even if the Nasdaq itself can't.
Again, though, don't confuse a name like Peloton or Zoom for a well-grounded long-term investment that doesn't require constant monitoring. They're still highly speculative stocks, founded on an idea that will eventually fade.