Despite the pandemic and a recession, the S&P 500 has managed to rise 5% year to date. Some sectors have benefited far more than others, though, with technology stocks standing out from the rest.
But there are a lot of fast-growing tech stocks out there, so to help you find some of the best ones to buy right now, I've got a look at why Amazon.com (AMZN 2.03%) and Square (SQ -1.65%) deserve your attention.
Square helps people spend
There's a massive shift happening in the way consumers pay for goods and services. Digital payments were already growing before the coronavirus pandemic, but stay-at-home orders and the push for social distancing have accelerated the trend. Digital payments will be worth an estimated $910 billion this year, and the market will jump to $1.5 trillion by 2024. And Square is taking advantage.
You may be familiar with the company's bright white payment terminals at coffee shop and retail counters, but Square is growing far beyond its point-of-sale terminals. For starters, the company's popular peer-to-peer (P2P) payment app, Cash, has 30 million monthly active users, and revenue from the app skyrocketed 140% in the second quarter to $325 million.
In addition to the Cash app growth, Square users are spending more money through the company's online channels. Gross payment volume from online channels jumped 50% year over year in the most recent quarter. This spike helped Square's total revenue increase by 64% to $1.9 billion.
Square's stock has gained 165% this year, but investors shouldn't think that Square's run is over. The growth in digital payments and e-commerce in the coming years should help propel Square's business. E-commerce only accounts for 16% of all U.S. retail sales right now, and as that percentage climbs, so will the use of digital payments.
Amazon is firing on all cylinders
Amazon already looked like a no-brainer buy before the pandemic, but the surge in e-commerce demand makes the company an even better bet now.
Amazon's North American sales increased 43% in the second quarter, and the company blew past Wall Street's estimate of $1.46 earnings per share, instead raking in $10.30 per share in the quarter. But Amazon isn't just growing because of the pandemic. Over the past two years, Amazon has increased its Prime membership by an impressive 50%, to 150 million members.
This is important because it shows that even before social distancing and shopping from home became the norm, Amazon was increasingly convincing consumers that its Prime membership has lots of value. That matters to Amazon because Prime members tend to spend more on the company's e-commerce platform than non-members.
But investors should also take notice of Amazon's growing Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud computing segment. AWS has 33% market share in the public cloud space, with Microsoft trailing at 18%, and AWS is an important moneymaker for Amazon.
AWS generated $10.8 billion in revenue in the most recent quarter, but created $3.4 billion in operating income. That far outpaced the company's $2.1 billion in operating income from $55.4 billion in North American e-commerce sales during the same period.
With e-commerce still having a lot of room to grow and Amazon already leading in cloud computing, investors can buy Amazon knowing that the company will continue to tap into these fast-growing markets for years to come.