Election Day has arrived, and Wall Street is clearly worried. For roughly the past week, stock market volatility has picked up in a big way, with investors debating what lies ahead for the U.S. economy over the next four years.
These worries are largely unfounded. Although the stock market has historically performed better with a Democrat in the White House over the past 75 years, both parties have overseen healthy annualized gains in equity valuations. Since operating earnings growth, not a temporary shift in fiscal policy, leads to valuation expansion, high-quality businesses should perform just fine no matter which political party wins.
With that said, here are four safe stocks you can buy right now and comfortably hold for the next four years, regardless of who's president or what party controls Congress.
Kirkland Lake Gold
You might not view gold stocks as safe investments, but considering the current state of the U.S. economy due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, they could soar in the years that lie ahead. That's why Kirkland Lake Gold (NYSE:KL) should be on your buy list.
For gold stocks like Kirkland Lake, there are macro and company-specific catalysts. On the macro level, the physical price of gold should be buoyed by the Federal Reserve's intent to keep interest rates at or near record-tying lows through 2023. The Fed has also been ballooning the money supply with its unlimited quantitative easing. This should put pressure on the U.S. dollar, which is positive for the price of gold since it has an inverse relationship with the dollar.
But Kirkland Lake Gold is about more than simply recognizing higher gold prices. This is a company with the best balance sheet in the entire mining industry -- $848 million in cash with no debt -- that's repurchased almost $527 million worth of stock this year and has tripled its dividend. The company's highly efficient and low-cost producing assets, which offer a cash operating margin of more than $1,100 per gold equivalent ounce, have made this possible.
It doesn't matter who's president moving forward. Gold is going to thrive, and Kirkland Lake has the safest balance sheet in the entire industry.
Another safe stock that's in great shape no matter which party is in charge is e-commerce giant Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN). Though Biden has said that Amazon should pay a higher corporate tax rate, fiscal policy isn't going to hold back this absolute monster of a company.
Depending on your preferred source, Amazon controls between 38% and 44% of all U.S. online sales. That's roughly 33 percentage points to 37 percentage points higher than its next closest rival. Even taking into account that its retail margins are razor-thin, there's still incredible value to being the go-to e-commerce destination. For instance, it's been able to sign up more than 150 million Prime members worldwide. The annual fees paid by these members help buoy retail margins and ensure that Amazon undercuts brick-and-mortar stores on price. These memberships also keep users loyal to the company's product and service offerings.
There's also Amazon long-term operating star: Amazon Web Services. This high-growth cloud infrastructure segment grew by 29% for the second consecutive quarter and is now producing an annual run rate of more than $46 billion in sales. More importantly, cloud margins are substantially better than what Amazon generates from retail, meaning that as AWS grows into a larger percentage of total sales, operating cash flow is going to soar.
Though most biotech stocks are highly volatile investments, drug developer Exelixis (NASDAQ:EXEL) is a safe bet no matter who wins the election.
Exelixis' workhorse is Cabometyx, a cancer drug approved to treat first- and second-line renal cell carcinoma (RCC), as well as advanced hepatocellular carcinoma. In 2021, Cabometyx is set to log its first year as a blockbuster therapy (i.e., $1 billion or more in annual sales), with the drug benefiting from strong pricing power, increased demand, and label expansion opportunities.
Speaking of label expansion opportunities, Cabometyx is currently being studied in around six dozen ongoing clinical trials. Interestingly, one of these studies, CheckMate 9ER, involved testing Cabometyx in combination with chief RCC rival Opdivo (developed by Bristol Myers Squibb) as a treatment for first-line RCC. Phase 3 results showed the combination ran circles around previous standard-of-care drug Sutent.
Aside from the expectation that Exelixis should see additional revenue opportunities from Cabometyx, it's also building up quite the cash pile. The company expects to end 2020 with $1.5 billion to $1.6 billion in cash and investments, and has the ability to tack on between $400 million and $500 million annually in free cash flow. There's certainly safety to be had in this growing cash buffer.
Palo Alto Networks
Investors can also scoop up shares of cybersecurity solutions provider Palo Alto Networks (NYSE:PANW) without giving the election a second thought.
As with the Kirkland Lake Gold thesis above, there are macro and company-specific angles. On a broader basis, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the push of businesses online and into the cloud. Even with a vaccine, we've likely witnessed a permanent shift in how businesses operate and consumers shop. This means increased reliance on protecting enterprise data, especially given that hackers and robots attempting to steal corporate and consumer data don't take a day off.
On a company-specific level, Palo Alto Networks is switching away from lower-margin physical firewall products and toward subscription-based cloud-protection solutions. The subscription model generates higher margins, yields more consistent revenue recognition, and reduces client churn.
Palo Alto's success also depends on its bolt-on acquisition strategy. The company constantly looks for ways to increase its product offerings and reach more small- and medium-sized businesses. A steady diet of acquisitions has been the answer.
Look for this combination of organic and acquisition-based growth to drive Palo Alto to a consistent low double-digit growth rate.