Between a pandemic, political uncertainty (and the resulting economic instability of both), as well as the holidays, it would be easy for investors to head to the sidelines until further notice.
Doing so, however, just might prevent you from plugging into a great opportunity at the perfect time. Verizon Communications (VZ 0.77%), Apple (AAPL -0.54%), and Kohl's (KSS 1.36%) are all compelling picks right now despite the distracting, discouraging backdrop.
Here's why these are three top U.S. stocks to buy in December.
1. Verizon is leading the effort to implement 5G networking
All of the country's major wireless service providers now offer 5G connectivity in most of their key markets. Indeed, many industry insiders suggest 2020 marks a turning point for this super-high-speed technology. Verizon's 5G Nationwide network is now available in more than 1,800 U.S. cities. There may have been no provider more ready for the 5G evolution than this one.
Verizon's strength isn't just its ability to offer 5G to the most customers, however. It's the backbone of its nationwide fiber-optic network that makes its 5G connections so powerful. The company has spent billions (and billions) of dollars on this infrastructure to handle the data loads that radio frequencies just can't, and it's starting to pay off -- even if it's a bit difficult for investors to see just yet. As 5G phones become more available and consumers upgrade their plans in the coming months, the upside should start to materialize in measurable ways.
To help accelerate this shift, Verizon has begun working with smartphone maker Apple. Last month the companies unveiled their "5G Fleet Swap" program, which helps enterprises that supply mobile phones to employees upgrade their device to the new 5G-enabled iPhone 12. In the meantime, analysts with MoffettNathanson suggested this stock is "simply too cheap" not to buy now, alluding to its trailing P/E ratio of only 13.8 and its above-average dividend yield of 4.1%.
2. Get ready for an Apple iPhone supercycle
Speaking of Apple's iPhone, the consumer technology titan is a buy in its own right. The iPhone 12 unveiled in October is not only 5G-enabled for all carriers, but it is reportedly the device millions of Apple fans have been waiting for to make an upgrade. This possibility has been deemed a "supercycle" by several analysts, suggesting sweeping upgrades of older iPhones that have been on hold will now finally be unleashed. Analysts with Wedbush say the company could sell as many as 350 million iPhone 12 handsets, which is roughly a third of the total number of iPhones in use around the world right now. That could make it the best-selling iPhone of all time, by far.
It's not just about the new iPhone, though -- they're merely a means to an end, funneling their owners into one or more of Apple's digital services. This isn't the company's biggest business, but it is among Apple's fastest-growing ones. Services revenue was up 16% year over year for the quarter ending in September, and that was before 5G iPhones were even available. High-speed wireless internet connectivity will only make these devices more useful, and easier to use.
We'll get a glimpse of this growth in January when the company is expected to report results for the quarter currently underway. Waiting until that report comes out, however, may mean you've waited too long.
3. Kohl's wins by just surviving
Finally, investors on the hunt for a compelling long-term bargain may want to look at department store chain Kohl's.
That's not a misprint.
Yes, the "retail apocalypse" that was already in place before the pandemic took hold has only been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. It's believed more than 10,000 storefronts have been permanently shuttered this year alone (the speed at which closures are taking shape makes it tough to keep up with an exact figure), easily surpassing last year's total. Kohl's itself reported a 14% year-over-year dip in last quarter's sales, confirming it has not escaped the clutch of the coronavirus.
There's a method to the madness, though. Much of the retail industry's misery is being felt at the mall, and the vast majority of Kohl's stores aren't found at malls. Rather, about 95% of the company's 1,100+ stores are found at stand-alone sites or strip malls that are more accessible to suburban consumers, in spite of the challenging backdrop. Meanwhile, every mall store that closes its doors for good represents an opportunity for Kohl's to win more displaced customers. CEO Michelle Gass hasn't been shy about pointing out both of these realities, providing a glimpse as to how she's viewing the current retail landscape.
There are a couple of new clinchers for the bullish case for Kohl's.
One of them is the recently announced partnership with beauty brand Sephora, calling for the establishment of at least 850 Sephora shops inside Kohl's stores by the end of the coming year. Deutsche Bank analyst Paul Trussell described the deal as "transformative" enough to upgrade Kohl's to a buy rating.
The other clincher is the company's omnichannel capabilities. The retailer knows its customers well enough to understand its average omnichannel customer does six times as much business with it as an online-only shopper, and four times as much as in-store-only shoppers. Kohl's is clearly armed with a lot of the right data. It just didn't matter in a big way until this year.