We know there is an effective coronavirus vaccine -- or several, actually. The first shots could be administered to Americans by the time you're reading this. While this is certainly a fantastic development, there are still big questions about the pandemic.
First, vaccinating an entire population is a tremendous undertaking. While vaccines might be widely available within a few months, it could also take until summer 2021 (or later) before everyone who wants a vaccine can get one. Even when that happens, it could take time before the economy returns to normal.
However, these lingering question marks mean that there are still some excellent long-term opportunities to be found in so-called "reopening stocks." Here are two in particular with tremendous post-pandemic upside potential that you might want to put on your radar.
More people want to work in offices than you might think
I think the stock market is severely overestimating the long-term impact of the remote work trend on office real estate. My favorite way to play it is New York City-based Empire State Realty Trust (ESRT 0.51%), owner of the iconic Empire State Building and a portfolio of other office properties in and around New York City.
Office REITs have been some of the worst-performing stocks during the pandemic. Even after the recent vaccine-fueled rebound, the stock is still down 32% for the year. The fear is that since remote work is easier than ever, more people will want to work from home and more companies will allow it in the post-pandemic world. Demand for office space will plummet accordingly.
Surveys have shown that this isn't the case. A September survey by Slack (WORK) found that most people wanted the flexibility to work from home when needed, but didn't want to do so exclusively. While only 12% of respondents want to work solely from the office, 72% want to work in offices some of the time. In fact, tech heavyweights like Facebook (META 1.08%) and Amazon (AMZN 0.71%) have leased new urban office space in recent months.
This banking laggard could have the most to gain after the pandemic
Over the past few years, it's seemed like Wells Fargo (WFC) can't catch a break. It was beaten down after its infamous fake accounts scandal and other bad behaviors that caused the Federal Reserve to limit the bank's growth. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, affecting Wells Fargo more than most other bank stocks.
With elevated unemployment, there's a strong possibility that we'll see a wave of loan defaults as consumers are unable to pay their bills. Additionally, the record-low interest rate environment isn't exactly ideal for bank profitability. Wells Fargo lacks the large investment banking business that its big bank peers are using to offset these headwinds. Wells Fargo was forced to slash its dividend by about 80% earlier this year, while most other banks were able to maintain their payouts.
Wells Fargo is consequently down 46% in 2020 alone, and has lost 51% of its value over the past three years -- dramatically underperforming a 3% gain in the overall financial sector during that time.
However, there could be tremendous value here for patient long-term investors. Wells Fargo has a strong history of responsible lending, and there's no indication that has changed. Its new CEO, Charlie Scharf, is emphasizing expense reductions. This focus is long overdue and could be a long-term profit catalyst. It's just a matter of time before its dividend returns to the previous level.
Expect some volatility in 2021
I think both of these businesses will be just fine over the long run and their stock prices could certainly double or more from the current prices once the pandemic is behind us. However, don't expect the path to be straight up, even if things go well on the COVID-19 front. It will take some time for the true economic effects of the pandemic to play out, so if you add either or both of these stocks to your portfolio, expect a bit of a roller coaster ride in the short run.