What I'm about to say might be upsetting to some of you, but it's the undeniable truth: A stock market crash or correction is coming.
As investors, we're never going to know ahead of time precisely when a crash or correction will occur, how long it'll last, how steep the decline will be, or in many instances even what'll cause it. But over the past 71 years, there have been 38 instances where the benchmark S&P 500 has lost at least 10% of its value. That's an average of one correction every 1.87 years. In other words, crashes and corrections are a normal part of the investing cycle.
A market crash may be brewing
Right now, there are no shortage of catalysts that could send the market lower. For instance, the S&P 500's Shiller price-to-earnings ratio is near a two-decade high. There have only been five times over a 150-year period where the Shiller P/E ratio sustainably topped 30, and in each of those previous four instances the S&P 500 lost at least 20% of its value.
The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) remains a core concern, too. Even with three COVID-19 vaccines now approved on an emergency basis in the U.S., coronavirus variants and vaccine holdouts threaten to push herd immunity further down the line.
Even lending rates are a potential concern. Homeowners and borrowers have been spoiled by precipitously falling lending rates over the past decade. As the U.S. economy recovers, it's possible we could see lending rates rise. For the housing market, rising rates could quickly squash what's been a multiyear boom.
These are the perfect stocks to buy if the market plunges
The point is that stock market crash catalysts are abundant. But where there's a crash or correction, there's also opportunity for long-term investors to get rich. If the market does crash, consider buying into the following four surefire stocks.
While it's not uncommon for financial stocks to take it on the chin when market crashes rear their head, payment processor Visa (V 0.84%) is one of the best companies investors can buy during any weakness.
Put as simply as possible, Visa is playing a numbers game that's heavily in its favor. It controlled 53% of all credit card network purchase volume in the U.S. in 2018, which means it's the unquestioned payment processor of choice in the largest economy in the world, by gross domestic product. Even though economic contractions and recessions are a natural part of the economic cycle, periods of expansion last significantly longer. Therefore, buying Visa is a bet that the U.S. and global economy will grow over time.
Visa also benefits from its focus on payment processing. By avoiding lending, Visa ensures that it's not hit with rising credit and loan delinquencies during inevitable periods of recession. Not having to set aside cash for credit losses is one of the big reasons Visa's profit margin is regularly above 50%.
Philip Morris International
I get it -- tobacco stocks are on par with watching paint dry. But if volatility picks up and equities nosedive, few industries can be more lucrative for investors. That's why Philip Morris International (PM 0.65%) can be a surefire stock to buy if the market crashes.
The beauty of tobacco products is that they act like traditional consumer-packaged goods. Think about the items you purchase no matter how well or poorly the economy is performing (toilet paper, toothpaste, detergent, food, and so on). Because tobacco contains nicotine, an additive chemical, tobacco product consumers typically don't change their buying habits. This means powerhouses like Philip Morris can predictably count on steady demand and cash flow each year.
Philip Morris also has the advantage of having its products sold in more than 180 countries worldwide (the U.S. isn't one of them). While it's facing stricter regulations or branding in some developed countries, it's also benefiting from an emerging middle class in numerous developing and emerging markets.
Healthcare stocks can be a really smart way to put your money to work during a market crash. Since we can't control when we get sick or what ailment(s) we develop, drug and device developers should see steady demand for their products in any environment. That's why robotic-assisted surgical systems developer Intuitive Surgical (ISRG 0.43%) is such a surefire buy.
Since 2000, Intuitive Surgical has installed nearly 6,000 of its da Vinci surgical systems. That's far more than any of its competitors, combined. Given the price of these machines ($0.5 million to $2.5 million), the training that's given to surgeons, and the lack of formidable competition, Intuitive tends to land clients for very long periods of time.
Even more impressive is its operating model, which is built to generate juicier margins over time. The company's da Vinci systems may be pricey, but they're intricate and costly to build (i.e., they produce only mediocre margins). As more da Vinci systems are installed, Intuitive Surgical generates a greater percentage of its revenue from instruments sold with each procedure, as well as from servicing its systems. With each passing year, these higher-margin segments become more important.
It's no secret by now that one of the most surefire investments to be made during a market crash is e-commerce giant Amazon (AMZN 0.25%). Despite having the third-largest market cap among publicly traded U.S. stocks, Amazon's ceiling remains incredibly high.
It's dominance in the online space cannot be overstated. Based on data from eMarketer, Amazon's marketplace should widen its share of U.S. e-commerce by 100 basis points in 2021 to just shy of 40%. Even with retail margins being relatively small, Amazon's retail dominance has allowed it to court well over 150 million Prime members worldwide. The fees associated with these memberships play a key role in Amazon undercutting brick-and-mortar retailers on price. It also doesn't hurt that Prime members spend substantially more than non-Prime shoppers.
However, the company's future rests with cloud infrastructure services. Amazon Web Services (AWS) grew sales by 30% in 2020 and hit $51 billion in annual run-rate revenue, based on fourth-quarter results. The margins associated with cloud services easily trumps retail, which means AWS is Amazon's golden ticket to explosive cash flow growth over the next couple of years. No short-term market crash is going to disrupt this growth.