Regardless of what you're buying in life, you want to get a good deal. Whether it's a house or a stock, buying at a cheap price can make the difference between recording a profit later when you sell the asset or incurring a loss because you paid too much. I keep a list of blue chip stocks that I consider good investments, so it's easy to keep an eye on them when they dip in value and I don't miss a potential deal.
Two stocks that are on my radar right now are Gilead Sciences (GILD 0.90%) and Costco Wholesale (COST -1.54%). Both are down in 2021, but their businesses are still in solid shape. Here is why investing in either company today could be a great move.
1. Gilead Sciences
Shares of Gilead are down a modest 2% this year, but that is still well behind the S&P 500, which has climbed 3% over the same time frame. Today, the healthcare stock is trading below $62, which is not far from the 52-week low of $56.56 that it hit toward the end of 2020.
It's easy to understand why investors are not excited about Gilead. Its potential COVID-19 treatment, remdesivir, has been a bit of a flop. Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the drug in October 2020 to treat hospitalized patients at least 12 years of age, not everyone is convinced of the drug's efficacy. A month later, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended hospitals not use remdesivir as it was not certain the drug was useful in treating patients with COVID-19. And now that the FDA has approved multiple vaccines, there may not be much of a need for remdesivir in the long term anyway.
Another problem with Gilead's business is there has not been a whole lot of growth. Sales for many of its products are either flat or declining. The company's HIV drugs are one of its most reliable sources of growth. But in 2020, even those numbers weren't terribly strong, with the segment's sales totaling $16.9 billion (69.5% of total product sales) and up just 3% year over year. It also doesn't help that the company has essentially given up on filgotinib, a drug that treats rheumatoid arthritis, after failing to get approval from the FDA.
However, despite all these issues, Gilead still has a strong underlying business that in 2020 generated operating profits of $4.1 billion. And while the WHO may have written off remdesivir, hospitals are still using it. On Feb. 4, Gilead released its fourth-quarter results for the period ending Dec. 31, 2020, and product sales of $7.3 billion were up 26% year over year -- mainly as a result of remdesivir. And although health officials are now administering COVID-19 vaccines, the pandemic is still far from over, and that could ensure remdesivir continues to generate sales growth for Gilead in future quarters.
Another reason for optimism is that last year, Gilead acquired biotech company Forty Seven for $4.9 billion in a move that it believes will help expand its pipeline of cancer-fighting drugs. The deal gives Gilead magrolimab, a key drug in Forty Seven's portfolio that the FDA has granted fast-track designation for treating multiple conditions, including acute myeloid leukemia.
Although Gilead gave up on filgotinib, and remdesivir may not be the superstar everyone was hoping it to be in the fight against COVID-19, the business is still in good shape, profitable, and looking for ways to generate more growth. With a forward price-to-earnings ratio of less than 9, it's a cheap buy -- the average healthcare stock in the Health Care Select Sector SPDR Fund trades at more than 27 times its earnings. And with a dividend yield of 4.6% (which is well above the S&P 500 average of just 1.5%), even if the stock doesn't take off, you can still count on some solid recurring cash flow for your portfolio.
Costco is also struggling this year, down more than 10% thus far. Investors may be bearish on the warehouse club due to a more optimistic outlook for COVID-19, as its stores have been associated with panic-buying amid the pandemic.
But just because the outlook has changed doesn't mean the company's business is doing poorly. When Costco reported its second-quarter results on March 4, its net sales of $43.9 billion for the period ending Feb. 14 were still up a solid 14.7% year over year. That's a solid growth rate given that in fiscal 2020 (which ended Aug. 31 last year and would have included pandemic-related buying), its top line was only up by 9.2%. And in the previous year, sales only grew by 7.9%.
Perhaps the biggest surprise is just how strong e-commerce sales still are, with comparable sales up 75.8% in Q2. The big-box retailer isn't as strongly associated with online shopping as Walmart or Target. Costco attracts shoppers with its in-store bargain-hunting experience, which usually involves people buying a lot more than what they had planned. So if Costco is still generating strong e-commerce numbers, that could be a great sign that although buying habits may have changed due to the pandemic, the business is benefiting from them. Through the first two quarters of fiscal 2021, Costco has netted a profit of $2.1 billion -- up 19.3% from the same period last year.
At a forward P/E of 33, Costco is more expensive than Gilead. It's also a higher earnings multiple than the 28 the average stock in the SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust commands. But given Costco's impressive growth and status as a fairly safe business to invest in over the long haul, it may be worth the premium. It also pays a modest dividend yield of 0.9%.