The stock market's near-term future may be unclear, but for some companies, the broad trends on Wall Street are less relevant. These companies are so important and so good at what they do that they could muscle forward even when the market is retreating and continue to reward their shareholders.
Here are three such high-quality large-cap stocks that investors should consider buying as we kick off a new month and a new quarter.
The COVID-19 pandemic proved challenging for most companies, but e-commerce outfits benefited from the surge in online shopping that the health crisis engendered. Sure, Amazon arguably won last year's market-share scramble, but in some ways, the coronavirus exposed how being a generalist retailer can also be a liability.
Enter Wayfair (W 8.58%), which focuses strictly on home decor and furniture. Sales for the 12-month stretch ending in December were up 55%, pulling the company out of the red and into the black with an adjusted profit of $5.04 per share.
The sales surge prompted by the pandemic was a once-in-a-generation sort of event, of course, and will make 2020 a tough act to follow. While analysts project that Wayfair's top line will grow by 12% in 2021, its earnings are projected to be cut in half.
Don't get bogged down by its seemingly weakening performance following last year's huge increase in home decor spending though. The pandemic did this company far more good than just driving one incredible year of growth. The coronavirus also brought about 10 million new active customers into Wayfair's digital ecosystem, bringing its tally up to 31.2 million as of the end of 2020. And, with Wayfair being able to offer a selection and level of service in its niche that Amazon doesn't, analysts are actually modeling accelerated revenue growth of 21% for 2022, matched by record profits of $5.08 per share.
All of a sudden, the stock's lackluster performance since last August makes its current prices look like a great entry opportunity.
Adobe Systems (ADBE 1.69%) would almost certainly have logged solid growth in 2020 even without the disruptions of the pandemic. All it would have had to do was extend an existing trend and continue to do what it has quietly been doing for years.
The tech company is well known for its popular suite of digital image editing software. It's also the outfit that pioneered the PDF. But neither of those points is the best reason for investors to consider taking a stake in the company. Rather, this large-cap stock is a buy because of how well it has done in evolving its business model to offer cloud-based access to website management and online ad campaign platforms.
Its Experience Cloud and Advertising Cloud are online software suites that allow enterprises of all sizes to custom tailor their websites' appearances for each and every visitor, gather consumer data, optimize web advertisements, manage web content, and more. These offerings were clearly in high demand last year when a great deal of commerce shifted suddenly from in-person to online, but a careful look at Adobe's multiyear results makes it clear that such niceties are becoming the norm anyway. Adobe hasn't failed to grow its revenue in any quarter since early 2014, and it has only failed to grow operating income in one quarter since late 2014. The recurring-revenue model now used to sell these cloud-based software suites means the company only needs to focus on adding new paying customers, which it has.
Adobe stock price has slipped a bit since August, even as the broader the market marched to record highs. But that only makes it look more attractive now.
3. PayPal Holdings
Finally, add PayPal Holdings (PYPL 2.70%) to your list of large-cap stocks to buy this month.
It's yet another name that not only survived the test of the COVID-19 pandemic but thrived because of it. With consumers and companies alike clamoring for ways to make contactless payments, last year's revenue jumped 22%, paired with a 30% increase in operating income. Total volume of facilitated payments grew by 31%.
It would be easy to chalk up that big growth as a one-off event, prodded by the temporary conditions of the pandemic. But don't think for a minute that consumers won't remain just as interested in online shopping once the coronavirus threat recedes. Recent research from Numerator indicates 2021's year-to-date online sales are still running about 70% higher than they were at this point a year ago, despite the progress made in coronavirus vaccinations. In a similar vein, market research company Finaria forecasts that worldwide e-commerce sales will grow by about 11% this year -- following last year's 25% surge -- then continue to grow at a similar pace annually through 2025.
PayPal is certainly moving into this growth phase on a firm footing. The payment platform added nearly 73 million active accounts last year, almost doubling 2019's additions to bring its customer headcount up to 377 million.
Share prices are down 20% from their February peak, and that may be as much of a bargain as investors can expect to find on them in the near term. The current share price near $244 also has shares trading 20% below analysts' consensus target of $306.60.