It's been a little over a year since COVID-19 shut down the global economy. The pandemic was brutal for most businesses, temporarily shuttering major retailers' brick-and-mortar stores and sparking the airline crisis. Still, many investors made money betting on tech stocks like Zoom Video Communications and Amazon that benefited from the pandemic.
Today, the tide is beginning to turn. The economy is showing signs of life, with March retail sales rising 28% year over year. Unemployment claims are at the lowest since the coronavirus market crash (although still historically high). As more Americans get vaccinated, economic growth should pick up.
As a result, investors are rotating some of their money out of high-growth tech stocks into "reopening" stocks -- companies that could be big winners when things get back to normal. But there are also tech stocks that are likely to perform well as the economy reopens. Airbnb (ABNB -3.19%) and Square (SQ -2.64%) are two of these stocks -- and here's why.
1. Airbnb's darkest days are over
The global lockdown was a nightmare for the entire travel industry. With international travel a no-go and people forced to stay at home, there was simply no escape for platform operators like Airbnb. By April 2020, Airbnb's bookings were down 72% year over year. The company had to raise $2 billion in emergency capital and cut 25% of its workforce.
Luckily for Airbnb, those dark days are long over. Lockdowns are easing, and people have started traveling again (within borders). As it turns out, the shift to remote work didn't just benefit Zoom -- it benefited Airbnb as people started combining work-from-home and travel.
In the fourth quarter of 2020, Airbnb posted a 22% year-over-year drop in revenue. That was a huge recovery from the 72% decline Airbnb suffered in the second quarter of 2020. Adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) also improved materially, with Airbnb posting a $21 million loss against a $276 million loss in the year-ago quarter.
Today, as countries roll out vaccines worldwide, it's probably just a matter of time before travel restrictions are lifted. In fact, some countries are starting to allow international travel using vaccine passports, all of which point toward better quarters ahead for Airbnb.
In the long run, Airbnb has enormous growth potential. Its 2020 gross booking value was $23.9 billion -- less than 1% of a massive $3.4 trillion addressable market. To capture a bigger slice of this opportunity, Airbnb can grow its community of hosts, roll out new products and services, or enter new markets.
With its darkest days behind it -- and plenty of growth levers to pull -- Airbnb is the perfect reopening stock.
2. Square is just getting started
Early in the pandemic, it looked as if fintech disruptor Square was getting disrupted itself. Brick-and-mortar stores -- Square's legacy customer base -- had to shut down as COVID-19 spread. In the second quarter of 2020, Square's seller ecosystem revenue fell 17% year over year. With the world under lockdown, physical payments dropped 38% from the year-ago quarter.
But this turned out to be a blip on the radar. In the second half of 2020, some parts of the economy started opening up. By then, many merchants were setting up online stores, and Square was there to help them make that shift. This sparked a strong recovery in seller revenue -- for the full year, Square's seller revenue grew 2% -- marking a remarkable turnaround.
Also, as consumers embraced cashless payments, Square's Cash App saw a 50% jump in monthly active users to 36 million. Thanks to the widened user base and more frequent usage, Cash App's revenue surged 440% to $6 billion in 2020. Consequently, Square's total revenue (excluding Bitcoin revenue) rose 17% in 2020, a testament to its resilient business model.
Going forward, things will only get better for Square as physical stores start to reopen. And it's pulling out all the stops with Cash App, beefing it up with new features like stock trading, the Cash Card, and even banking services. This should continue drawing in new users while keeping existing ones engaged.
Like Airbnb, Square is just getting started. These two stocks offer a rare combination of high-growth prospects and the potential to soar post-pandemic.