In June, the consumer price index (an inflation metric) rose year over year by 5.4%, the highest jump since August 2008. As inflation pressures start appearing more durable than once expected, market volatility may spike in the short run. The three major U.S. indexes -- the Nasdaq Composite, the S&P 500, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average have all retreated slightly on this recent inflation news.
With the United States Federal Reserve highlighting its commitment to supporting the economy by maintaining low-interest rates in its recent monetary policy report to Congress, a small market pullback triggered by the inflation report may prove to be an opportunity for savvy investors. If you have $5,000 that you don't need to use for paying bills, then making long-term investments in the following stocks could make you much richer in the second half of 2021 and beyond.
Cloudflare (NYSE:NET) is a leading edge-based content delivery network player and a cybersecurity company. The demand for Cloudflare's edge computing (data and computation shifted from a centralized data center to a localized data center) and security services are on the rise due to the increasing adoption of cloud-based enterprise architectures, Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices, and remote working.
Unlike bigger CDN players such as Akamai Technologies and Limelight Networks, which have opted for a hardware-centric network approach, Cloudflare has opted for a less expensive and more scalable software-defined networking (SDN) model.
Cloudflare's total addressable market (TAM) is expected to expand from $72 billion in 2020 to $100 billion in 2024. The company's freemium marketing strategy has also proved to be extremely successful. Cloudflare offers its CDN services free to users and small businesses and only charges for upgrades and premium features. The feedback generated from this user base is then used to fine-tune the service, which is subsequently sold to bigger enterprises. Finally, the freemium model has also allowed developers to experiment with the company's services. With much of enterprise software buying being driven by developer preferences, this strategy can further help drive the adoption of Cloudflare in the enterprise customer base.
Since 2016, Cloudflare has managed to grow its revenue annually by around 50%. The company's dollar-based net retention was 123% in the first quarter (ending March 31), which implies that the same set of customers spent 21% more than they spent in the same quarter of the prior year. This metric highlights the success of the company's land-and-expand business model.
Cloudflare is trading at a rich valuation of 69.61 times trailing-12-month sales, despite it not yet being profitable. However, against the backdrop of a robust business strategy, a partnership with NVIDIA (NASDAQ:NVDA) to bring artificial intelligence capabilities to its edge system, and rapidly improving financials, the stock can prove to be an attractive buy for retail investors even at these elevated levels.
Leading endpoint (devices connected to a private and public network) and application workload security player CrowdStrike Holdings (NASDAQ:CRWD) has benefited significantly from increasing demand for cybersecurity services due to pandemic-accelerated digitization initiatives. Most of the changes in consumer and workforce behavior will persist even in the post-pandemic era.
With its cloud-based real-time protection platform CrowdStrike Falcon and a software-as-a-service (SaaS) business model, the company seems well-positioned to capture a significant share in the global cybersecurity market. In turn, that market is estimated to grow from $217.9 billion in 2021 to $345.4 billion in 2026. Indexing over 6 trillion events per week, CrowdStrike Falcon is becoming even more resilient and effective due to strong network effects.
The SaaS model allows clients to start a service at low upfront costs and implement it in a small time frame. CrowdStrike's high recurring revenue base has also helped in ensuring significant top-line visibility. In the first quarter of fiscal 2022 (ending April 30), CrowdStrike reported a 74% year-over-year jump in annual recurring revenue (ARR) to $1.19 billion.
CrowdStrike has been quite successful in acquiring new customers, as evidenced by the 82% year-over-year jump in customer subscriptions to 11,420 at the end of the first quarter. The company is guiding for a 54% to 56% year-over-year jump in fiscal 2022 revenue. CrowdStrike has a strong balance sheet with cash and cash equivalents of $1.68 billion and lower long-term debt of $738 million. The company's first-quarter free cash flow was up 34.48% to $117 million. While the company is not yet profitable, quarterly gross margin has expanded by 455 basis points in the last two years.
CrowdStrike is trading at a steep multiple of close to 59 times trailing-12-month sales. However, with a robust product offering and solid financial position, it still offers an attractive risk-reward proposition to retail investors despite stiff competition in the cybersecurity space.
Social media platform Pinterest (NYSE:PINS) offers visual recommendations, inspiration, and answers to users' search queries in the form of videos, photographs, infographics, and other rich content. The company has an effective targeted advertising strategy: Personalized advertisements are shown to the right user at the right time, thereby making advertisements feel like relevant content. Additionally, Pinterest's user base has high purchase intent and is already motivated -- 85% of users claim they search on Pinterest when they start a new project -- making it a preferred platform for advertisers as well as e-commerce partners.
The company's partnership with Shopify (NYSE:SHOP) has expanded Pinterest's product catalog and has significantly added to its advertising and social commerce opportunities. As more products and ideas get displayed on the platform, its user base also expands, which in turn attracts more merchants and advertisers. This strong network effect is expected to translate into solid growth for the company in the coming years.
Pinterest has demonstrated robust improvement in operational and financial metrics in the recent quarter. At the end of the first quarter (ending March 31), Pinterest's monthly active users (MAUs) were up 30% year over year to 478 million. The company's first-quarter average revenue per user (ARPU) jumped 34% year over year to $1.04. Revenue soared by 78% year over year to $485 million, while net loss declined by 85% year over year to $21.67 million.
Trading at 23.75 times trailing-12-month sales, Pinterest appears quite expensive. Investors are also concerned about the anticipated deceleration in growth rate of its MAUs in the second quarter (ending June 30). However, there remains a significant gap in its first-quarter U.S. ARPU of $3.99 and international market ARPU of $0.26. With international markets accounting for almost 80% of Pinterest's MAUs, increasing monetization here would be a huge opportunity. The company is well-positioned to leverage this opportunity thanks to its solid balance sheet (cash and cash equivalents of $2 billion and zero long-term debt). Against this backdrop, Pinterest could prove to be a very appealing long-term investment for retail investors.