After an epic run following initial economic lockdowns (and a concurrent "market crash") last spring, stocks rallied and finished 2020 strong with double-digit percentage returns. Just over halfway through 2021 the market is on a tear again. The S&P 500 is up 17% year to date.
Some investors thus fear another crash could be looming, and that's fair. A decline of 10% or more from recent highs occurs roughly every year-and-a-half to two years. But that's just an average. There's no telling when the market will take a nosedive, and foregoing investment returns until that point in time could be worse than just buying now. Plus, buying shares of growing businesses is one way to beat the market when it does finally take a tumble. Three stocks you can start buying right now are Intuitive Surgical (ISRG 0.18%), Lemonade (LMND 1.19%), and Texas Instruments (TXN -1.05%).
The pioneer and leader in robotic surgery is showing no signs of stalling
Nicholas Rossolillo (Intuitive Surgical): Don't sweat a premium price tag on this healthcare technologist. Intuitive Surgical helped pioneer robotic-assisted surgery over two decades ago with the introduction of its da Vinci system, and the company is still growing at a brisk double-digit percentage pace. Q2 2021 revenue was up a compound 15% per year from the same period in 2019 (since comparing results to Q2 2020 when surgeries around the world were temporarily put on hold isn't really fair). Net income in the last quarter was $517 million, up 63% (nearly a 28% average compound growth rate) from two years ago before the pandemic.
With figures like that, this is one healthcare technologist worth paying up for. Intuitive is still steadily increasing the number of da Vinci systems performing operations around the world, with the total count reaching 6,335 as of the end of June. It sounds like a big number, but it isn't. Estimates peg the number of general surgeries performed with robotic assist at less than 20% -- and that's just here in the U.S. The global market for robotic systems, instruments, and support services is expected to exceed $16 billion a year by the end of the decade, about triple where it is today.
And as technology improves, there's opportunity for new types of specialty systems to be developed to assist surgeons and increase positive patient outcomes. Intuitive Surgical, far and away the leader on this front, is always developing new tools and equipment to expand on da Vinci's capabilities. Expect steady double-digit sales growth for many years to come.
Sure, Intuitive Surgical stock trades for 23 times trailing-12-month sales and 71 times trailing free cash flow, but bear in mind it's still lapping effects from the pandemic last year that depressed its financial results -- and procedure activity is still in the process of recovery in many markets where COVID-19 is still a threat. But even in tough times, this firm is highly profitable. Looking at the long-term picture, Intuitive is more than just holding its own; it's a top healthcare industry stock to start building a portfolio with.
When life gives you Lemonade, grab a big cup
Anders Bylund (Lemonade): When you can buy shares of a top-shelf business at a reasonable price, you've got the makings of fantastic long-term returns. When you can pick up the same high-quality stock at a downright silly discount, you should double down on that opportunity hand over fist.
That's what I see in next-generation insurance provider Lemonade right now.
Lemonade's shares have fallen 40% over the last six months and the stock trades more than 50% below January's 52-week high. The business is unprofitable by design since Lemonade donates most of its unclaimed insurance premiums to charitable causes selected by its customers. Furthermore, Lemonade only offers homeowners, renters, life, and pet insurance, so far. Since these are relatively small insurance markets, and Lemonade remains unknown to many insurance shoppers today, we're not looking at a cash machine quite yet.
But Lemonade is about to expand into the far larger and more lucrative auto insurance segment. Even after the charity cut, I expect the bottom line to turn positive within a couple of years after that game-changing launch. In the long run, Lemonade's reliance on artificial intelligence and automated claims processing should set an example for traditional insurance giants to follow.
We're looking at a stock worth $5.6 billion today. Come back in a decade or so, and I expect Lemonade to be rubbing shoulders with the true giants of the insurance industry, many of whom carry market caps roughly 10 times larger. Grabbing this long-term rocket stock at a temporary 50% discount sounds great to me.
This blue-chip dividend stock sold off after earnings
Billy Duberstein (Texas Instruments): Embedded and analog chip giant Texas Instruments (TI) fell after its recent earnings report, giving investors an opportunity to buy the dip in this technology blue-chip stock. The reason for the fall wasn't likely due to the reported numbers: Revenue surged 41% year over year, and earnings per share was up 39% to $2.05. Both figures came in ahead of analyst expectations. Rather, shares turned lower on TI's relatively benign third quarter guidance, which was about flat to slightly up over the second quarter.
Still, longer-term investors shouldn't sweat this issue, which may turn out to be a non-issue after all. Given all of the uncertainty coming out of the pandemic, it's likely TI may be guiding conservatively. After all, TI handily beat the high end of its first quarter guidance; if it matches that feat in the upcoming quarter, it would mark strong sequential growth.
In addition, TI may also be somewhat supply constrained due to booming demand. Strong customer demand has actually caused the company's inventory to dwindle down to 111 days, "below desired levels," according to management. If it's a supply issue, the tepid guidance wouldn't be too worrisome for longer-term investors.
TI is ramping up new 300mm wafer capacity as we speak; with its new RFAB2 in Texas coming online in the middle of next year, and the company's Lehi fab, which it just bought from Micron Technology, coming online six months later. Those two new fabs will not only expand TI's capacity, but also its competitive advantage, since that in-house 300mm manufacturing technology gives it a cost advantage over competitors.
Investors can certainly see these long-term advantages in TI's results. After all, when a company generates 41% free cash flow margins, as TI has done over the past 12 months, it's a sign of a wide economic moat. Texas Instruments certainly has one, which has allowed it to thrive in the fast-changing technology world for the past 100 years. Investors don't get a lot of shots to buy TI shares "cheap," so the post-earnings slump may be a good time to add to this long-term compounder.