For much of the past 19 months, investors have enjoyed a historic run in the broader market. Following the quickest decline of at least 30% in the S&P 500's storied history during the first quarter of 2020, the benchmark index took less than 17 months from hitting its trough to double in value. It's the strongest bounce back from a bear-market bottom on record.
But even with the market consistently a stone's throw from another all-time high, value can still be found. As long as your investing time frame is measured in years and not days or weeks, there are plenty of great companies at attractive valuations that can be purchased right now.
Best of all, it doesn't take a mountain of money to build wealth on Wall Street. If you've got $500 ready to invest, which won't be needed to handle emergencies or pay bills, the following three stocks would be the perfect no-brainer buys right now.
Bank of America
Even with its shares knocking on the door of a 14-year high, money-center giant Bank of America (BAC 0.58%) is firing on all cylinders and looks perfectly positioned to take advantage of higher interest rates in the years to come.
To start with the obvious, bank stocks are inherently cyclical. They struggle with higher loan losses and delinquencies when recessions strike, and they benefit from issuing more loans and generating higher interest income during periods of economic expansion. The thing is, recessions often last a couple of months to a few quarters. Comparatively, economic growth for the U.S. and global economy almost always goes on for years. Recessions might be inevitable, but bank stocks like BofA spend far more time benefiting from long-winded economic expansions.
What makes Bank of America such an intriguing company is its interest rate sensitivity. Back in July, the company estimated that a 100-basis-point parallel shift in the interest rate yield curve would yield an extra $8 billion in net interest income over the coming 12 months. Although we're probably a year or two away from seeing this big of a lift in the interest rate yield curve, it shows just how much BofA stands to benefit.
As a longtime shareholder, I've also been impressed with CEO Brian Moynihan's dual approach to invest in high-growth initiatives while looking to reduce noninterest expenses. The clearest example of this is BofA's efforts to encourage digital and mobile banking. The number of digital banking users has grown by close to 5 million in three years to 40.5 million (through June 2021), with digital transactions accounting for 44% of all sales in the second quarter, up 15 percentage points from the same period in 2018. Digital and mobile transactions cost a fraction of what teller-and-phone-based transactions run. As a result, BofA has been able to consolidate some of its branches and lower its expenses as digital adoption ramps up.
With higher lending rates a strong possibility in the foreseeable future, Bank of America's earnings growth is about to kick into high gear.
Among growth stocks, the cannabis industry is home to some seriously attractive long-term opportunities. Chief among them might just be U.S. multistate operator (MSO) Cresco Labs (CRLBF 0.54%), which is poised to benefit from a dual-growth approach.
Before diving into Cresco's two catalysts, I believe it's important to address the elephant in the room: legalization. Though Congress has thus far failed to reform federal cannabis laws in the U.S., 36 states have legalized weed in some capacity and regulate their own industries. While it would make life easier if cannabis were legalized at the federal level, it's not a requirement for companies like Cresco Labs to be successful.
Like most MSOs, Cresco's first growth channel is its burgeoning retail operations. Once the acquisition of three medical marijuana dispensaries from Cure Penn closes later this quarter, Cresco will have 40 operating retail locations, along with 10 additional retail store licenses in its back pocket.
Though we've witnessed Cresco going after a number of big-dollar markets, the broader theme is that it's tackling a number of limited-license states. Quite a few legalized states limit how many dispensary licenses will be issued in total, as well as to a single business. If you're a bigger MSO, this might be viewed as a limitation on your growth potential. But for Cresco, it's a positive. Regulators are purposefully reining in competition in markets with billion-dollar sales potential, which is opening the door for Cresco Labs to build up its brands and a loyal following.
The company's other growth channel is its industry-leading wholesale operations. Cresco holds one of a small number of cannabis distribution licenses in California, the largest marijuana market in the world by annual sales. This license allows it to distribute proprietary pot products into more than 575 dispensaries throughout the Golden State.
With Cresco Labs expected to decisively turn the corner to profitability in 2022, as well as nearly quadruple sales between 2020 and 2024, it has the look of a no-brainer buy.
There are hundreds of biotech stocks for investors to choose from, and the vast majority of still trying to develop their first blockbuster drug capable of $1 billion or more in annual sales. Then there's Vertex Pharmaceuticals, which has a storied history of developing blockbuster drugs for hard-to-treat diseases.
What's really allowed Vertex to stand out is its work in treating patients with cystic fibrosis (CF). CF is a genetic disease with no cure that's characterized by thick mucus production that can obstruct the lungs or pancreas. Thus far, Vertex has developed four generations of gene-specific treatments that have led to statistically significant lung function improvements in CF patients. The newest treatment, combination therapy Trikafta, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration five months ahead of its scheduled review date, and is pacing $5 billion in annual run-rate sales after less than two years on pharmacy shelves.
The beauty of Vertex's operating model is that its CF revenue is well-protected. With the company constantly innovating on the CF front and expanding its reach to cover a broader slate of mutations, its cash flow should be secure for many years to come.
Aside from CF, Vertex is internally developing more than a half-dozen other compounds and has out-licensed a handful of other drug hopefuls. With the company ending June with $6.7 billion in cash, cash equivalents, and marketable securities, it has more than enough capital on hand to run clinical trials, continue innovating, and perhaps even acquire other therapies or businesses.
It's rare when investors can buy a drug stock with sustainable double-digit sales growth and forward price-to-earnings ratio below 15; but that's exactly what you'll get with Vertex Pharmaceuticals.