Investing in stocks is the best vehicle for creating wealth -- better than gold, bonds, and real estate. You'll find one asset class or another outperforming stocks over various short periods of time, but those are the exceptions that prove the rule.
The long-term history of stock investing proves that if you want to accumulate large amounts of wealth, betting on business is the way to go.
Investors could have gotten whiplash snapping to watch the stock market collapse last year, only to quickly turn around and regain all the lost ground, and then go on to set new record highs.
It took less than three months for the S&P 500 to make a dramatic recovery from the plunge it took at the start of the pandemic, completely erasing its losses. Since its low point in March 2020, the benchmark index has gained 110%. It took less than 18 months for it to double in value.
Even so, there are plenty of bargains investors can still find, and you don't even need a lot of money. Most online brokerages eliminated trading commissions and even minimum deposit requirements, meaning you can put any amount of money you have available to work right away.
If you have $350 that's ready to be invested that you won't need for at least three years -- five would be better and decades preferred -- Zynga (ZNGA), SunPower (SPWR 4.18%), and Fiverr International (FVRR 5.64%) would make for perfect buys right now.
This discounted gaming publisher can provide next-level growth
Keith Noonan (Zynga): The mobile gaming space continues to have a promising long-term growth outlook, and Zynga is a leader in the category that offers promising upside. The company is also branching out to bring its games to console platforms.
Zynga's upcoming licensed Star Wars game will likely be the company's first major foray into cross-platform mobile and console releases, and looks to be the spearhead of just one of many promising growth opportunities that company is poised to tap into. Set to release next year, Star Wars: Hunters will be available on Nintendo's Switch console in addition to smartphones and tablets, and it could prove to be a significant winner for Zynga.
In addition to serving as the foray into major publishing on consoles, Hunters also looks to be the most graphically impressive game Zynga has ever released. The company's focus has traditionally been on casual games that feature relatively simplistic visuals compared to modern triple-A releases, but the upcoming title set in the galaxy far, far away shows that Zynga can produce games that rival the visuals seen in other mobile mega hits including Fortnite and PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds.
Thanks to a massive acquisitions push over the last decade, Zynga has come a long way since the days when FarmVille was all the rage on Meta Platforms' Facebook social networking service. The gaming publisher has assembled a formidable collection of game development studios, and it's on track to benefit from growing demand for interactive entertainment. The mobile gaming industry looks poised for more strong growth, and Zynga's proven ability to deliver and sustain hit properties suggests the company should be able to score wins on consoles -- as well as emerging platforms including augmented reality and the metaverse.
Down roughly 25% year to date and 40% from its 52-week high, Zynga is a bargain growth stock that could take your portfolio to the next level.
Shine a ray of light on your portfolio
Eric Volkman (SunPower): On a pure share price basis, some of the top solar energy stocks are quite inexpensive these days. One I'd be loading up on with $350 in my pocket is SunPower, as it has good momentum behind it and is heading into a future that looks increasingly sunny (sorry, couldn't resist).
Let's put one foot before the other and discuss the future of the renewable energy industry. There is a strong awareness, particularly in the U.S., that the expansion of clean energy such as solar is necessary if we're going to have any chance of making our emissions less dirty.
That's why renewable energy tax credits are a key feature in the ambitious Build Back Better (BBB) Act currently being debated in Congress. Given that lawmakers were able to squeeze the $1 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act through that combative body and get it signed into law, the prospects for BBB look rather good at the moment.
It's not only top-down moves like this driving demand, however. That awareness of the need for more sustainable energy sources has filtered down into the mainstream. Witness the strong growth enjoyed by SunPower in its residential segment, as opposed to its laggard commercial and industrial solutions (CIS) segment.
In terms of both total installed power (up 35% year over year to 92 megawatts) and, especially, revenue (52% higher at $260 million), SunPower's residential business really powered ahead in its recently reported third quarter. That helped the company swing into the light with a nearly $10 million profit for the period, against a $6.5 million loss in the year-ago quarter.
CIS is a drag on the business. Realizing this, it is currently "exploring strategic alternatives" -- basically, it's trying to unload the unit to an outside buyer.
Meanwhile, SunPower is doubling down on its hotly growing segment. In October it acquired residential specialist Blue Raven Solar in an all-cash deal for up to $165 million. According to SunPower, Blue Raven has posted a 93% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) since setting up shop in 2014; better, nearly all of its sales occur in 14 U.S. states where SunPower collectively had a very light presence.
While SunPower stock is pricy on a forward P/E basis, both management and analysts are expecting notable growth. Collectively, the latter are modeling a per-share net profit of $0.25 for the entirety of 2021, a dramatic improvement from 2020's $0.07 loss. And for 2022, they believe that profitability will nearly double to $0.46, on the back of a 23% improvement in revenue.
The market is misplacing this gig economy stock
Rich Duprey (Fiverr International): The wisdom of crowds says large groups of people are smarter than individuals, which dovetails nicely with the efficient markets theory that says all the known information about a company is priced into its stock. You can't hope to beat the market, so buy index funds instead. Fiverr International, though, is ready to prove both camps wrong.
The "wisdom" the market is expressing is the freelance platform will suffer at the hands of the reopened economy. While Fiverr soared during the pandemic as people relied upon the gig and sharing economy to survive after businesses locked down, workers returning to the office will undermine the freelance movement and momentum. Fiverr's stock is down 8% since the company reported earnings, but off 16% in the last week. I think the market crowd is wrong.
While the freelance site did post wider losses than last year, revenue expanded 42% in the third quarter as repeat buyers, or those who joined Fiverr over a year ago, contributed to 58% of revenue, and high-value buyers now represent 62% of marketplace revenue, up from 53% last year.
Fiverr is increasingly seen as an important platform for finding talent and worth returning to again and again.
That's not something that's going to stop. You may have heard about the so-called Great Resignation, or the large numbers of people who quit their jobs during the pandemic, but it's still continuing today. Businesses are finding it very difficult to fill positions, even for greatly elevated pay rates.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says 4.7 million Americans quit their private-sector jobs in September, up from 4.6 million in August and 4.4 million in July. At the same time, the number of private sector job openings stood at 7.1 million, down slightly from the 7.2 million in August, but well above the 4.2 million a year ago.
People are striking out on their own, using the strength of the rising gig economy, and that suggests Fiverr is well positioned to capitalize on it. Wall Street forecasts revenue will grow 35% annually through 2023, and analysts have set a $226 consensus price target on the freelance platform's stock, indicating 39% upside potential over the next year.