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2 Stocks to Buy If You Are Worried About the New Coronavirus Variant

By Prosper Junior Bakiny – Dec 1, 2021 at 1:40AM

Key Points

  • The omicron variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 is raising new fears among investors.
  • Moderna has a multipronged approach to tackling this new variant.
  • Netflix still has exciting opportunities in the streaming market.

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These companies are more than just pandemic plays, however.

The coronavirus pandemic still isn't over. Last week, reports of a new strain of the virus that causes the disease started circulating. The variant in question is called omicron. It first arose in South Africa, and it could prove more contagious than previous variants. At this point, it is difficult to know what impact omicron will have on the worldwide economy, but it seems to have spooked investors already, at least momentarily.

All three major U.S. indices dropped sharply on Nov. 26, mainly due to these new omicron-related developments. For investors worried about the new variant, it might be worth considering stocks that performed well amid the worst of the pandemic back in 2020. Two such companies are Moderna (MRNA 4.16%) and Netflix (NFLX 2.08%).

MRNA Chart

MRNA data by YCharts

1. Moderna

Shares of Moderna soared by more than 20% on Nov. 26, even as the broader market was in shambles. The reason behind these gains was simple: Moderna is one of the leaders in the coronavirus vaccine market, and it has already outlined a strategy to deal with the new variant of the coronavirus. Moderna expects to generate between $15 billion and $18 billion from its COVID-19 vaccine, mRNA-1273, this fiscal year.

Although the company decreased its guidance from the $20 billion it had announced earlier in the year, that's still not bad for a company that had no products on the market a year ago. Further, the biotech has signed $17 billion in advanced purchase agreements (APAs) for 2022 with up to an additional $3 billion in options.

Given the current fears surrounding omicron, it appears increasingly likely that these options will be activated. Also, the company will almost certainly sign new APAs, thereby increasing its top-line projections for next year. Moderna's mRNA-1273 has proved potent against newer coronavirus strains that emerged after the original variant, including the delta variant.

Physician vaccinating patient.

Image source: Getty Images.

Of course, that alone does not prove that mRNA-1273 will also work against omicron, but the company is currently testing its vaccine's efficacy against this new threat. Moderna will release data from these tests in a few weeks, according to management. The biotech is also developing a couple of booster candidates that could prove potent against multiple strains of the coronavirus, and last but not least, Moderna is advancing an omicron-specific booster candidate.

The emergence of these new variants highlights the possibility that COVID-19 is here to stay and may become a seasonal disease (like the flu). If that's the case, Moderna is well-positioned to remain a leader in this market for many years to come. And in addition, the company boasts promising vaccines in its pipeline. Moderna is working on a vaccine targeting COVID-19 and the flu, as well as several vaccines for various forms of cancer and HIV. Expect this biotech to record important regulatory wins in the coming years, which will help the company's shares continue to move higher. 

2. Netflix 

Netflix definitely qualifies as a "pandemic stock." With government-imposed lockdowns keeping people at home last year, the company's subscriber count increased significantly. We don't know whether the omicron variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 will force lawmakers to resort to lockdowns again, but if it does, Netflix could benefit, just as it did last year. But even if this scenario never comes to pass, the tech giant remains an excellent stock to buy.

Yes, the streaming industry is more crowded than ever. Some of Netflix's competitors include Disney's Disney+, Amazon's Hulu, Apple's Apple TV, and iQiyi, which has been called the Netflix of China. Despite the ever-growing number of streaming platforms, Netflix has continued to thrive, although some naysayers predicted the company's doom. The secret to Netflix's success is its library of movies and TV shows. Consumers often pay for several streaming services to access these platforms' largely unique libraries of content.

That means all these streaming companies can coexist. Netflix will attract new customers as long as it continues to focus on improving its library. And there remains a long runway for growth in the streaming industry. As the company argued in its second-quarter update, linear television (cable and broadcast) continues to dominate the U.S. market -- with 63% of total viewing time in the country. Streaming controls a comparatively meager 27% of total viewing time.

Since Netflix's goal is to replace linear television, it still has plenty of work to do. The streaming industry has significantly lower penetration in many places, especially in developing nations. In short, Netflix's worldwide opportunity is enormous. According to some estimates, the streaming space will expand at a compound annual growth rate of 21% through 2028. Investors who decide to bet on the biggest player in the game won't be disappointed.

John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Prosper Junior Bakiny owns shares of Amazon. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool recommends Moderna Inc. and iQiyi and recommends the following options: long January 2022 $1,920 calls on Amazon, long March 2023 $120 calls on Apple, short January 2022 $1,940 calls on Amazon, and short March 2023 $130 calls on Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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