We've hit the homestretch. In just a few days we'll be turning the page on 2021 and looking toward a new, and hopefully less pandemic-disrupted year.
Despite the challenges Wall Street has endured this year, the benchmark S&P 500 ended last week on a high note... literally. It was the 68th record-closing high for the widely followed index in 2021, which is the second-highest figure for all-time closing highs in a single year.
And yet, bargains still remain for patient investors. If you have $1,000 ready to invest, which won't be needed to pay bills or cover emergencies, the following five stocks can help you start 2022 with a bang.
One of the best ways to put money to work in the stock market over the long run is to buy best-of-breed companies. Within the cybersecurity space, there's no company firing on all cylinders quite like CrowdStrike Holdings (CRWD -3.95%).
The not-so-subtle secret to CrowdStrike's success is the company's cloud-native platform known as Falcon. Since it was built in the cloud and relies on artificial intelligence to grow smarter and more efficient at detecting and responding to threats over time, Falcon can actually be a more cost-efficient solution over the long run, even though it initially costs more than its competitors. CrowdStrike notes that Falcon oversees about 1 trillion events each day.
CrowdStrike's ramp up has been nothing short of incredible. In under five years we've seen the company's subscriber base balloon from 450 to nearly 14,700. Additionally, the number of clients with four or more cloud-module subscriptions has catapulted from less than 10% to 68% over the same stretch. Because margins are so high with cybersecurity service subscriptions, CrowdStrike has been blowing the door off Wall Street's growth expectations, yet it's already achieved its long-term gross margin target of 77% to 82%+.
Cybersecurity is arguably the safest fast-growing trend of the decade, making CrowdStrike the type of company that could make a splash in your portfolio.
Annaly Capital Management
In a market that only seems to care about growth stocks, one way investors can begin 2022 with a bang is by scooping up a cheap (trading below book value) ultra-high-yield dividend stock that can put inflation in its place. Say hello to Annaly Capital Management (NLY 0.93%) and its 10.7% dividend yield.
Annaly Capital is a mortgage real estate investment trust (REIT). This might sound complicated, but the operating model is pretty straightforward. Annaly aims to borrow money at lower short-term rates, and uses this capital to acquire higher-yielding long-term assets, such as mortgage-backed securities (MBS). The goal is to maximize the gap between the average yield from MBSs minus the average borrowing rate, which is known as net interest margin.
Annaly has two things working in its favor. First, it almost exclusively buys agency assets. These are securities backed by the federal government in the event of default. Though this added protection often means lower yields for the MBSs it buys, it also allows the company to safely utilize leverage to its advantage.
Second, Annaly is in the sweet spot of its growth cycle. The early stages of an economic recovery usually features a steepening Treasury bond yield curve. As the gap between short-term and long-term T-bonds increases, so does Annaly's net interest margin.
Few things have given investors more indigestion in 2021 than China stocks. But among the volatility sits one high-growth name investors can trust: online retailer JD.com (JD 2.61%).
There are two ways that online marketplaces usually operate. The first model involves operating a third-party seller. An example would Alibaba allowing sellers to use its platform to move goods. The second method, which is deployed by JD.com, is to control the inventory and logistics while relying only minimally on third-party marketplaces. Whereas Chinese regulators have cracked down on the likes of Alibaba, the control JD.com exerts over its operations makes it unlikely to fall under the scrutinizing eyes of Chinese lawmakers.
As of the end of September, JD had more than 552 million annual active customers shopping on its marketplace, which was up almost 111 million customers from the previous rolling 12-month stretch. Keep in mind that China's gross domestic product growth rate consistently outpaces most developed countries. This makes e-commerce a particularly intriguing opportunity in China.
Additionally, don't overlook JD's push into new verticals, such as cloud services, advertising, and healthcare. Although these verticals represent a small portion of net sales, services grew by 43% in Q3 2021 from the previous year.
Walgreens Boots Alliance
Another value and income stock that would be perfect for long-term investors to buy with $1,000 is pharmacy chain Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA 2.87%).
Healthcare stocks are normally (pardon the pun) immune to the ebbs and flows of the stock market and U.S. economy. No matter how good or bad things are, people always need drugs, devices, and healthcare services. But foot-traffic dependent pharmacy chains like Walgreens were punched in the gut by the pandemic. The good news is you can now scoop up shares at near bargain-basement levels.
Walgreens Boots Alliance is the midst of a multipoint turnaround strategy aimed at boosting margins and lifting its organic growth potential. The company has already achieved more than $2 billion in annual cost cuts a full year ahead of schedule, and it's investing heavily in digitization. Though brick-and-mortar pharmacy chains remain reliant on foot traffic, investing in direct-to-consumer sales is an easy way to lift sales.
The company has also partnered with (and invested in) VillageMD to open co-located health clinics. What differentiates the Walgreens/VillageMD clinics from competitors is that they'll be physician-staffed and full service. These clinics shouldn't have any trouble attracting repeat patients that can be funneled directly to Walgreens' higher-margin pharmacy.
A fifth and final stock that you can buy with $1,000 to start 2022 off with a bang is Meta Platforms (META), the parent company of social media giant Facebook.
Although Meta may have changed its name two months ago, make no mistake that the vast majority of the company's revenue still originates from advertising on Facebook. When the September quarter ended, Facebook had 2.91 billion monthly active users (MAUs) visiting its site, with another 670 million unique MAUs heading to Instagram and/or WhatsApp. This combined 3.58 billion MAUs represents more than half of the global adult population. It's no wonder Meta's ad-pricing power is higher than just about any company on the planet.
As I've previously noted, Meta hasn't even depressed the gas pedal all the way, either. It'll generate more than $100 billion in ad revenue in 2021, yet almost all of this will come from Facebook and Instagram. If and when the company decides to meaningfully monetize Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, we should see another sizable bump in sales, profits, and cash flow.
Meta is also the premier play on the metaverse -- i.e., the next iteration of the internet that allows people to interact in 3D virtual environments. While significantly monetizing the metaverse remains a ways off, Meta Platforms has a front row seat for when that does occur.
Meta may we be the best overall value among the FAANG stocks.