There's no way to describe the first-half of 2022 for the investing community as anything other than "ugly." The benchmark S&P 500 turned in its worst first-half to a year since 1970, officially pushing the widely followed index into a bear market.
Things were even worse for the growth stock-driven Nasdaq Composite and Nasdaq 100. The latter is an index comprised of the 100 largest nonfinancial companies listed on the Nasdaq exchange. Both the Nasdaq Composite and Nasdaq 100 have lost nearly a third of their value.
But where there's peril, there's often promise for patient investors. Following a miserable six months, two Nasdaq 100 stocks stand out for all the right reasons and can confidently be bought hand over fist by long-term investors. Meanwhile, another Nasdaq 100 stock looks like nothing more than a value trap and should continue to be avoided.
Nasdaq 100 stock No. 1 to buy hand over fist: Alphabet
Among the 100 largest nonfinancial companies listed in the Nasdaq 100, arguably none offers a more attractive growth-versus-value proposition than Alphabet (GOOGL 1.01%) (GOOG 1.15%). Alphabet is the parent company of internet search engine Google and streaming platform YouTube.
Like most high-growth companies, the prospect of a recession is weighing on Alphabet. Since advertising revenue is one of the first spending areas to be hit during a recession, and Alphabet generates a majority of its sales from ads, there's clear concern from Wall Street that this FAANG stock could be entering a rough patch.
On the other hand, Alphabet is well positioned to take advantage of the natural expansion of the U.S. and global economy. Even though recessions are inevitable, periods of economic expansion last substantially longer than contractions. In short, Alphabet's ad-driven model should grow over lengthy periods of time.
This ad-driven operating model is anchored by Google, which is a veritable monopoly when it comes to internet search. Data from GlobalStats shows that Google has controlled no less than 91% of worldwide internet search share over the trailing 24 months. This makes it the natural go-to for business advertising and explains why Alphabet commands such impressive ad-pricing power.
But it's Alphabet's ancillary operations that offer even more impressive long-term growth prospects and operating cash flow potential. YouTube has grown into the world's second most-visited social media site, with 2.56 billion monthly active users. As you can imagine, having this many eyeballs visiting YouTube on a monthly basis is driving ad sales and recurring subscription revenue.
Perhaps even more exciting is Google Cloud, the company's cloud infrastructure service platform. Google Cloud accounted for 8% of global cloud infrastructure spending in the first quarter, according to Canalys. That's key, because cloud service margins are considerably juicier than advertising margins. By the midpoint of the decade, Google Cloud has an opportunity to be Alphabet's leading cash flow driver.
Even with the prospect of a recession looming, Alphabet looks like an absolute steal at less than 17 times Wall Street's forward-year earnings forecast.
Nasdaq 100 stock No. 2 to buy hand over fist: Broadcom
A second Nasdaq 100 stock that patient investors can confidently buy hand over fist right now is semiconductor solutions company Broadcom (AVGO 0.07%).
Similar to Alphabet, Broadcom's biggest near-term headwind is overcoming the fear that a recession is around the corner. Semiconductor stocks are inherently cyclical, which means a drop-off in enterprise spending can hurt chip demand and potentially their backlogs. But focusing too much on short-term economic contractions would be a bad move with a high-quality chip company like Broadcom.
The first thing that makes Broadcom special is its ability to take advantage of the 5G wireless revolution. It's been approximately 10 years since telecom companies made significant upgrades to wireless download speeds. Beginning last year, and likely extending for years to come, wireless providers are making hefty investments in 5G. Because Broadcom generates the bulk of its revenue from selling wireless chips and accessories found in next-generation smartphones, the company looks well positioned to benefit from this multiyear device replacement cycle.
To add to this point, Broadcom ended 2021 with its biggest backlog on record ($14.9 billion), and the company was booking orders well into 2023. Even if a recession were to materialize, the company's extensive backlog should shield it from near-term weakness and provide consistent operating cash flow.
Broadcom has intriguing growth opportunities beyond smartphones as well. It's providing semiconductor solutions used in next-generation vehicles and should capitalize on growing data-center demand. In the wake of the pandemic, businesses are moving their data into the cloud at an accelerated pace. Broadcom is responsible for providing connectivity and access chips used in data centers.
If you need one more reason to be excited about Broadcom, consider this: The company has increased its quarterly dividend by more than 5,700% since 2010. Current buyers would net a hearty 3.3% annual yield holding shares of Broadcom.
Thanks to its record backlog and perfect positioning in so many attractive growth arenas, shares of Broadcom can be purchased for a mere 12 times Wall Street's forecast earnings for 2023. That's a bargain for a company that continues to execute at a high level.
The Nasdaq 100 stock to avoid like the plague: Moderna
In one respect, healthcare stocks are typically a great place to put your money to work during periods of heightened uncertainty. Since we can't control when we get sick or what ailment(s) we develop, there tends to be pretty consistent demand for prescription medicine, medical devices, and healthcare services. In other words, people don't stop getting sick just because Wall Street or the U.S. economy hits a rough patch.
Moderna's claim to fame is Spikevax, the company's U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved COVID-19 vaccine (also known as mRNA-1273) that utilizes messenger RNA technology. In late 2020, a broad-scale clinical trial from Moderna produced a vaccine efficacy (VE) of 94.1%. To date, it's one of only three companies to hit the elusive 90% VE mark with regard to COVID-19.
This year, Moderna is set to benefit from a whopping $21 billion in advanced purchase agreements for Spikevax. With $19.3 billion in cash, cash equivalents, and short-term investments on hand, as of the end of March 2022, Moderna would appear to have a pretty safe floor. But looks can be deceiving.
The biggest problem for Moderna is that COVID-19 competition is increasing. Just this month, the FDA granted Novavax's (NVAX -3.63%) vaccine, NVX-CoV2373, Emergency Use Authorization in adults. Novavax happens to be one of the three vaccine developers to have hit the 90% VE mark. Moderna also has to worry about companies like Novavax developing combination vaccines (e.g., influenza and COVID-19), which could push COVID-only vaccines to the wayside.
To make matters worse, the bulk of Moderna's lofty valuation is built on the back of Spikevax. Even with Moderna pulling back by close to 70% from its all-time high, investors are still paying a whopping $65 billion for a company with an abundance of clinical studies but only one approved therapy. With residual COVID-19 vaccine revenue expected to decline in 2023 due to competition, no COVID-19 vaccine developer has more at risk than Moderna.
While the company's cash and sizable pipeline could eventually pay dividends, Moderna looks like nothing more than a value trap at the moment.