The market may be rallying right now, but this wave of bullishness isn't necessarily built to last. Stocks are still more down than up over the past 11 months, and the broader market could easily slide back into bear territory (where the Nasdaq Composite still resides).
A handful of tickers have been unusually strong of late, however, leading the bullish charge in a way that suggests their gains are bigger than any current or prospective headwind. A few of these near-term winners are even the sorts of stocks you can safely step into for the long haul -- among them, e.l.f. Beauty (ELF 1.85%), First Solar (FSLR 3.11%), and Hostess Brands (TWNK).
It's been a tough past few months for shareholders of the bigger and better-established cosmetics companies like Estee Lauder and Coty. Shares of smaller makeup outfit e.l.f. Beauty, though, are defying the trend. The stock is up more than 100% from the low it touched in May, and reached a record high just last week.
The key driver of this surprising strength is e.l.f. Beauty's position within the cosmetics marketplace. Rather than charging premium prices, the company offers good quality at great value. It also sells its products through highly accessible venues like drugstore chains and mass-market retailers, in addition to its growing direct-to-consumer operation, which now accounts for 15% of its total revenue.
That differentiation is working. Last quarter, sales were up an incredible 33% year over year, and its net income doubled. More than that, however, e.l.f. Beauty's value-oriented proposition is well-suited to the direction the consumer market is moving. People still want quality, but they care less and less about premium labels than they used to.
The continued growth of off-price apparel retailers at the expense of department stores is one piece of evidence for this trend. But, the fact that e.l.f. gained more market share than any of its rivals last quarter -- at the expense of Covergirl and Revlon -- is even stronger proof that consumers are rethinking their spending priorities.
This is all part of a long-term paradigm shift, of course. If the economy slips into a recession in the near future, that will only accelerate the growth of e.l.f. Beauty's footprint in the cosmetics market.
Despite all the hype the solar power industry has generated over the past couple of decades, solar still only accounts for about 3% of the nation's electricity production. The rest of the world is moving at a similarly slow pace in its transition to renewable energy sources.
The solar power movement, however, is having a moment. The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that nearly half of this year's power-production capacity growth will come from solar panel installations. Moreover, the EIA forecasts that with that growth rate likely to persist, 20% of the country's power production will come from solar sources by 2050.
We'll need a heck of a lot more solar panels to make that happen.
Enter First Solar. The Arizona-based outfit doesn't just make solar panels. Its Series 7 thin-film CadTel panels are among the most efficient and cost-effective solar panels available, which appeals to utility-scale providers.
And the time's never been better to be the name behind a superior product, here and abroad. President Joe Biden boosted the U.S. solar market in June with an executive order promoting more domestic clean energy production, and August's passage of the Inflation Reduction Act will provide significant tax cuts to purchasers of solar panels.
Meanwhile, in September Indian utility company Azure Power Global ordered 600 megawatts of First Solar's Series 7 panels, illustrating the strength of First Solar's brand even in markets where Chinese-made panels are readily available.
This growth spurt is still in its early days, though. The company aims to produce more than 20 gigawatts worth of panels per year by 2025, roughly triple its current capacity. There's little doubt First Solar will be able to sell every panel it will be making then, and well after.
Finally, add Hostess Brands to your list of roaring stocks you can still step into for the long haul. Although it's up more than 40% from June's low and just a bit off of last week's record high, the stock still has lots of room to run.
Yes, this is the same Hostess that makes tasty snacks like Twinkies, HoHos, and Donettes donuts. It also makes hot dog buns, coffee cakes, muffins, and more. It's a tricky and competitive market, but Hostess owns some of the best-known products in the business.
Nowhere is this reality more evident than in its third-quarter results. Revenue of $346 million was more than 20% higher year over year, while operating income of $54.4 million improved to the tune of almost 17%, topping estimates and extending progress that's been underway all year long. The numbers say Hostess hasn't been impacted by inflation nearly as adversely as other food companies have been. More than that though, the numbers indicate demand for its snacks remains robust regardless of price.
It's just a small taste of the company's long-term success, however. Hostess Brands' market share has grown from 19% in 2018 to 21.6% so far in 2022, driven largely by innovation. Take its new "Bouncers" products as an example. These sugar-glazed versions of Twinkies and Ding Dongs have been well-received by consumers -- but that should surprise no one, because the company's Innovation Lab intensely test-markets every potential new product before Hostess gives it a large-scale launch.
The analyst community is predicting a significant slowdown of the company's sales and earnings growth next year, and the $29.78 consensus price target for the stock is a modest 10% above its current price. Just bear in mind that analysts tend to underestimate Hostess' earnings as well as the stock's performance.