Fears of a swine flu pandemic are naturally making everyone skittish.
This is a real problem with real casualties. However, investors don't have to be deemed calloused souls for trying to seek out stock opportunities. A wider outbreak will affect the way consumers spend their money, and it's something that may very well impact your portfolio.
The market may be brushing up on Gilead Sciences
I'm not up to chasing that particular herd. I would rather be one step ahead of the obvious investors. It's a lot easier than you think. In Mexico, reports indicate that folks are staying in to avoid contact with others who may be infected. It's easy to see our country following suit, especially if the number of stateside cases continues to grow.
Can you think of a few publicly traded companies that cater to homebodies? I sure can.
(NASDAQ:NFLX)-- Why head out to the video store when DVD rentals can be left in your mail?
(NASDAQ:AMZN)-- Why shop at the mall, when the world's leading online retailer continues to deliver a widening array of merchandise to your front door?
(NASDAQ:DSCM)-- Pharmacy chains like CVS Caremark (NYSE:CVS)will naturally fare well as folks load up on medicines. Shouldn't this also be a time to shine for drugstore.com? Sure, Tamiflu needs to be prescribed and e-tail is a slow horse when you need immediate medications. However, if there were ever a golden opportunity for a busted dot-com like drugstore.com, it would be now.
The flip side, naturally, is that you may want to avoid consumer-facing companies that require heavy physical interaction. Retailers that lack healthy online stores and eateries without well-established takeout or, ideally, delivery services may take a hit. The punches may come even harder for places where there is more contact between patrons and employees. This may not be the ideal time to be a shareholder in social gym companies like Life Time Fitness
The travel industry is already bracing for a slowdown, and not just on flights going in and out of Mexico. Air carriers, hoteliers, and even online travel portals may be in for a rough haul if the outbreak isn't contained and extinguished soon. Cruise line operators like Carnival
Hopefully this all passes quickly and the economy -- along with our collective health -- isn't dealt a prolonged blow. Investors need to be ready for all possible scenarios, though. It also doesn't hurt to be one step ahead of your fellow investors.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has been a Netflix shareholder -- and subscriber -- since 2002. Rick is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.