It's been a rough road to hoe for technology stocks across the board in the last month or so. Since March 5, the benchmark NASDAQ Composite has lost roughly 7%.
However, the distribution of pain among technology shares has been decidedly uneven, with blue chip names like Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) having retreated less than 2%. Contrast that against the acute pain suffered by more exotic international high-growth stocks like Chinese search giant Baidu (NASDAQ:BIDU) or Latin American auction dynamo MercadoLibre (NASDAQ:MELI), which have dropped 11% and 18%, respectively, in this period, and you can see just how skewed this sell-off has been toward riskier companies.
However, as the saying goes, "When there's blood in the streets, buy property." The same holds true here; though they all differ in some way, shape, or form, the market has created a compelling opportunity to snap up shares of Baidu, MercadoLibre, and Apple at valuations that should look preposterous in the months or years ahead.
Let's take a look at three tech names that deserve investors' attention today.
Apple's stock price hasn't been hammered to the same degree as MercadoLibre's or Baidu's, but that doesn't mean there isn't plenty of potential upside in the months and years ahead.
In the short term, Apple reports earnings next week, and there's reason to think it might include some combination of a dividend increase or buyback expansion to counter its ballooning cash horde. Beyond that, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see how Apple's second-half product pipeline already has people buzzing.
Apple's iPhone 6 is already becoming the most talked-about iPhone in recent memory, and we're still months away from its historical launch timing. In addition, Apple also publicly acknowledged it will unveil at least one new product in 2014. Given Apple's penchant for creating buzz around its products and rolling them out in time for the holiday quarter, it's fair to expect Apple's next major product to show up some time later this year.
The key here is that buying ahead of these kinds of major news events is the way to best position your holdings for success, and now is the time do so with Apple.
MercadoLibre has tanked lately, but its long-term prospects remain as bright as ever.
The key headwind dragging on MercadoLibre's shares have been currency headwinds in various Latin American markets, including Venezuela and Argentina, which accounted for roughly 18% and 26% of the Latin American e-commerce giant's respective 2013 revenues. Both countries' currencies have been plummeting amid economic struggles and inflation, but these are relatively short-term issues.
For those less deterred by short-term fluctuations common to the region, MercadoLibre's bigger-picture opportunity is truly impressive. Internet penetration is on the rise across the continent, and per-capita income in many key markets should follow over the long term.
MercadoLibre has established itself as the e-commerce leader in Latin America, and its exposure to long-term secular trends in the region should help keep it growing. With a price-to-earnings ratio slowly sinking toward 30 times, and a long-term growth rate estimated at 23%, there's clearly an opportunity for investors willing to endure the occasional short-term problem to make money over the long term.
If the argument for owning Baidu sounds eerily similar to the above case for owning MercadoLibre, that's because they're nearly identical.
Like MercadoLibre in Latin America, Baidu also suffers a degree of guilt by association. It appears as if Baidu is being punished as part of the broader rout that has gripped growth stocks over the last few weeks, versus any specific flaw pertaining to its business.
Like MercadoLibre, Baidu's short-term volatility (due to its geography and the sector in which it operates) should be more than fairly compensated for, as the company's direct exposure to the long-term rise of the Chinese ecosystem hugely overshadows any short-term risks pertaining to growth stocks in America.
In many ways, e-commerce remains in its infancy in China. By operating the country's dominant search engine, Baidu enjoys a hugely profitable, defensible business model that provides one of the most essential functions for Internet users today. Simply stated, more consumers and businesses will use the Internet as a means of accessing information and advertising. And when they do, Baidu will be there, front and center, to make money from these lucrative interactions.
Foolish bottom line
At the end of the day, each company should prove attractive for varying sets of reasons.
It's a simple rule of investing that stocks fluctuate as investor perception evolves. However, the investors who often end up winning are those that can separate the market's often myopic, short-term opinions from the real drivers that should guide companies over the long term. That's certainly the case for Apple, MercadoLibre, and Baidu.