by Jeff Reeves | May 23, 2014 11:52 am
There’s a lot of talk these days about the death of momentum stocks.
Whether it be the flame-out of biotech stocks earlier in the year, the meltdown in trendy sectors like cloud computing or 3D printing companies, or just the crash of big tech names, it’s clear that the pain can be just as acute as the gain in momentum stocks. All it takes is a change in direction, and momentum works against investors in a big way.
Still, in this environment you can’t afford to shy away from all high-growth, high-risk opportunities. After all, FactSet estimates that Q1 profit growth was a meager 2.1% — with weak guidance to boot.
Even if it means flirting with super-high valuations, investors have to look somewhere if they want to find growth.
So to help you avoid the momentum stocks that are melting down and find the high-growth opportunities that have the most upside, here are five picks that are seeing impressive earnings expansion and sales growth, and deserve your attention despite volatility and valuation concerns.
Surprised that Visa (V), the payments processor that has been a household name for decades, is a high-growth stock?
Well just look at the numbers yourself:
Revenue has grown from $8.1 billion in 2010 to a projected $12.8 billion this year and $14.2 billion in fiscal 2015 — tracking sales growth of 75% in five years.
Profits also have soared from $3.65 billion in net income for fiscal 2011 to roughly $5 billion at the end of fiscal 2013 — 37% growth in just two years — with a forecast of double-digit growth in earnings both this year and next.
The reason? Well, America has long gone cashless with the rise of debit cards and online banking … but emerging markets are still very much moving into the age of payments using Visa-branded plastic. As the middle classes continue to grow in Latin America and Asia and more global residents start using banks, Visa is seeing increasingly brisk business.
After all, Visa is not a financial company that worries about lending. It is simply the toll-taker, earnings a few pennies each time someone uses a credit or debit card with its logo.
And with the decline of cash and the rise of digital payments, those transactions are becoming more common at home and abroad with each passing day.
Visa has pulled back a bit this year, but I like the stock at or around $200 per share.
Sure, Amazon (AMZN) has hit a serious wall in 2014 as momentum has crumbled. Shares of AMZN stock are down more than 20% year-to-date, and investors are finally showing serious concerns about whether Amazon is committed to growing profits instead of simply growing sales.
But the reality is that even simply growing sales is an impressive feat in this troublesome market.
Amazon has grown its revenue from $34.2 billion in fiscal 2010 to a projected $90.8 billion this year — an amazing 165% growth rate.
Furthermore, Standard & Poor’s analysts project $1.09 in earnings per share for fiscal 2014, and an even more impressive $4.24 projected for fiscal 2015. That still gives AMZN stock a pricey forward P/E ratio of more than 70, but shows the company — and Wall Street — expects significant improvement to the bottom line going forward, even if profits weren’t there in the past.
If you’re a longer-term investor, there is a lot of potential in Amazon stock. I’d feel comfortable buying this high-growth play at or a bit below $300 per share after the correction, with the hope and expectation that growth materializes as planned — or even better than expected.
Unlike Amazon, Facebook (FB) has actually outperformed nicely in 2014; The stock is up about 8% vs. a flat S&P 500.
Furthermore, the longer-term performance of Facebook is impressive with FB stock up more than 130% in the past 12 months.
Part of that is because Facebook is the dominant Internet property of the age, with over 1.3 billion visitors. But it’s not just reach that has grown — FB recorded $3.7 billion in revenue in fiscal 2011 and is on track to record $11.8 billion in sales this year and $15.6 billion in fiscal 2015.
Think about that. Facebook is pacing 320% growth in five years while the rest of Wall Street is struggling to budge the top line at all!
Profits continue to stack up, too, and FB continues to see improvement in its revenue-per-user metrics as it gets smarter about turning its audience into actual money.
It’s always risky to pile into a stock that has doubled in short order, but Facebook stock actually has cooled off a bit since March; shares have rolled back about 15% from all-time highs.
This might be a good time to consider jumping in if you believe in the long-term prospects of this social media behemoth at or under $60.
Priceline.com (PCLN) is one of those Internet stocks that many investors talk about, and many investors are afraid of thanks to volatility and steep valuation.
Oh, and a sticker price of $1,180 per share doesn’t help PCLN stock reach the top of many investors’ lists, either.
But the performance of shares speaks much more than anything else. Consider these returns:
This is surely a momentum stock, but the momentum continues to be pointed higher — unlike some other players that are breaking down in 2014.
It’s not just the value of PCLN that’s growing impressively. Revenue more than doubled from $3.1 billion in fiscal 2010 to $6.8 billion in fiscal 2013, and earnings per share tripled in the same period from $10.35 in EPS for 2010 to $36.11 last year.
You can understand why so many investors are high on PCLN stock … and in fact, recent data showed that among top hedge funds, Priceline is the most popular stock to own. Insider Monkey estimated that at the end of Q1, 67 hedge funds were long Priceline stock, with Lone Pine Capital alone plowing $1.2 billion into Priceline shares. All in all, institutional and mutual fund investors own a staggering 98% of PCLN stock.
If you want to buy what the smart money is buying, you probably won’t find a more popular holding on Wall Street than Priceline.com.
I like PCLN stock under $1,200.
Keeping with the Internet theme, Baidu (BIDU) should be no stranger to momentum investors out there. The stock has long been crowed about as being the “next Google (GOOG)” because of its dominance in Chinese search and advertising, among other things.
And thanks to the rather heavy-handed nature of Beijing’s media regulations, it’s safe to say that nobody is going to be challenging BIDU anytime soon.
The big thing to note, however, is that Baidu is not simply a big company supported by Chinese autocrats. The company is growing briskly, as is Internet use across China.
For instance, according to Baidu financials, the company’s fiscal 2010 revenue was roughly $1.3 billion but fiscal 2013 revenue was nearly $5.1 billion — for a top-line growth rate of nearly 300% in three years! Equally impressive is that net income tripled, from $534 million in fiscal 2010 to more than $1.73 billion in 2013.
No wonder Baidu stock is up about 300% since January 2010, and up more than 70% in the past year.
Shares have rolled back slightly from recent 52-week highs, but I’d be a buyer of BIDU in the $150s.
Jeff Reeves is the editor of InvestorPlace.com and the author of The Frugal Investor’s Guide to Finding Great Stocks. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter via @JeffReevesIP. As of this writing, he did not own a position in any of the stocks named here.
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