Despite the market’s drubbing since late April, stocks are still up for the year. Some stocks, in fact, are still well up since the end of 2018. The best stocks for 2019 so far have been buoyed by strong backstories, impressive results or just an inordinate amount of rampant speculation.
Regardless of the reason, that raw strength is worth a closer look. These big winners may be in the midst of unstoppable rallies, making these names some of the best stocks to buy for what looks like a rather rough summer. Or it’s just as possible these big rallies have set up equally big selloffs, and profit-takers are ready plow in.
While these may be the best stocks of 2019 so far in terms of performance, notice how few of them are mainstream or household names. Maybe being off the radar — or working on an unbeatable business — is the key to shrugging off marketwide lethargy.
Array Biopharma (ARRY)
YTD Gain: 97%
Array Biopharma (NASDAQ:ARRY) has been the beneficiary of not one but two waves of great news this year, fueling two incredible surges. In January shares rallied on the heels of a successful phase 3 trial of one of its colon cancer therapies. Then, in May, ARRY stock popped again when the same combination therapy showed tremendous promise as a treatment for advanced melanoma.
Though Array Biopharma is growing the top line at a strong double-digit rate, it’s at a stage where the bigger the company gets, the more money it loses. It’s going to need to lot more scale to get into the black, and that may not happen for a long while.
Though analysts love ARRY for its story and potential, the current price is already very near the consensus target of $28.80. And the pros haven’t seemed interested in upping that target.
Sinclair Broadcast Group (SBGI)
YTD Gain: 104%
To be fair, shares of Sinclair Broadcast Group (NASDAQ:SBGI) started the new year out with something of an advantage for this list. SBGI has spent four straight years spinning its wheels, with SBGI stock making no net progress between the end of 2013 and late 2018.
The company may be one of the few traditional television outfits that’s positioned to survive the cord-cutting phenomenon though. Sinclair is the company that bought most of the regional sports networks Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS) owned after it acquired Fox. It rallied leading into the news on speculation that it would happen, but continued to rally after the announcement on chatter that it was already thinking about distribution deals through non-traditional venues like Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN).
Iovance Biotherapeutics (IOVA)
YTD Gain: 104%
Despite being one of the best stocks of 2019 when looking at returns, biotech company Iovance Biotherapeutics (NASDAQ:IOVA) is pre-profit. In fact, it’s pre-revenue. A handful of investors are enthused about its pipeline though, and particularly Lifileucel as a treatment for melanoma. It’s in late-stage trials right now and looking very promising.
At the same time, a recent update on its investigator-sponsored trial of LN-145 as a treatment of cervical cancer has also been well received.
Of that testing, Emese Zsiros, M.D., Ph.D. and observer of the trial in question commented “The observation in the study of LN-145 that median DOR has not yet been reached at a median of 7.4 months following treatment provides evidence that this therapy could provide a clinically meaningful improvement over currently available options for patients with advanced cervical cancer.”
For the first time ever, Iovance Biotherapeutics is nearing a developmental endzone… a couple of endzones, actually.
Guardant Health (GH)
YTD Gain: 108%
Guardant Health (NASDAQ:GH) is not just one of this year’s biggest winners and best stocks. It’s also been one of the hottest IPOs of late. Only going public in early October, shares are already up an incredible 300%, and have gained more than 100% since the end of calendar 2018.
Guardant Health is a developer of a handful of highly-focused oncology diagnostics tests. By digging deeper into genomic information, the company identifies which cancer treatment regimen would be most effective for a particular patient. Its technology has even proven useful for pharmaceutical developers looking to pinpoint genomic data that leads to better drug-testing outcomes.
The organization isn’t profitable yet, but its strong revenue growth pace is leading to smaller and smaller losses that put Guardant Health on a path to profits in the foreseeable future.
Mirati Therapeutics (MRTX)
YTD Gain: 110%
Coming into the year, Mirati Therapeutics (NASDAQ:MRTX) was already on a bullish rampage more than doubling in 2018 thanks to progress with its pipeline.
The lead drug is sitravatinib — an immuno-oncology agent that, when used in conjunction with an anti-PD-1 checkpoint inhibitor drug Opdivo, shows promise as a second-line treatment for non-small-cell lung cancer. That phase 3 trial should be starting soon. The drug appeared to crash and burn given October’s updated data, but another round of testing could still salvage that work.
In the meantime, MRTX jumped more than 30% on Monday after rival drug company Amgen (NASDAQ:AMGN) offered an update on a drug similar to sitravatinib that validates sitravatinib itself.
While encouraging, the total advance since mid-2017 looks and feels overextended. Though its been one of the best stocks of 2019 so far, I don’t think the back half of the year holds much promise.
YTD Gain: 110%
Avalara (NYSE:AVLR) is a software company with a good-sized suite of product, but its claim to fame and flagship is a sales tax-calculation tool that’s become enormously important now that more and more states are enforcing the collection of sales tax on interstate e-commerce transactions.
Sales growth hasn’t been a problem. This year’s projected top-line improvement of 28% extends a long-standing streak, and the pros are calling for comparable revenue growth this year. Where Avalara falls short is on the earnings front. Despite strong sales growth for years now, the company remains in the red… but not for much longer. If all goes as planned, this year’s estimated loss of 18 cents per share following last year’s loss of 67 cents should swing to a profit of eight cents per share.
With operating earnings in sight, AVLR is up 110% so far this year, making it one of 2019’s very best stocks to own.
YTD Gain: 112%
Shares of Snap (NYSE:SNAP) are up big time this year, but it’s a gain with a major asterisk. That is, the triple-digit gain since late last year is a reclamation of the massive amount of ground SNAP stock lost in 2018. Even with that bullish move, SNAP stock is still only trading at about two-thirds of its early 2017 IPO price.
Still, credit has to be given where it’s due. The rebound rally was inspired by last quarter’s smaller-than-expected loss and renewed progress in the number of daily users logging into the app.
That said, more user growth could be in the cards now that the company recognizes simply have a communication platform isn’t enough. It’s starting to innovate in a big way, with the most recent idea being working directly with record labels to improve how music can be used in the app.
Sea Limited (SE)
YTD Gain: 147%
Sea Limited (NYSE:SE) offers several different types of digital entertainment to eastern Asian consumers — particularly outside of China. But mobile and PC games along with eSports and e-commerce services are its core operations. Sea is best known, however, for its mobile wallet app called AirPay.
It’s been growing like crazy too. Though still booking losses (and likely to continue doing so for a few more years), sales are estimated to rise by almost 100% this year, and grow another 40% next year. The company has found its place, and stride.
Nevertheless, this might be a rally to be wary of. While analysts will often up their consensus target as a stock rises, the current price near $28 is above a seemingly stagnant price target of just under $27.
Spark Therapeutics (ONCE)
YTD Gain: 178%
Take the huge 178% gain Spark Therapeutics (NASDAQ:ONCE) has dished out this year with a grain of salt. It all almost happened in one shot. In late February ONCE stock soared on the heels of news that drug company Roche (OTCMKTS:RHHBY) had made a very generous acquisition offer.
The deal hasn’t been consummated yet, and the FTC still needs to give it the green light. But, Roche says it expects the offer to be finalized and accepted before the end of the month.
While it’s unlikely the intended pairing will be derailed at this point, on the off chance it does, know that Roche’s interest wasn’t just Spark’s Luxterna — though it’s the FDA’s first-ever gene therapy treatment for a retinal disease that often leads to blindness. But ONCE’s underlying gene therapy science has value well beyond that one application.
YTD Gain: 193%
Finally, this year’s biggest winner has been Roku (NASDAQ:ROKU), up almost 200% in just a little over five months.
Like several other of the oversized gains we’ve seen since the end of 2018, Roku had the benefit of coming out of an oversized pullback during the last few months of last year. Nevertheless, the stock’s earned every bit of its current price near $90.
Roku, of course, is the name behind what’s become the world’s most popular streaming video receiver, dethroning several other (and bigger) consumer-tech companies that arguably should have been able to keep the young company at bay.
Whatever the case, this year’s big move coincides with the company’s discovery of several winning formulas and initiatives. Namely, Roku has figured out it can make even more money by selling ad space through its devices than just selling devices themselves. In that the latter fuels the former though, the pros are calling for an amazing 41% increase in this year’s sales to be followed by 33% growth next year.
As of this writing, James Brumley did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities. You can learn more about James at his site, jamesbrumley.com, or follow him on Twitter, at @jbrumley.