Investors looking for stocks to buy at the beginning of this year most likely picked wrong. U.S. stocks have been routed. The S&P 500 is down 25% year-to-date. It’s safe to say that the declines have been broad as well as deep.
Of over 4,500 stocks with a market capitalization over $50 million, only 200 — less than 5% — have gained so far this year. And many of those few winners actually have benefited from the spread of the coronavirus from China.
In biotech, Co-Diagnostics (NASDAQ:CODX) has rallied as it works to deliver a coronavirus test; the likes of Inovio (NASDAQ:INO) and iBio (NYSEMKT:IBIO) have gained on hopes for a treatment or vaccine.
There have been second-order winners as well. Zoom Video Communications (NASDAQ:ZM) has gained amid higher demand for its video conferencing solution. The same is true for telehealth leader Teladoc (NYSE:TDOC). Micro-cap delivery plays Blue Apron (NYSE:APRN) and Waitr Holdings (NASDAQ:WTRH) have seen enormous jumps on hopes that widespread restaurant closures can save businesses that looked headed for bankruptcy.
Those rallies all make at least some sense (even if a few seem to have gone too far). But there have been very few stocks in 2020 whose businesses have been strong enough to survive the crashing market without concrete near-term tailwinds.
These seven stocks make that list. That alone means they should be given consideration from a long-term perspective. After all, if a stock can hold up in this market, it might well be able to soar when and if positive sentiment returns.
Survivor Stocks to Buy: Amazon (AMZN)
To be fair, Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) is getting a bit of a sales boost of late as brick-and-mortar retail in the U.S. essentially shuts down. But in the context of a market capitalization now back over $1 trillion, a few weeks of brisk sales aren’t on their own enough to allow AMZN stock to dodge the plunging broad market.
Rather, Amazon has executed well. Fourth-quarter results last month were a blowout, and assuaged investor fears about the cost of one-day shipping. More recently, Amazon has delivered essential goods worldwide, managing amid supply shortages and spiking demand.
Amazon has reminded investors and customers why it’s one of the world’s best businesses. And that’s been enough to keep Amazon stock positive in 2020 despite a still-hefty headline valuation and potential pressure on the Amazon Web Services cloud business.
That trading suggests AMZN is one of the better large-cap stocks to buy going forward. After all, if the stock can hold $1,800 in this environment, there should be a path back to $2,000 and beyond if and when the bull market returns.
Rite Aid (RAD)
Rite Aid (NYSE:RAD) is one of the more surprising names on this list. This is a company that just last summer looked to be on a path to bankruptcy. And while investors might think that consumers stocking up on pharmaceuticals are driving a big bounce in revenue, the coronavirus hasn’t done much for Rite Aid’s largest peers.
Over the past month, RAD is up 17%. CVS Health (NYSE:CVS) has declined 23% and Walgreens Boots Alliance (NASDAQ:WBA) is off 8%. That outperformance isn’t new — following the recent gains, Rite Aid stock now has more than tripled from August lows.
There could be more upside ahead. Shares have gained nicely in recent sessions after strong guidance for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2020 and for full-year fiscal 2021. Rite Aid still has a heavily leveraged balance sheet, which brought the stock down as profits plunged. That leverage can amplify gains on the way back up, and with the company guiding for same-store sales growth in FY2021, the trajectory of the business remains positive.
Stamps.com (NASDAQ:STMP) probably is receiving a bit of help from coronavirus concerns. Consumers choosing to avoid the post office may be using the company’s offerings instead. And as with Zoom Video or even Costco Wholesale (NASDAQ:COST), the hope would be that some of those new users can be converted to longer-term customers.
That said, STMP stock slid along with the market for most of the past few weeks, which suggests that investors weren’t necessarily pricing in a huge near-term upswing. And Stamps.com has earned its rally as well.
Shares were crushed last year after the company announced the loss of exclusivity with the U.S. Postal Service. It then slashed full-year guidance following the first quarter report in May. But since then, Stamps.com has performed better and steadily won back investor confidence. The stock rallied 65% after the Q4 release last month, in large part because adjusted earnings per share were guided to $4 to $5 in 2020, against Street expectations of $3.24.
STMP did wind up giving back nearly all of those gains — but has caught a bid of late. Particularly if the broad market can stabilize, the combination of short-term tailwinds and improved performance makes it one of the more attractive stocks to buy right now. Simply getting back to post-earnings highs suggests upside of almost 50% on top of the 42% year-to-date rally.
Chinese e-commerce company JD.com (NASDAQ:JD) would seem to be a prime candidate for selling right now. The Chinese economy only now is starting to recover from its coronavirus outbreak. JD stock isn’t cheap, at about 30x current consensus EPS expectations for 2020. Few stocks seem more poorly positioned for a “risk off” environment.
To be sure, shares have struggled of late. The stock is down about 15% from levels seen earlier this month. Still, the stock is up 11% so far this year and is maintaining support that’s held repeatedly in the $36-$37 range.
That performance is particularly impressive in the context of rivals. Alibaba (NYSE:BABA) has declined 12% YTD, and Pinduoduo (NASDAQ:PDD) 8%. Investors are fleeing stocks in the category, and in the market, but mostly hanging on to JD.
If that outperformance continues, and JD can deliver on its long-term growth potential, the current price under $40 may prove to be a massive buying opportunity.
Like Stamps.com, ShotSpotter (NASDAQ:SSTI) saw a huge bounce following fourth-quarter earnings last month. And like STMP, SSTI stock gave back its gains.
In fact, a one-day 32.6% rally after earnings not only was erased, but SSTI dipped below pre-earnings levels. The stock then rallied 26% on Thursday — likely due to updated guidance for this year.
ShotSpotter said after the close on Wednesday that it was cutting its revenue outlook — but only by about $2 million. The company still expects to be profitable on a GAAP basis for the first time. And it’s been able to virtualize its Incident Review Center, allowing staff to work from home but still monitor covered neighborhoods for gunfire detected by the company’s namesake solution.
Even with the recent volatility, SSTI has gained 18% so far this year. More volatility may follow; this remains an early-stage company still expecting less than $50 million in revenue in 2020.
Still, the company is delivering on its promise, and there’s an enormous runway for growth. Investors may well believe that if ShotSpotter can grow this year, amid so many challenges for local government, it will grow even faster once some sense of normalcy returns.
Veeva Systems (VEEV)
Veeva Systems (NYSE:VEEV) may receive some modest benefit from the response to the coronavirus. The software developer focuses primarily on the life sciences vertical, and increased activity from customers working on treatments, tests, or vaccines for the new virus could drive higher sales of Veeva products.
That said, a modest short-term boost to revenue wouldn’t seem like enough to counter valuation fears for a still-expensive name. Yet VEEV, save for a brief decline last week, has performed rather well even as many software-as-a-service peers have fallen sharply. With the selloff now reversed, the stock is up 3% so far in 2020.
That bounce makes VEEV an attractive choice for investors both bullish and bearish on the market. Investors looking for stocks to buy no doubt will consider a growth darling that can hold up in all but the most panicked environments.
But bears looking for stocks that would struggle in another selloff also might consider VEEV from the short side. For all its positives, this still is a stock valued at a stunning 20x trailing 12-month revenue. Most stocks with similar valuations have sold off sharply over the last few weeks. The fact that VEEV hasn’t could be proof of its underlying strength — or a signal that it’s due for a reversal.
J.M. Smucker (SJM)
For a few sessions now, J.M. Smucker (NYSE:SJM) participated in the rally in consumer staples. Investors this week seemed to remember that consumer spending on food and household products would hold up — and potentially accelerate as U.S. households stocked up.
And so we’ve seen nice gains this week in names ranging from Walmart (NYSE:WMT) and Target (NYSE:TGT) to Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG) and Clorox (NYSE:CLX) to food plays Conagra Brands (NYSE:CAG) and Campbell Soup (NYSE:CPB).
Those rallies did fade a bit on Thursday, as investors looked for stocks to buy in more challenged (and cheaper) sectors. But SJM still looks like one of the better stocks to buy in its own space. The company’s transition into safer and faster-growing coffee and pet markets continues apace. It’s valuation is attractive. And like peers, SJM should see strong results over the next few months.
To be sure, I’ve been bullish on the stock for some time — and the bull case simply hasn’t played out yet. The stock has traded sideways since September. But, in this market, sideways trading is nothing to sneeze at. Like the other stocks on this list, if SJM can hold up now, it can rally when investor optimism returns.
Vince Martin has covered the financial industry for close to a decade for InvestorPlace.com and other outlets. He has no positions in any securities mentioned.