Just as it seemed that the nation and the global community was on the course to full normalization, the omicron variant of Covid-19 raised alarm bells. At first, reports indicated that omicron had greater transmissibility than the delta variant. At the same time, the data also suggested that the resultant symptoms were much less severe. Turns out, that might be the case, presenting nuances for those looking for stocks to buy.
While it’s still too early to provide a full picture of omicron, data within our own borders confirm the mild symptoms profile. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 40 people in the U.S. have been found to be infected with the new strain. As well, more than three-quarters of them had been vaccinated. Still, nearly all the infected incurred only mild symptoms.
Americans have become inundated with non-stop coronavirus news. As evidenced by the phenomenon of retail revenge (or the opening of wallets to make up for lost time), people are tired of sitting at home and sacrificing their daily existence. Thus, it might seem like it’s a time for celebration. Heck, some folks might reason it’s the chance to acquire risk-on stocks to buy on discount.
However, according to the New York Times, even if omicron “infection is less severe on the whole, experts warn that if it leads to an enormous surge in cases, even a small percentage of them resulting in seriously ill patients could once again overwhelm hospitals and cause a spike in deaths.” In other words, we’re not out of the woods yet. So, certain defensive stocks to buy remain relevant.
As well, if omicron wasn’t a big deal, the global markets should be moving higher. But as things stand as I write this, that’s not the case. Indeed, the markets could be reacting not to omicron specifically but the various governmental responses to the threat. Since governments are responsible for the entirety of their nations, they could act much more conservatively than an individual household. Thus, here are some stocks to buy to help mitigate this impact.
- Quidel (NASDAQ:QDEL)
- CVS Health (NYSE:CVS)
- Lowe’s Companies (NYSE:LOW)
- NextEra Energy (NYSE:NEE)
- Kelly Services (NASDAQ:KELYA)
- Co-Diagnostics (NASDAQ:CODX)
- Winnebago (NYSE:WGO)
It’s also worth noting that cryptocurrencies — arguably the most risk on of risk-on assets — have been performing poorly. Since these 24/7/365 digital assets can respond right away to the latest headlines, their red ink poses questions for growth-related stocks to buy. With some technical analysts voicing concern, it may be time to take another look at the omicron threat.
Stocks to Buy: Quidel (QDEL)
Although a vaccination play would have seemed like the best idea to address the omicron threat, early reports suggest that even if you’re not vaccinated, you might incur mild symptoms anyways. Frankly, that’s not much of a storyline to tell those who may be on the fence about vaccination.
This also might be a no-win situation for stocks in the Covid-19 treatment space. Don’t get me wrong — delta is still something people need to be aware of. But for right now, the new strain doesn’t appear poised to present a fresh upside catalyst for treatments.
But testing kits? That might be a different story. It’s important to note that while the early indications of omicron are positive, they’re relatively so. How the variant impacts different age categories and socioeconomic demographics remains to be seen. In order to manage this ongoing crisis, testing is necessary, which bodes well for Quidel.
On a charting basis, what I like about QDEL is that since the end of April 2021, the stock has printed a series of rising lows. Omicron could give shares that extra lift to go even higher.
CVS Health (CVS)
Not too long ago, I was watching a debate on the House floor regarding soaring inflation, particularly as it related to healthcare costs. A Republican Congressman argued that government subsidization contributed to the surge, presumably because such measures stifle competition. It’s not a unique argument, because it’s seemingly been a talking point as long as I’ve been alive: free-market competition good, government oversight bad.
Of course, free-market competition and the search for the cheapest labor possible contributed to the rise of China. The healthcare portion of the debate is much more complex and nuanced. But every politician who has complained about the issue is correct: Healthcare costs are getting out of control and leading to poor outcomes.
Now, the once-struggling CVS Health may have a solution, at least within its sphere of influence. According to its latest disclosure, management boosted its forecast for this fiscal year, expecting “adjusted earnings per share to be at least $8.00 on revenue of $290.3 billion or more. That’s an increase from a previous forecast for adjusted earnings of $7.90 to $8.00 per share and revenue of $286.5 billion to $290.3 billion,” per CNBC.
In the meantime, a potential omicron outbreak — along with delta cases — should keep CVS busy, making it one of the stocks to buy.
Stocks to Buy: Lowe’s Companies (LOW)
During the initial blast of the Covid-19 crisis, hardware and home-repair stores truly helped people adjust to the incoming new normal. Obviously, Lowe’s Companies and similar stores provided the essentials that people were looking for at the time — including toilet paper. As well, it was incredibly encouraging for these firms to stay open at reasonable hours, serving people with varying schedules.
Therefore, if another wide-ranging outbreak occurs with the omicron variant, Lowe’s would be a place to consider for stocks to buy. No, I don’t think omicron would lead to another serious lockdown. However, people might take more precautions. Sure, the new strain might lead to less-severe symptoms, but it’s not something that you want in the first place. So, sales of personal protective equipment might rise.
But another longer-term catalyst for LOW stock could come in the form of the booming housing market. With soaring inflation, some folks anticipate higher interest rates in 2022. Others have a differing opinion. Either way, it’s possible that housing prices may be nearing their peak. With fixed rate mortgages rising from their historic 2021 lows, this could be the last chance for homeowners to spruce up their properties for maximum dollars.
NextEra Energy (NEE)
If you look at various internet commentary, you’ll more often than not find folks who are tired of the pandemic and will probably ignore any governmental safety mandates, if any new ones arrive regarding omicron.
On occasion, I listen to The David Pakman Show to get an idea of what young progressives may be thinking. In one of his programs, Pakman stated that he’s going to get his booster shot and stay in, avoiding large crowds. I’m pretty confident, though, that this is not the consensus opinion of most people, who are fed up with the pandemic.
Whether influencers like Pakman are right or not, some businesses are relevant regardless of the pandemic’s trajectory. That’s why I like NextEra Energy. While it’s had its ups and downs — most notably during the winter storm earlier this year — NEE has been one of the more fundamentally reliable stocks to buy, gaining 19% year-to-date.
Moving toward 2022, I like NEE both as an ESG (environmental, social, governance) play and as a utility. Even if we enter a bear market (let’s hope not), people will still need their electricity.
Stocks to Buy: Kelly Services (KELYA)
Employment data may be one of the most difficult statistics to parse through during the new normal. Some might cynically state that analyses are politically motivated. One thing I can state is that the narrative is both confusing and conflicting.
As you know, we’ve been inundated over the last several months with stories about how companies are struggling to find workers, especially as Americans leave their jobs in droves. But other analysts state that even with the latest jobs report badly disappointing economists’ consensus forecast, the economy may be nearing full employment.
Then again, Bloomberg reminded us all that apparently, we’re not feeling so great about our financial bonanza. Personally, I’m a bit skeptical about the overly optimistic forecasts about the economy. We just had a devastating pandemic that we’re still not fully recovered from. If pandemics were good for the economy, we’d beg for them every year.
Something tells me that’s not quite accurate, which is why staffing firm Kelly Services might be one of the worthwhile (albeit speculative) stocks to buy. Eventually, workers’ resources will narrow, bringing them back to the application line.
Given that Kelly Services offers a wide range of opportunities, it might have a leg up on industry-specific agencies.
One of the riskiest wagers you can make regarding stocks to buy to mitigate the omicron threat, Co-Diagnostics was an early winner last year when the Covid-19 crisis first emerged. I don’t think anyone’s going to argue about that. Subsequently, though, the discussion centered on whether at its elevated price point CODX was a worthwhile investment.
In the late summer of 2020, CODX briefly traded hands well above the $20 level, so the idea of sustainability was not an insignificant one. Sure enough, as society became acclimated to the pandemic, interest for CODX stock waned. Shares opened at $8.49 for the Dec. 13 session, representing a huge discount from its earlier highs.
Still, it seems that Co-Diagnostics ebbs and flows with the coronavirus, which isn’t the most ideal circumstance. For instance, some data also suggests that the Covid-19 pandemic could be nearing an end. Still, with omicron entering the news cycle, Co-Diagnostics’ testing devices could find relevance.
As well, the company’s joint venture in India for selling testing kits could be a big catalyst, especially if another outbreak occurs.
Stocks to Buy: Winnebago (WGO)
Another risky idea on this list of stocks to buy, I’m going to stick Winnebago on the end of the line because it’s not my highest-confidence idea, if I’m being perfectly honest. However, if the omicron variant continues to impose troubles both here and abroad, WGO might be something to consider.
Yes, we’ve established that early data shows omicron may produce less-severe symptoms than delta. So, what’s the big deal? Well, big government is. You see, while you can make decisions for yourself, government bodies must account for their constituents, irrespective of who they are and how they voted. Therefore, mitigation measures are in place for the community, not necessarily for specific individuals.
Moreover, other countries have already made their decision. Whether you personally agree or not, several nations have closed their borders to contain omicron before it spirals out of control. Cynically, this could help Winnebago.
If folks were looking forward to a cheap trip abroad during the typically discounted winter season, they’re going to be disappointed. Instead, American tourists might hit the open road, which may lift WGO. Still, recreational vehicles aren’t the cheapest things to buy or rent, so caution is warranted here.
On the date of publication, Josh Enomoto did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.
A former senior business analyst for Sony Electronics, Josh Enomoto has helped broker major contracts with Fortune Global 500 companies. Over the past several years, he has delivered unique, critical insights for the investment markets, as well as various other industries including legal, construction management, and healthcare.