Later this month will mark a year since the stock market went haywire due to the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Over that year, we've witnessed the fastest bear market decline of at least 30% in history, as well as the most impressive bounce-back rally to new highs of all time.
With all three major U.S. indexes within a stone's throw of yet another record high, investors might be under the impression that all value has been sucked out of the market. But if you do a little digging, you'll realize this isn't the case.
As we move headlong into February, the following three top stocks stand out for their growth and value potential. If you're a patient investor with cash at the ready, these stocks could make you a whole lot richer in February, and well beyond.
Biotech stocks are known for their potentially life-saving and game-changing research into a variety of diseases and ailments. What they're usually not known for is profits. Of the more than 340 publicly traded biotech stocks with a market cap of at least $300 million, just 40 are projected to be profitable in their forward year (either 2021 or 2022), according to Wall Street. That's why Vertex Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:VRTX) is so special, because you're getting both leading research and recurring profitability.
Vertex's claim to fame is that it's been able to do successfully develop multiple generations of drugs to treat cystic fibrosis (CF), a genetic disease characterized by thick mucus production that can obstruct the pancreas and lungs. Vertex's therapies are gene specific and are providing quality-of-life improvements to an indication that currently has no cure.
The bulk of Vertex's near-term growth will come from combo drug Trikafta, which was approved five months ahead of schedule after easily meeting its primary endpoint in late-stage trials for patients with the most common gene-specific form of CF. It usually takes a newly launched drug at least a year to reach blockbuster status ($1 billion or more in annual sales). It took Trikafta only a couple of months. This drug looks well on its way to surpassing Wall Street's forecast of $6 billion in peak annual sales.
Investors are also getting a bit of a discount after experimental alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (AATD) drug VX-814 was discontinued in phase 2 trials as a result of abnormal liver enzyme levels in some patients. It's not uncommon for clinical trials to fail. However, Vertex has made a habit of delivering above-average success rates in its clinical ventures. With roughly a half-dozen other compounds in development, including another treatment for AATD, it's baffling that a company on track to double its sales by 2023 is only valued at 21 times forward-year earnings.
AGNC Investment Corp.
Although the mortgage REIT industry probably sounds mysterious, it's pretty easy to unpack. Mortgage REITs like AGNC Investment borrow money at lower short-term rates and purchase assets that have higher long-term yields. In this instance, the bulk of AGNC's buying is 15-year and 30-year mortgage-backed securities (MBS). The difference in yield between what AGNC receives from its MBSs and what it owes on the money it's borrowed is its net interest margin (NIM). Simply put, the wider the NIM, the more money AGNC will make.
Now, here's where things get interesting. Usually, moves in the yield curve are slow and steady. But during periods of economic recovery from a recession, it's typical for the yield curve to steepen pretty dramatically. By this I mean that long-term yields rise at a much faster pace than short-term yields (i.e., a steepening of the curve as you look further out). When the yield curve steepens after completely flattening out, it leads to a substantial widening of NIM for mortgage REITs.
Something else to consider is that virtually all of AGNC's securities are agency assets. Agency securities are protected by the federal government in the event of default. As you can imagine, this added protection pushes yields down compared to non-agency assets. However, it also allows AGNC Investment to use leverage to its advantage, especially with the yield curve steepening.
Opportunistic investors can still scoop up AGNC Investment for less than its book value, and will be rewarded with a hearty 9.1% dividend yield.
Similar to AGNC, salesforce's operating model might sound complex, but it's easy to understand. CRM software can be used by any consumer-facing business to log customer information, input and oversee customer service issues, manage marketing campaigns, and even suggest add-on sales to existing clients. And it's not just for the retail and services industries. We're witnessing broad-based adoption among financials, healthcare companies, and manufacturing. According to a blog by SuperOffice, 91% of businesses with at least 11 employees are now using CRM software.
Where does salesforce fit into all of this, you ask? It's only the kingpin of cloud-based CRM. Even with the space getting crowded by competitors, consultancy firm Gartner pegged salesforce's global share of CRM sales at 18.3% by the end of 2019. That's more than double its next-closest competitor, and nearly equal to No.'s 2, 3, and 4 in market share, combined.
Beyond just being the go-to cloud-based CRM software provider, salesforce also recently announced its largest acquisition in company history -- a $27.7 billion cash-and-stock deal to buy Slack Technologies. The idea with this transaction is to utilize Slack to cross-sell its CRM solutions much in the same way Microsoft uses Teams to cross-sell its products.
Whereas most software-as-a-service stocks come with a nosebleed price-to-sales multiple of 20 or higher, investors can buy into salesforce for a very reasonable 8 times forward-year sales. That's not bad for a company that can continue doubling its sales every four years.