When the U.S. launched a missile strike that killed top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, people around the world freaked out, claiming that this was the beginning of World War III. Investors freaked out, too, and markets around the globe tumbled the day after the missile strike.
But my reaction to the missile strike was completely the opposite — I saw it as a big plus for the U.S. stock market, and an even bigger plus for growth stocks.
No matter which way you slice it, higher interest rates are the number one enemy of the stock market and the economy. Long story short, after a decade of next-to-zero interest rates, the market and economy have become addicted to and heavily dependent upon those low interest rates. A hike in interest rates would put tremendous pressure on companies’ heavily-levered balance sheets and stocks’ aggressively extended valuations. But, so long as interest rates remain low and a cataclysmic Black Swan event doesn’t emerge, the economy and stocks will continue to push higher.
From this perspective, the U.S. missile strike on Iran is exactly what the stock market needed to head higher in 2020. This event sustains the Goldilocks global economy which propelled stocks way higher in 2019. That is, it creates enough worry to keep investors on their toes and keep interest rates depressed. But it doesn’t create enough worry to meaningfully slow economic activity globally.
That’s a great combination which means that growth stocks — which are big winners in low rate environments — will head doubly higher. With that in mind, let’s take a look at five growth stocks to buy as the Goldilocks economy persists.
The Trade Desk (TTD)
Programmatic advertising leader The Trade Desk (NASDAQ:TTD) has been one of the best-performing growth stocks in recent memory. Over the past three years, TTD stock is up more than 900%, as the company has become a bigger and more important player in the global digital ad landscape.
Long story short, programmatic advertising has turned into the future of digital advertising. As opposed to leveraging humans and guess-and-check processes to run ad campaigns, advertisers around the world are increasingly automating ad transaction processes using data and algorithms. This programmatic advertising pivot will persist in 2020, as automation tech gains more traction and digital ad spending trends remain strong.
As it does, The Trade Desk — which is widely considered the world’s best and most robust demand-side programmatic ad platform — will continue to attract more clients and grow ad spend per client. Revenue growth trends will remain robust. Profit margins will improve with scale as the company relies more on ad spend per client growth, and less on marketing spend. Profits will continue to roar higher.
At this point, it seems like the only thing that can stop TTD stock is valuation friction. Indeed, up at almost 75-times forward earnings, TTD stock does seem richly valued.
But low interest rates support this extended valuation. So long as interest rates remain low and the company maintains growth momentum, TTD stock will push higher. Both of those things will happen in 2020. As such, the big multi-year rally in TTD stock won’t end this year.
Beyond Meat (BYND)
During the first half of 2019, plant-based meat maker Beyond Meat (NASDAQ:BYND) was one of the market’s best performing growth stocks. During the second half, it was one of the market’s worst performing growth stocks. In 2020, BYND stock appears well positioned to regain the winning streak it had during the first half of 2019.
As Bill Gates once said, people tend to overestimate what can be accomplished in a year, and underestimate what can be accomplished in a decade. Beyond Meat is a living illustration of this. In 2019, everyone expected Beyond Meat and the plant-based meat trend to take over the world right away. Investors overestimated how much the company could accomplish in a year. The stock price reflected this, and as the company delivered numbers that were below expectations, the stock collapsed.
Now, on the heels of this stock price collapse, investors are underestimating how much the company can accomplish over the next decade. During that stretch, plant-based meat will become the norm, thanks to health, cost, and resource conservation advantages. Beyond Meat will maintain its status as “the brand name” in the plant-based space. The company will turn into a global meats giant worth tens of billions of dollars.
The Beyond Meat stock price today does not reflect this reality. Consequently, the company will deliver numbers in 2020 and beyond that exceed expectations. As it does, the stock will rebound from this big sell-off, especially against the back-drop of low interest rates.
The 2020 bull thesis on payments processor Square (NYSE:SQ) boils down to four components.
First, Square is a growth stock with a growth valuation. Interest rates project to remain low in 2020, and therefore project to remain supportive of growth stocks and growth valuations. Sustained low rates will consequently provide support for SQ stock over the next few months.
Second, Square’s adjusted revenue growth rates will stabilize and potentially even improve in 2020, thanks to rebounding economic activity, which should lead to upped consumer spending and heavier spend through the Square ecosystem. At the same time, new product launches like Cash App will continue to gain meaningful traction in this healthy consumer spending environment, providing more lift to Square’s adjusted revenue growth rates. That’s important, because when Square’s adjusted revenue growth trajectory is improving, SQ stock tends to do very well.
Third, Square’s profit margins will continue to improve because the company’s higher-margin services businesses will become bigger revenue contributors in 2020, thereby putting upward pressure on gross margins. Sustained big revenue growth should also drive bigger positive operating leverage.
Fourth, at 72-times forward earnings for 30%-plus revenue growth and even bigger profit growth, SQ stock is one of the more attractively valued growth stocks in the market. Thus, favorable fundamental developments coupled with low rates have the potential to push SQ stock meaningfully higher from today’s relatively depressed base.
Canopy Growth (CGC)
Pot stocks had a rough go in 2019. Pot stock poster child Canopy Growth (NYSE:CGC) was no exception. Shares presently trade more than 60% off their early 2019 highs. But the whole cannabis sector — led by CGC — could stage a big rebound in 2020.
The rebound thesis on CGC stock is fairly straightforward. All the things that went wrong for Canopy Growth in 2019 will go right in 2020. Falling revenue growth rates will turn into rising revenue growth rates, as demand trends in Canada stabilize thanks to the introduction of vapes and edibles products into the legal market, as well as more aggressive retail store expansion.
Compressing margins will turn into expanding margins, as black market pricing pressures ease with improving demand trends and as the pace of production capacity expansion slows. Snail-like progress on the U.S. legislation front will pick up speed in 2020 as the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act makes its way through Washington.
Canopy’s 2019 headwinds will turn into 2020 tailwinds. Those 2020 tailwinds will converge on what has become a hugely depressed CGC stock with a record low valuation, to spark a big rebound in shares.
Of course, low interest rates won’t hurt, either. Canopy Growth — like all pot stocks — is still richly valued relative to the rest of the market. Low interest rates will help provide support for this extended valuation, especially as the growth narrative regains momentum.
Digital ad stocks are positioned to have a strong 2020, because the strength of ad market is closely tied to the strength of the overall economy (i.e. when the economy is firing on all cylinders, companies are more comfortable spending big on advertising). As such, the likes of Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOG), Pinterest (NYSE:PINS), and others will move higher in 2020.
One digital ad stock which could out-perform peers in a big way in 2020 is Snap (NYSE:SNAP). Snap has been untouched by political ad scandals. By contrast, Facebook and Alphabet are feeling huge pressure to more strictly censor and even ban political ads in 2020. That means these companies are operating with their hands tied behind their backs. Snap isn’t. That puts the company in a strong position to win a ton of political ad dollars this year.
Second, Snap’s newest product innovation, Cameos, looks very similar to the face swap filter of early 2019. That face swap filter was a big driver behind the platform’s impressive user growth in early 2019, which drove huge gains in SNAP stock. The same thing could happen in early 2020. Cameos could power above-consensus user growth, which could spark another leg higher in SNAP stock.
Third, Snap’s profit margin profile will continue to meaningfully improve in 2020 as gross margins move higher alongside more favorable ad demand trends, and as sustained big revenue growth drives positive operating leverage.
Connecting all the dots, it seems clear that Snap stock will regain its early 2019 momentum in early 2020, and sustain that momentum for most of the year.
As of this writing, Luke Lango was long TTD, BYND, SQ, CGC, FB, and PINS.