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Markets are selling off sharply Friday on news of a heavily mutated COVID-19 variant detected in South Africa that could put the global recovery at risk, and like everyone else right now we don't know enough about the new variant.
Given the economic uncertainty and the potential for travel restrictions, today's decline makes for a good time to brush off the list of companies who did well in the height of the pandemic last year.
Possible buy list — essential retail
In the Charitable Trust, the ones we like for essential retail/e-commerce are Amazon (AMZN), Costco (COST) and Walmart (WMT). To deliver all those packages, a stock like United Parcel Services (UPS) should work too.
Possible buy list — testing and treatment
Elsewhere, a new variant gives people another reason to test for COVID-19 infections, and Abbot Laboratories (ABT) has some of the best and most affordable rapid home tests. Eli Lilly (LLY) is another name to like in healthcare for its antibody cocktail, though we don't know if Lilly's cocktail is effective at treating the variant.
We wouldn't chase any of these stocks if they are up because that's not our style, but we give our blessing to pick at them should they fall 2%.
Don't play the stay-at-home game anymore
One quick point we want to distinguish about this list is that these investments are not solely based on COVID-19 plays. We are past the point of playing the stay-at-home game. Instead, we highlighted a group of stocks that will see a positive impact from a return to pandemic behavior.
Beyond the pandemic, this list contains market share winners, companies with attractive growth and pipeline opportunities, and favorable company-specific initiatives.
Put simply, we like these stocks with or without Covid.
Possible buy list — strong balance sheets
Outside of specific pandemic winners, we are evaluating companies with strong balance sheets, healthy dividend payments, and consistent share repurchase programs as stocks to buy. Companies with all three usually can withstand and find support in volatile markets, and investors should be prepared for some volatile moments over the next couple of weeks.
One new idea we are looking at that is not in the Charitable Trust is Chevron (CVX). The oil giant has a big dividend with a yield approaching 5%, a steady buyback that could grow next year, and they generate a lot of cash flow and earnings at $70 a barrel. We are restricted from trading CVX through Monday, but it is an interesting idea as prices come in.
Banks are getting crushed today off lower rates, but this group fits the profile we like too. Morgan Stanley (MS) and Wells Fargo (WFC), the two we own for the Charitable Trust, are both well capitalized and have huge repurchase programs. We aren't targeting buys in these two at current levels because we just bought some Morgan Stanley at around this price last Friday, and Wells Fargo is already one of our largest positions with a low average cost basis of $33.
But if Morgan Stanley fell below our recent purchase, say to around $93-$94, which is where the dividend yield will be 3%, then that's where we will likely look to pick up shares next.
What we are staying away from
The group we think is just too hard to buy right now are the ones that need cross-border activity and are tied to travel & entertainment. Think stocks like Boeing (BA), Wynn Resorts (WYNN), and even Disney (DIS), despite the possibility that its Disney+ could get a boost if people become more inclined to stay in homes. The action is downright ugly in these, but no one ever made a dime panicking. There is always a possibility that something with the new variant could go right too. Sometimes the best course action is to just sit on your hands, and that's what we are doing with this group today.
The bottom line is that we want to urge Investing Club members not to panic off the headlines and look for opportunities as stocks come in. But even though the market has gone on sale, we don't think it's a hold-your-nose-and-buy-what's-getting-hit-the-hardest type of day because we do not know enough about the transmissibility of the new variant and how much it has already spread. If we learn something negative over the weekend, we may see better prices Monday.
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As a subscriber to the CNBC Investing Club with Jim Cramer, you will receive a trade alert before Jim makes a trade. Typically, Jim waits 45 minutes after sending a trade alert before buying or selling a stock in his charitable trust's portfolio. If the trade alert is sent pre-market, Jim waits 5 minutes after the market opens before executing the trade. If the trade alert is issued with less than 45 minutes in the trading day, Jim executes the trade 5 minutes before the market closes. If Jim has talked about a stock on CNBC TV, he waits 72 hours after issuing the trade alert before executing the trade. See here for the investing disclaimer.
(Jim Cramer's Charitable Trust is long AMZN, COST, WMT, UPS, ABT, MS, WFC, BA, WYNN, DIS.)