My son became an investor this year, taking a job that pays more than his single, frugal lifestyle consumes. He asked me what stocks he might buy with just $100. It was a difficult question. Finding the best stocks for $100 presents a lot of unique challenges.
The easy answer is, if a broker allows it, to buy fractional stocks of the best companies. Buy some Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN). Get some Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT). Get them while they’re cheap and let time work its magic.
But for InvestorPlace, I decided to make things tougher on myself. Where are five stocks, each costing less than $100 per share, that should deliver gains down the road?
They’re ranked here from safe to speculative. If you’re building a long-term portfolio, you want both. I avoided stocks I own that some rank highly, like Upstart (NASDAQ:UPST) and FuboTV (NYSE:FUBO), because I don’t want to shill for things that have lost me money.
I also avoided ETFs, although if you can get a fractional share of something like the iShares Biotechnology Fund ETF (NASDAQ:IBB) you’re on top of your generation’s biggest trend. Companies like Moderna (NASDAQ:MRNA) and CRISPR Therapeutics (NASDAQ:CRSP) make the threads of life easier to manipulate, but as with PC stocks from the 1970s most will fail.
Instead, I thought back to the first desk I flew in 1978, at the Houston Business Journal. I was newly married, full of piss and vinegar, but also didn’t want to waste a dime. Not all these companies were around in 1978, but you get the general idea.
Here’s what I found.
For 100 years, Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) has been a leader in water treatment, to assure consistency in its products. That also describes its financial performance. The company has been paying consistent, rising dividends for well over 50 years.
On July 5, that meant a quarterly payout of 44 cents/share, yielding 2.73%, Five years ago the payout was 37 cents. Ten years ago, it was 25.5 cents. That is the magic of dividends. If you had bought this stock 10 years ago when its price was $39, you would now be getting 4.5% return on that investment, plus a capital gain.
You can be as certain of returns on your Coca-Cola investment as in the fact your next Coke won’t make you sick. Under James Quincey, CEO since 2017, Coca-Cola has moved to serve its sugary drinks in smaller cans, bought England’s Costa Coffee, cut its product line in half and sought partnerships with social media stars like music producer Marshmello and actress Kate Moss.
It’s not sexy. it’s not hip. it doesn’t generate fast growth. But it’s safe and profitable. If you’re going to hang onto a stock for decades, this is what you want.
AT&T (NYSE:T) learned a hard lesson over the last decade. Stick to what you know.
Assuming it doesn’t forget that lesson, what it knows should yield a consistently profitable business. AT&T sells internet bits, mostly through mobile networks. This is a profitable business. The company cut its dividend nearly in half in the spin-off of Warner Brothers Discovery (NASDAQ:WBD) and saw its stock price fall. But what is left has less debt, a yield of 5% and a clear path to growth.
It’s not complicated. The problem is that former CEO Randall Stephenson thought it was, believing the company needed to own the content of its bits to maximize profits. Under his successor, John Stankey, AT&T is back to running mobile and wired broadband networks, which offer net margins of 10%.
Thanks to 2022’s bear market, $100 buys you nearly 5 AT&T shares. It’s hard to see a safer investment going forward, unless Stankey gets ambitious.
PayPal Holdings (PYPL)
It’s not always good to be the King. PayPal has lost 61% of its value in the first half of 2022, more than double the loss of the Nasdaq. Investors have soured on financial technology or fintech stocks. Fintechs use equity for growth, while banks use deposits. When interest rates rise, a fintech’s capital costs increase faster than those of a bank, which is only paying interest on customer deposits.
The main PayPal business is payments, linking buyer and seller accounts and moving money cheaply. That business should pick up with global growth. Its flirtation with cryptocurrency also hurts it. But its problems are short term problems. Seeing such problems solved and growth returning is something a young investor can speculate on.
Analysts are perplexed and continue to recommend PayPal stock. The company did see one-third less profit on 8% more revenue in March than in the prior year. But its franchise remains sound and its price to earnings ratio is now at 24.
Roku (NASDAQ:ROKU), which sells streaming hardware and runs an ad-based streaming network of its own, has been hit nearly as hard as PayPal in 2022, down 59%. The stock would have cost you nearly $500 last July. Now it’s on sale at about $94.
At that price, the $12.8 billion market cap is less than one-fifth of its trailing 12-month ad revenue. But that dependence on advertising resulted in a loss of $26 million for the first quarter, profits were nearly 9% of revenue in 2021. A partnership with Walmart (NYSE:WMT) is bringing “shoppable” ads to its Roku streaming channel, matching something Amazon is also experimenting with.
The partnership illustrates the promise and peril of Roku stock. It’s competing directly with Amazon, as well as Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOGL) and Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), in streaming hardware. On the other hand, it’s the only independent in its business, and any other company that wants a place in that world should be eyeing it. This includes retailers like Walmart, entertainment giants like Disney (NYSE:DIS) and even computer hardware companies.
This puts a floor under Roku’s stock price. Founder and CEO Anthony Wood controls Roku’s voting stock and recently dismissed rumors he might sell to Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX). But whenever he changes his mind, the resulting takeover battle will make you money.
There are many ways for a long-term investor to make money. You can buy safety, as with Coca-Cola and AT&T. You can buy stocks when they’re low, like PayPal and Roku. Or you can speculate on the future, taking big risks in hope of big reward.
AppHarvest (NASDAQ:APPH), which has at times seen its price under $4 recently, is such a speculation. The market cap is just $470 million. Revenue last year was just $9 million. But this is a bet on changing the world.
AppHarvest runs indoor farms. These are closed-loop systems that can be located inside cities, that use 90% less water than outdoor farms, and have sensors to precisely control plants that yield 30 times more food than on traditional farms.
The company, based in Morehead, Kentucky, reported sales of $5.2 million in the first quarter, and estimates $24 million to $32 million for the year. It’s building three new farms in addition to its Morehead facility, expanding from tomatoes into berries and salad greens. It lost $26 million in the first quarter but ended it with $98 million in cash, $58 million in credit, and an untapped credit line with $100 million more.
Once AppHarvest shows a profit in Kentucky, it will be in position to replicate that success in cities around the country and the world.
On the date of publication, Dana Blankenhorn held long positions in GOOGL, AMZN, UPST, FUBO, AAPL and MRNA. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.