The U.S. stock market may have been roaring higher at the beginning of last month, but July ended on a low note. Forward progress has stopped altogether. Stocks may be nearing a corrective move -- even if only a small one.
As is so often the case though, some stocks are worth stepping into regardless of the environment. Investors don't have to look over the entire planet to find these names, either.
Here's a rundown of three of the top U.S. stocks to consider buying this month. Each one is compelling simply because they all now offer something their rivals don't, or can't.
1. Snap's Snapchat never painted a target on its back
When social media app Snapchat launched in 2011, it was seen by some as another social networking platform the world didn't need. Twitter (NYSE: TWTR) and Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) pretty much had that market tied up, leaving investors a bit leery of its parent company Snap (NYSE: SNAP) when it later went public in 2017.
Credit has to be given where it's due, though. Snap has proven it can be a relevant player in this space, mostly by doing what Facebook and Twitter don't. That includes steering clear of things like political censorship controversies, involvement in societal tension, and antitrust accusations.
For example, a huge group of advertisers is currently boycotting Facebook, claiming the social media site lacks the willingness to police destructive speech on its platform. And just this past week, Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg appeared in front of Congress (again) to answer questions about the company's seemingly monopolistic history. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has been in the same hot seat too.
Snapchat, meanwhile, just continues to march forward, learning as it does. Last quarter's top line of $454 million was up 17% year over year, driven by a 17% improvement in the app's number of average daily users. Cash flow improved at a more robust 31%, suggesting Snap is getting better -- or at least more efficient -- as it gets bigger.
In an arena where Twitter's and Facebook's sheer size and checkered histories appear to be a liability, it's the smaller, more recent entrant into the race that appears to be the best growth opportunity.
2. Microsoft is becoming an everywhere kind of company
Almost everyone is more than familiar with Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT). Its Windows operating system franchise powers about three-fourths of the world's desktop and laptop computers, according to GlobalStats data, and its office productivity software arguably became the standard everyone else eventually tried to mimic.
There's a whole aspect of Microsoft that most investors/consumers can't quite see, however, that sets the stage for major long-term growth.
Yes, its Azure platform lets enterprise-level customers easily manage their cloud computing operations. Azure's revenue was up 50% last quarter, after adjusting for changes in currency exchange rates. Its bigger cloud services and server divisions revenue also grew well, surpassing $50 billion in revenue for the fiscal year ending in June. None of that's exactly new, though. Neither is its cloud-based office productivity software business, much of which is now sold at a subscription basis that translates into predictable, recurring revenue.
Rather, Microsoft's growth fuel for the next few years is much more nuanced, and arguably much more powerful. The company is transitioning from being a service provider with a mere menu of choices to purchase to being a holistic, one-stop-shop that positions Microsoft as a top partner.
As an example, the company recently announced that advertisers using its Microsoft Audience Ads platform will now enjoy free access to Shutterstock's portfolio of more 300 million digital images. The company also recently launched what it calls its Digital Marketing Center, which helps small businesses manage their online ad campaigns, including advertising that occurs outside of Microsoft's ad network. Microsoft's been forging impressive partnerships too. It's integrating some of its wares with business technology name Citrix, collaborating with food name PepsiCo, and even helping the NBA better connect with basketball fans.
All of these tools being built for one particular partner can be retooled for another. Sure, they're all small things on the surface, but a huge number of these little details and partnerships are now materializing at a pace they didn't before. The software giant is quietly but quickly planting seeds everywhere.
3. Not the Big Lots of yesteryear
Finally, add Big Lots (NYSE: BIG) to your list of U.S. stocks to buy in August.
It's no Walmart. It's not even a Dollar General, which has carved out a nice niche for itself within the retail arena by doing several things distinctly differently than Walmart does. If you think Big Lots is still just a disheveled, low-tech reseller of second-chance goods, though, you may want to go inside one once you safely get a chance to do so. On your way in, take note of the cars waiting for their online orders at the company's parking spots allocated for curbside pickup. Or, if you don't have the time or desire to venture out but still need something in a hurry, buy it online at BigLots.com and let the company's same-day courier service bring your purchase to you. That option's now available at select Big Lots locales as well.
They're not the sort of moves many consumers likely expected from Big Lots, but there they are all the same.
In the meantime, the discount retailer's doing surprisingly fine even without the recent addition of quick deliveries. Analysts are collectively calling for earnings of $2.71 per share for the quarter ending in July, up from $0.53 in the comparable quarter a year earlier. A projected 28% increase in revenue is the driver for the impressive profit surge.
That growth pace won't last, of course -- it's mostly the result of the coronavirus contagion, which will eventually abate. Big Lots may be capturing more customers than it seems like it could have just a year ago, though, given its increased usage of e-commerce and technology. The retailer had already planned a better omnichannel experience before COVID-19 was even a thing. In November of last year, it hired Medallia specifically to help it use technology as a way to improve customer loyalty -- just in time.
10 stocks we like better than Microsoft
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Teresa Kersten, an employee of LinkedIn, a Microsoft subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Randi Zuckerberg, a former director of market development and spokeswoman for Facebook and sister to its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. James Brumley has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Facebook, Medallia Inc, Microsoft, and Twitter and recommends the following options: long January 2021 $85 calls on Microsoft and short January 2021 $115 calls on Microsoft. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.
The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.