Health

As CDC advises “social distancing,” some companies are ready to help

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention official said last week that U.S. cities and towns should adopt “social distancing” measures to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.

While many Americans may be unfamiliar with the concept of social distancing, investors are already identifying companies that could could play a role if employees are forced to spend more time at home or otherwise cooped up inside for a prolonged period of time. To that tend, JC O’Hara, chief market technician of brokerage firm MKM Partners, compiled a list of 40 companies that could “potentially benefit in a world of quarantined individuals.” 

Read on for CBS MoneyWatch’s analysis of companies that could flourish if workers follow the CDC’s advice to put some distance between themselves and their colleagues, friends and neighbors. (Investment returns for each stock are since January 31 through March 2).  

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Zoom Video Communications
Stock performance:
 Up 44%
What it does: Video-conferencing software 

Why it’s a “social distance” stock: Zoom was one of the first stocks to pop on the news of the coronavirus outbreak. Like messaging software maker Slack, it should benefit from employees working from home and conducting meetings remotely. 

Zoom has already signed up more users this year than in all of 2019, according to a recent report from Bernstein Research analysts Zane Chrane and Michelle Isaacs, who attributed at least some of that growth to coronavirus concerns. Other analysts are more skeptical, with Goldman Sachs, which helped sell the company’s IPO, recently saying that expectations for Zoom’s stock price have “gotten ahead of themselves.”

Slack Technologies
Stock performance:
 Up 29%
What it does: Workplace messaging software 

Why it’s a “social distance” stock: The coronavirus seems to be heightening interest in working from home or other remote locations, with numerous companies reportedly drawing up contingency plans. That stands to benefit Slack, whose technology lets employees communicate and collaborate via the company’s popular platform. In December, the company said it had 12 million daily users.

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Lakeland Industries
Stock performance:
 Up 24%
What it does: Hazmat suit manufacturer

Why it’s a “social distance” stock: Few companies could see a more direct jump in sales from the coronavirus more than Lakeland, which makes a range of protective clothing for medical professionals and emergency officials. The stock has been a reliable pandemic pick in the past — it also shot up during the Ebola and Asian flu outbreaks. A blog post from the company in late January included coronavirus-safe garment recommendations.

Teladoc Health
Stock performance:
 Up 23%
What it does: Provides remote medical advice via phone or the web

Why it’s a “social distance” stock: Contagions like the coronavirus may even require doctors to limit their face-to-face contact with sick patients. Not surprisingly, shares of Teladoc Health, which lets users consult a doctor online or by phone, have jumped in recent weeks. Companies like Teladoc, which is already providing real-time information to the CDC, could also help public health officials track the spread of outbreaks. JPMorgan Chase analyst Lisa Gill on Thursday told the bank’s clients that the company could see “incremental upside” from the coronavirus.

Netflix
Stock performance:
 Up  8%
What it does: Streaming-video service.

Why it’s a “social distance”  stock: Not everyone stuck inside will be working. BMO Capital Market analyst Dan Salmon told clients this week that Netflix is an obvious coronavirus beneficiary, especially if a major outbreak in the U.S. effectively turns millions of people into shut-ins. Netflix shares haven’t soared as the virus has spread, but they have done considerably better than the rest of the market. 


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