The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI) dropped into a bear market in Jan. 2022. The widely followed blue chip index declined as much as 22% during the year as recession fears rippled through Wall Street. But with confidence in the economy on the rebound, the Dow recently hit a new record high, signaling the onset of a new bull market. That portends more upward momentum.
Historically, the average Dow bull market has lasted almost five years, during which time the index has returned 172%. Investors looking to tap into those gains should consider adding a few shares of Microsoft (MSFT 0.20%) and Visa (V -0.02%) to their portfolios. The stocks have a consensus “buy” rating among Wall Street analysts, and neither has a single sell recommendation at the present time.
Here’s what investors should know about these highly recommended growth stocks.
Microsoft has a presence across multiple industries. Its businesses include Xbox consoles and other devices, as well as video games and subscription gaming services. But enterprise software and cloud computing are its core growth engines, and the company has a strong position in both markets.
Microsoft collected an industry-leading 16.4% of worldwide software-as-a-service (SaaS) revenue in 2022, nearly twice as much as its closest competitor Salesforce. And its cloud platform, Microsoft Azure, accounted for 23% of cloud infrastructure and platform services revenue in the third quarter, putting the company firmly in second place behind Amazon Web Services.
Microsoft sees growth opportunities surrounding artificial intelligence (AI) in both markets. For instance, the company recently launched Microsoft 365 Copilot, a natural language interface that automates workflows across office productivity applications like Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. Similarly, Microsoft Azure has an exclusive partnership with OpenAI, making it the only cloud provider that offers access to machine learning models like GPT-4, one of the driving forces behind ChatGPT.
Microsoft posted impressive financial results in its fiscal 2024 first quarter (ended Sept. 30), beating Wall Street’s expectations on the top and bottom lines. Revenue rose 13% to $56.5 billion on particularly strong sales growth in cloud services, though enterprise software also contributed to top-line momentum. And GAAP net income climbed 27% to $2.99 per share due to disciplined expense management, though the company continued to invest in AI infrastructure.
Looking ahead, the enterprise SaaS and cloud computing markets are projected to expand at 14% annually through 2030, according to Grand View Research. Microsoft should be able to match that pace given its strong presence in both spaces, meaning the company has a good shot at low-double-digit revenue growth through the end of the decade.
In that light, its current valuation of 12.8 times sales seems tolerable, despite being a premium to the three-year average of 11.4 times sales. Microsoft is a blue chip business that’s well positioned to monetize AI. In fact, Morgan Stanley analyst Keith Weiss sees Microsoft as the software company “best positioned” to benefit from growing demand for generative AI.
Investors who want a piece of that action will probably have to pay a premium, and now is a reasonable time to buy the stock.
Visa operates the largest payments network in the world. Its platform accounted for nearly 39% of card-based purchase transactions in 2022, about five percentage points more than UnionPay and 15 percentage points more than Mastercard. That scale not only creates a powerful network effect, but it also affords the company a significant cost advantage.
Specifically, Visa can spread expenses across more transactions than its peers, so the company consistently earns higher margins. That strong profitability allows Visa to reinvest more aggressively in growth, which effectively reinforces its leadership. Some of that reinvested capital is funneled into consumer payments innovations, but the company is also pursuing opportunities in what management calls “new flows” (e.g., account-based commercial payments and employee payouts) and value-added services (e.g., risk management solutions).
Visa reported wrapped its fiscal 2023 in September with solid financial results. Fourth-quarter revenue increased 11% to $8.6 billion, reflecting modest sales growth in consumer payments and more pronounced sales growth in new flows and value-added services. Visa also reported non-GAAP net income of $2.33 per share, up 21% from the prior year.
Looking ahead, global payments revenue is projected to rise at 7% annually through 2027, according to McKinsey & Co. Visa has historically grown more quickly than the broader industry, and investors should expect similar outperformance in the future. Analysts at Morningstar expect annual revenue growth of 10% over the next five years.
Visa’s current valuation of 16.5 times sales is lower than its three-year average of 18.1. Patient investors should feel confident picking up shares of this growth stock today.
John Mackey, former CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. Trevor Jennewine has positions in Amazon, Mastercard, and Visa. The Motley Fool has positions in and recommends Amazon, Mastercard, Microsoft, Salesforce, and Visa. The Motley Fool recommends the following options: long January 2025 $370 calls on Mastercard and short January 2025 $380 calls on Mastercard. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.