10 Best Stocks for 2021: Where Do Things Stand Halfway Through the Year?

Editor’s note: This article is part of InvestorPlace.com’s Best Stocks for 2021 contest.

As cliché as it sounds, it’s been a very interesting start to the year over the past six months.

Looking back on the first half of 2021, we continued to see a strong market response to 2020’s pandemic-driven ride. In terms of the overall market, the S&P 500 is up nearly 18.41% year-to-date, while the Nasdaq is 14.84% higher over the same time.

Additionally, we have also see some major moves in the InvestorPlace Best Stocks for 2021 contest since the end of the first quarter. Not a single ticker remains in the same position it was in at the end of Q1, and a most importantly, we have a new leader — by a significant margin.

So, where do things stand at the moment in the Best Stocks for 2021 contest? Well, in order of increasing gains, they are:

  • Nio (NYSE:NIO)
  • Disney (NYSE:DIS)
  • Osisko Gold Royalties (NYSE:OR)
  • Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT)
  • Walgreens Boots Alliance (NASDAQ:WBA)
  • Enterprise Products Partners (NYSE:EPD)
  • IZEA Worldwide (NASDAQ:IZEA)
  • Fiverr (NYSE:FVRR)
  • Bed Bath & Beyond (NASDAQ:BBBY)
  • OncoCyte (NASDAQ:OCX)

Let’s dive in and take a closer look at each one.

Best Stocks for 2021: Nio (NIO)

A Nio (NIO) sign and logo on a tan concrete building.

Source: Sundry Photography / Shutterstock.com

Investor: Reader’s Choice

Current Return: -10%

As with many other sectors, it has been a wild ride for electric vehicle (EV) stocks in 2021. From semiconductor shortages to President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan, volatility for these firms has been evident. And of course, when it comes to Nio the trade war between the U.S. and China is certainly weighing on the EV-maker.

However, despite a rough start to the year for Nio, sentiment is actually looking up after a solid Q2. Strong delivery figures during the period, coupled with a solid Q1 earnings report, has NIO stock heading higher from its 2021 lows. Additionally, the EV company also has plans to expand its footprint into other countries.

That said, there clearly has been a lot going on for Nio thus far in the year. But where can it go from here?

As InvestorPlace writer Vivian Medithi puts it, the “Biden infrastructure plan looks set to benefit EV makers across the board, but particularly Tesla competitors. And rumors have been swirling regarding Nio’s entry into American markets. However, until those rumors are substantiated, investors are better off keeping an eye on the short float in NIO stock.”

So while it may not look great in terms of YTD gains, NIO stock still has plenty of time to be one of the best stocks of the year.

Disney (DIS)

an image of mickey mouse on a yellow background to represent disney (DIS)

Source: ilikeyellow / Shutterstock.com

Investor: John Jagerson and Wade Hansen

Current Return: -3%

After starting out strong the first three months of year, DIS stock is struggling to find its footing, now at the halfway point of 2021.

Like most companies, Disney had to deal with the effects of the novel coronavirus through 2020 and into the current year. Now, the new problem for many firms appears to be fears of inflation. But due to a handful of catalysts, DIS stock has plenty to to look forward to.

First, Disney+ has been a massive hit since its launch. In fact, the streaming service has gone from 10 million subscribers in November 2019 to more than 100 million at this point. Additionally, with movie theaters across the globe closed due to the pandemic, Disney had to come up with new avenues to release their blockbuster films. Disney+ became that platform — netting the company significant returns in the process.

Next, let’s talk about Disney’s theme parks and hotels. Similar to the aforementioned theaters, these areas of the firm’s business took a beating due to the pandemic. However, with parks closed for a large portion of 2020 and 2021, there’s plenty of pent-up demand for DIS stock to build off of when normalcy returns.

Don’t take it from me. Take it from InvestorPlace’s John Jagerson and Wade Hansen:

“Before the pandemic, DIS’s U.S. and international theme park and hotel business was responsible for more than 34% of the company’s revenue and 37% of the company’s earnings. If that segment of the business can bounce back to those levels in 2021, the sky’s the limit for DIS stock this year.”

Overall, Disney is slightly down in terms of the Best Stocks for 2021 contest. Nonetheless, DIS stock is actually up more than 70% from its COVID-19 lows. With ongoing tailwinds at its back, Disney has plenty of room to run the rest of the year for investors.

Best Stocks for 2021: Osisko Gold Royalties (OR)

A gold bar along with some coins made of precious metals. gold stocks

Source: allstars / Shutterstock.com

Investor: Eric Fry

Current Return: 3%

Similar to Lockheed Martin, Osisko Gold had a tough time the first three months of 2021. However, also similar to LMT stock, OR stock staged a strong comeback — gaining 40% from the beginning of April to mid-June. And while shares have given up some of this boost in recent weeks, there are still reasons as to why Osisko Gold is one of the best stocks for 2021.

One of the key reasons to be bullish on OR stock is the current appearance of inflation in our economy. Why is this important? Well, it seems as though many business sectors such as gold are feeling a bit of “inflation fatigue.” That is, as InvestorPlace’s own Eric Fry puts it, “even though the inflation readings are high and rising, investors seem not to care.”

Collectively, this is due to the government helping save the economy from the novel coronavirus pandemic. And while inflation can put a burden on our savings, it does benefit other assets such as real estate, commodities and precious metals. And that’s good news for Osisko Gold and OR stock.

So while fears of inflation continue to run rampant, investors can find safety in investments like gold. That makes OR stock a great option for your portfolio for the rest of the year.

Lockheed Martin (LMT)

A Lockheed Martin (LMT) Space Systems sign in Sunnyvale, California.

Source: Ken Wolter / Shutterstock.com

Investor: Bob Ciura

Current Return: 7%

After starting the year sluggish, Lockheed Martin really turned things around during Q2. LMT stock really found its footing towards the end of March into the start of April. Since then, shares have found a solid trading range that investors can buy into.

Lockheed Martin continues to be a reliable dividend stock with both durable competitive advantages and long-term growth potential. The firm reported earnings in the middle of April, which saw both revenue and earnings per share (EPS) get a boost. Additionally, Lockheed Martin also raised its guidance for the rest of 2021.

Moreover, Lockheed Martin also has a nice outlook of growth catalysts that should bring momentum to both the company and LMT stock. At the end of Q1, the firm had a backlog of $147 billion. And just in the past few weeks, the firm scored a handful of massive contracts that should provide a big boost to business. However, the most important catalyst for Lockheed Martin is the $4.6 billion planned acquisition of Aerojet Rocketdyne (NYSE:AJRD).

So, as previously said, LMT stock struggled through the first three months of the year before really rising in April. And with these agreements on tap, Lockheed Martin has a bright future ahead.

Best Stocks for 2021: Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA)

Walgreens (WBA) store exterior and sign in Pompano Beach, Florida

Source: saaton / Shutterstock.com

Investor: Ben Reynolds

Current Return: 17%

Unlike the other stocks mentioned above, Walgreens was a bit more steady the first half of the year. However, after reaching its year-to-date (YTD) high in April and trading in a steady range, WBA stock has fallen in the month of July.

But thanks to its steady dividend and earnings per share (EPS) prospects, Walgreens stock remainsone of the best stocks for 2021. Looking back, Walgreens’ adjusted earnings-per-share peaked in 2018 at $6.02. But during fiscal year 2020, the company generated adjusted EPS of $4.74.

However, as InvestorPlace contributor and Sure Dividend founder Ben Reynolds writes, Walgreens’ EPS “took a hit after the company completed the sale of its Alliance Healthcare business for ~$6.5 billion to AmerisourceBergen (NYSE:ABC). However that move allows Walgreens to eliminate $3.3 billion in debt from its balance sheet and fund future growth initiatives.”

Additionally, WBA stock currently has a relatively high dividend yield of 4.1%. That said, future dividend growth is also very likely at Walgreens. Therefore, with a return to better EPS figures, you can expect EPS growth of 5% per year going forward for Walgreens. And with 5% expected growth and a 4.1% dividend yield, Walgreens offers investors expected annual returns of 9.1%. And that’s before valuation multiple changes.

So although WBA stock has fallen from grace a bit in the past month, there are still plenty of positives on the horizon for Walgreens. And that makes WBA stock one to watch.

Enterprise Products Partners (EPD)

A magnifying glass zooms in on the website of Enterprise Product Partners (EPD)

Source: Casimiro PT / Shutterstock.com

Investor: Charles Sizemore

Current Return: 20%

To be frank, Enterprise Products isn’t exciting. It’s never going to change the world or cure a deadly disease. However, it’s also wildly unlikely to ever cause you serious grief. The stock isn’t a racehorse, but rather a workhorse. And despite what happens with EPD stock in InvestorPlace’s Best Stocks for 2021 contest the rest of the year, it is one to buy and hold for the very long term.

Prior to the pandemic, EPD stock traded in a tight range between $25 and $30. Then, like many other energy stocks, Enterprise Products got crushed to just above $12 per share. Over the course of the past year though, the stock has slowly clawed its way back to the bottom of its old trading range.

That gets to the core of why Enterprise Products is so great. Apart from being a reliable growing company, it’s also an income powerhouse. At current prices, the stock yields a very attractive 7.6%. Additionally, Enterprise has grown its distribution by 50% over the past 10 years, easily staying ahead of inflation.

So in the current market environment where there is so much uncertainty, a steady income payer with a long history of raising its payout looks awfully darn good. And that’s what investors get with EPD stock.

Best Stocks for 2021: IZEA Worldwide (IZEA)

Influencers stock image

Source: Shutterstock

Investor: Luke Lango

Current Return: 20%

After an extremely hot start to the year, IZEA stock has finally cooled off a bit. But that doesn’t mean the rally is over for this micro-cap influencer marketing provider.

So, what was causing the massive surge in IZEA stock? Accelerating business volume, sparked by a rapid shift among enterprises toward digitally native influencer marketing in a world where consumers are becoming increasingly distrustful of ads. And despite falling off a bit, this movement can absolutely continue for Izea.

As InvestorPlace’s own Luke Lango puts it:

“[Izea’s]… underlying business volume will continue to accelerate [the rest of the year]. More importantly, the best part of the company’s growth narrative — its newly launched Shake marketplace for influencers — has yet to show up to the party.”

IZEA launched Shake in late 2020 as a marketplace for influencers. In short, influencers list their “talents” on Shake, and brands browse through the marketplace to contract influencers for their campaigns. So when that finally hits its stride, expect to see IZEA stock benefit in a major way.

Overall, Izea’s business model is strong for the long run. And with gains of 110% over the past year and 20% YTD, investors should be pleased with their current returns. That said, with Shake catalysts on the horizon, I think the massive 2021 rally for IZEA stock is just getting started.

Fiverr (FVRR)

The Fiverr (FVRR) website displayed on a mobile phone screen.

Source: Temitiman / Shutterstock.com

Investor: Louis Navellier

Current Return: 23%

Usually when an economy recovers from hard times, companies don’t hire full-time workers right from the start, especially if they’re looking for creative and computing talent. That’s where Fiverr comes in.

The firm launched about 11 years ago into a global market just beginning rely on gig labor as the financial crash of 2008 flattened many sectors. However, FVRR stock didn’t hit Wall Street until 2019 — perfect timing for the coronavirus pandemic. When people couldn’t go to offices during lockdown, companies had to reframe how to remain productive outside of the traditional workplace environment.

In turn, this fueled Fiverr’s business on both the talent side and the employer side. And FVRR stock has seen a big boost because of it.

Sure, the pandemic is slowing and life is returning to normal day-by-day. Nonetheless, the gig economy appears to be alive and well as people adjusted to a new working style. And despite consolidating a bit over the past few months, FVRR stock is still a prime option for investors.

Best Stocks for 2021: Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY)

bed bath & beyond storefront (BBBY)

Source: Shutterstock

Investor: Bret Kenwell

Current Return: 62%

Collectively, Bed Bath & Beyond is an interesting company and stock to consider in the InvestorPlace Best Stocks for 2021 contest. The stock got caught up in the Reddit madness in January. And for many investors, that was the first time they really noticed the stock. However, BBBY stock is much more than a meme stock, which is why InvestorPlace contributor Bret Kenwell picked this name at the end of 2020.

The company’s most recent earnings report was a mixed result. Revenue grew 49% year-over-year and beat analysts’ expectations, but earnings missed estimates. It was a weird quarter in comparison to 2020, when the full impact of the novel coronavirus was being realized. However, if we look past that, the outlook was quite strong.

Moreover, with its $3.1 billion market capitalization, Bed Bath & Beyond isn’t a huge retailer. In fact, it’s fallen hard from its glory days. However, with former Target (NYSE:TGT) CEO Mark Tritton now at the helm, the board is hoping some of Target can rub off on Bed Bath & Beyond. And with BBBY stock up 183% the past year and 62% YTD, it appears this move is already paying off.

Nonetheless, plenty of questions remain for Bed Bath & Beyond. Will the overall market go through a notable dip and increasing volatility? Will BBBY stock get caught up in another Reddit trade? Can management continue to execute? All of these and likely some unknown catalysts will influence the stock price. But as it stands, Bed Bath & Beyond is moving in the right direction.

OncoCyte (OCX)

a visualization of DNA in a vial

Source: Connect world / Shutterstock.com

Investor: Matt McCall

Current Return: 126%

After submitting entries for the InvestorPlace Best Stocks for 2021 contest, I believed that analyst Matt McCall’s pick would do well in the running. However, I can’t say I expected it to be leading the race — and by this much. But when you take a closer look at OCX stock, you can see just why it’s up triple digits so far this year.

Deemed as the “future of healthcare,” the molecular diagnostics company uses genetic testing to help doctors and patients alike make better healthcare decisions. Oncocyte reported Q1 earnings back in May, and the results were as good as you would expect from this soaring stock. Revenue of $1.12 million beat analysts estimates, and losses per share of 5 cents also beat Wall Streets quarterly outlook of a 10-cent loss.

Moreover, according to Ron Andrews — CEO and president of Oncocyte — the company’s recent acquisition of Chronix Biomedical, “will play an important role in our long-term growth, providing an entry into the emerging $5 billion global therapy monitoring markets with a patented, novel, blood-only/tumor naïve approach that will deliver faster information on disease progression compared to the competing tumor-informed approaches that require tissue samples.”

In other words, this strategic move just adds to the firm being at the forefront of genetic medicine.

Overall, the performance by OCX stock in 2021 has been quite incredible. And based on its recent earnings and business ventures, it’s not showing any signs of slowing down.

On the date of publication, Nick Clarkson did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.

Nick Clarkson is a web editor at InvestorPlace.

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