How I'd Invest $500 Today

By Markets Fool.com


Source: Pictures of Money via Flickr.

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Do you have $500 currently sitting in your savings account earning a minimal rate of interest? The good news is that if you do, three of our top contributors may be able to offer a much better way to put your money to work.

We asked these three contributors for one stock pick that they believe could outperform in the long run, and which could be the perfect place to invest $500 today. Here's what they had to say.

Sean Williams
If you've got $500 lying around and you're looking for intriguing investment options in the consumer goods space, I'd suggest taking a closer look at home beverage carbonated system makerSodaStream International

SodaStream fell on hard times recently as it attempted to expand into as many retail locations as possible without truly understanding its customer base. The result has been a rapid reduction in sales and profits. Sans its currency hedging strategy, SodaStream's latest quarterly results would have shown a 36% plunge in net income and a 23% tumble in sales.

But, hope is far from lost, even if the rapid growth days for SodaStream are probably in the rearview mirror.

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Source: SodaStream via Facebook.

One component of SodaStream's new strategy is to focus on hitting retail outlets that match its customer base. This could temporarily hurt its profitability and it'll constrain its sales growth, but it'll ultimately boost its efficiency and margins over the long run, and most importantly it won't cheapen the brand.

Additionally, SodaStream is a first-in-class carbonated beverage system manufacturer, and it's built a sizable network of partners over the years. New entrants, such asKeurig Green Mountain, don't have nearly the same size network or reputation that SodaStream has. Also, in Keurig's case, the recently introduced Keurig Kold cold-beverage brewing system and its $300 price tag ensure most consumers stay firmly planted with SodaStream and its more affordable beverage customizing experience.

If SodaStream can reignite growth with its core customer by highlighting its brand value, then it could double its annual EPS between 2015 and 2020, in my opinion. If all else fails, I still view the company as a disruptor in the carbonated beverage space, and it may ultimately get a buyout offer from one of the big three beverage makers. I certainly wouldn't bank on a buyout, but SodaStream appears to have all the tools needed to successfully turn itself around and attract Wall Street's, and its rivals', attention.

Jamal Carnette
For me, I guess the question should best be asked as where I'm investing my next $500, since I already own the company. And right now, I feel Zoe's Kitchen still has room to run. Perhaps it's fear of missing out on another fast casual company, as I did withChipotleandPanera, but those examples only confirm there's a receptive market for top-notch operators with a focus on food quality, and Zoe's occupies a nice niche with its fast casual, Mediterranean-style cuisine.


Source: Zoe's Kitchen via Facebook.

Last quarter, the company surprised investors with a surprise profit of $0.04 per share as revenue increased by 36% on a year-over yearbasis. But what impressed me was the company's 90% year-over-year growth in operating cash flow. That operational cash will help facilitate Zoe's planned rollout of more company owned stores in future quarters. Growing stores is important, because the heavily watched comparison/same stores growth metric of 7.7% suggests continued demand for the product.

And while I certainly don't think Zoe's will grow to the market capitalization of recent restaurant successes Chipotle or Panera, mostly due to the nature of its menu, its market cap of $800 million is only 15% of Panera's $5.2 billion and 4% of Chipotle's $18.75 billion, which leaves room for growth if the company continues to operate well. Apparently other investors agree, as the stock is up 35% in the last month alone.

Dan Caplinger
With the stock market soaring, I'm a big fan of looking for beaten-down bargains in promising areas. The casino industry has been down and out lately, as the Asian gaming capital of Macau has seen an unprecedented slowdown after a hypergrowth phase that lasted for years. For 12 straight months, gaming-related revenue in Macau has fallen, and that has sent shares ofWynn Resorts to their lowest levels since 2012.


Wynn Palace rendering in Macau. Source: Wynn Resorts.

Despite Macau's struggles, Wynn Resorts has potential to bounce back strongly. The company has a new resort on Macau's Cotai Strip scheduled to open next year, and as the area develops mass-market appeal, interest in the former Portuguese colony could return to normal. At the same time, Wynn has other promising projects in its pipeline, including winning the license for a new casino resort in the Boston area that could transform the gaming industry in New England. Combine that with fairly promising results in Las Vegas, and Wynn is setting the stage for a good entry point for long-term investors who believe in the fundamentals of gaming resorts worldwide.

Wynn Resorts is far from risk-free, as government entities in China and the U.S. hold a lot of leverage against the company. If it can convince regulatory bodies that what it does is in their best interest as well, then Wynn could start moving forward more quickly and pull its shares upward as well.

The article How I'd Invest $500 Today originally appeared on Fool.com.

Dan Caplinger owns shares of Wynn Resorts and Apple. Jamal Carnette owns shares of Zoe's Kitchen and Apple. Sean Williams has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of, and recommends Chipotle Mexican Grill, Panera Bread, SodaStream, Zoe's Kitchen, and Apple. It also recommends Keurig Green Mountain. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.