Stocks to buy

With the pandemic forcing a dramatic shift in the predominantly white-collar labor market, investors may want to adjust their stocks to buy to accommodate the future of work. As McKinsey & Company pointed out, innovations such as artificial intelligence and automation may bolster productivity. At the same time, people have also encountered difficulties associated with AI-driven protocols. For instance, CNET attracted criticism for its AI-generated content. As well, automation sometimes represents a dirty word for redundancies and thus layoffs. Therefore, significant vagaries exist regarding which stocks to buy.

Nevertheless, it’s becoming clear that whether productivity occurs in the office or at home, digitalization represents a recurring motif. Therefore, the below stocks to buy may be appropriate for forward-thinking investors.

COUR Coursera $13.41
ADBE Adobe $370.99
MSFT Microsoft $263.10
META Meta Platforms $174.15
PYPL PayPal $80.80
GOOG GOOGL Alphabet $94.86
UPWK Upwork $12.50

Coursera (COUR)

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A U.S.-based massive open online course provider, Coursera (NYSE:COUR) may be one of the most important stocks to buy for the future of work. With digitalization, knowledge has never been more accessible. For instance, people can learn to do just about anything on various video-sharing platforms. However, both prospective clients and employers will need some way to sift through substance from empty rhetoric.

Enter Coursera. Offering a wide curriculum of relevant courses, students can pick up degrees and professional certificates. Further, reviewers claim that Coursera certificates command respect and recognition among universities and workplaces. To be fair, COUR represents one of the riskier names among stocks to buy for the future of work. Although it’s up over 19% since the January opener, in the trailing year, it gave up 30% of equity value. Still, for the contrarians, a sole covering analyst rates COUR as a buy. Further, hedge funds have been inching their exposure higher.

Adobe (ADBE)

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At first glance, Adobe (NASDAQ:ADBE) might not seem the ideal candidate for stocks to buy for the future of work. As you probably know, the broader political ecosystem focuses on STEM education for a reason. Technology is where Americans will compete as various nations wrangle for top ranking in innovation. Still, when it comes to the workforce, not everyone will be directly involved in tech. Further, with the burgeoning gig economy, the rise of independent contractors cover every conceivable industry, boding well for the creatives. In turn, Adobe should have a bright future.

Plus, programs such as Adobe Photoshop feature extensive relevancies. For instance, even tech startups need brand logos to get their name out into the marketing ecosystem. Again, this should bode very well for Adobe. Turning to Wall Street, analysts peg ADBE as a consensus moderate buy. Admittedly, their average price target of $380.17 implies only upside potential of 1%. However, as the digitalization (and independence) of the workforce continues, ADBE will be a name to watch.

Microsoft (MSFT)

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As I’ve previously stated, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) neatly fits into several themes associated with stocks to buy. Featuring a massive software and hardware library, it’s difficult to find where Microsoft isn’t relevant. Naturally, as a leader in digitalization solutions, MSFT represents a critical cog in the future of work.

Recently, the company announced a major upgrade to its Bing search engine. Undergirded by the popular chatbot ChatGPT, Bing now features a more intuitive interface. Quite possibly, this development could lead to greater productivity for content creators and other independent professionals. Thus, it’s a potential boon for the gig economy. Aside from that, Microsoft delivers various business programs and communication protocols. Therefore, whether the future of work stays in the living room or ends back at the office, Microsoft offers a compelling solution.

Currently, Wall Street analysts peg MSFT as a consensus strong buy. Further, their average price target stands at $291.07, implying upside potential of 10.41%.

Meta Platforms (META)

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To be sure, tech and social media stalwart Meta Platforms (NASDAQ:META) suffered a massive beatdown last year. Therefore, META might seem unusually risky for inclusion among stocks to buy for the future of work. However, shares gained nearly 43% of equity value since the January opener, a stunning performance. While it doesn’t erase 2022’s losses – it’s still down 22% in the trailing year – it’s a great start.

Fundamentally, as the world’s biggest social media network, Meta commands serious clout for the future of work. While it might lack the direct business protocols of say Microsoft’s Office suite, it more than holds its own regarding the networking potential. As the adage goes, it’s not what you know but who you know that matters. Further, independent contractors or gig workers can use Meta’s Facebook network to build brand awareness and engagement. Therefore, in the long run, I’m not as concerned about the digital advertising slowdown. At some point, enterprises will have to advertise. Presently, Wall Street analysts peg META as a consensus strong buy with an implied upside potential of 20%.

PayPal (PYPL)

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As with Meta Platforms above, PayPal (NASDAQ:PYPL) didn’t enjoy a good outing in 2022. In the trailing year, shares stumbled a bit over 34%. What’s more conspicuous is that PYPL only gained 5% since the January opener. Obviously, such a lackluster performance raises alarm bells. Nevertheless, contrarians may want to target PYPL as one of the stocks to buy for the future of work.

Notably, Truist Securities analyst Andrew Jeffrey stated earlier this year that investors maintain too bleak a view for the digital payment processor. Instead, Jeffrey sees resurgent growth potential in e-commerce. From the work component’s side, PayPal offers gig workers an excellent business application solution. Utilizing its trusted platform, independent professionals can invoice their clients for their products and services. As well, PayPal keeps tabs on all transactions in an intuitive format – excellent for tax-filing purposes. Despite criticisms, overall, PayPal enjoys a consensus moderate buy view. Also, covering analysts anticipate PYPL hitting $100.33, implying upside potential of nearly 28%.

Alphabet (GOOG, GOOGL)

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While it’s always difficult to bank on the future of anything, when it comes to work, it’s foolish not to consider Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOG, NASDAQ:GOOGL) as one of the stocks to buy. Sure, no one can reliably predict the daily ins and outs of GOOG. And to be completely transparent, shares stunk up the field in 2022. During the trailing year, GOOG remains down 31%.

However, Alphabet’s Google ecosystem will likely keep the overall enterprise relevant for decades, perhaps centuries. While Google’s search engine business may experience some modest pressure from ChatGPT-enabled platforms, I wouldn’t sweat it too much. ChatGPT still has kinks to work out. More importantly, Google search and ChatGPT focus on different target objectives, with the former representing an indexing of information while the latter attempts a true AI-based interfacing.

Plus, Google’s ubiquity and connectivity enables anyone to share information from anywhere in the world. Gig workers can attest to its utilitarian offerings. Finally, Wall Street analysts peg GOOG as a consensus strong buy with an implied upside target of 30.53%.

Upwork (UPWK)

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Formerly known as Elance-oDesk, Upwork (NASDAQ:UPWK) made the critical decision to change its name. As an online freelancing platform connecting companies with independent professionals, Upwork represents direct cog of the gig economy. With white-collar employees receiving a taste of the gig worker’s lifestyle, Upwork may rise significantly over the next several years.

Let’s be clear about something, though – UPWK represents a massive risk. True, shares gained over 21% on a year-to-date basis from where I stand now. However, during the trailing year, UPWK gave up nearly 54% of equity value. It’s not just about the technicals either. Frankly, Upwork currently rates as fiscally underpowered and thus overvalued (despite the aforementioned 54% loss).

Nevertheless, the gig economy might reach a valuation of $873 billion by 2028. That’s more than Turkey’s economy right now. As long as Upwork keeps chugging, it should play a relevant role. Finally, Wall Street analysts peg UPWK as a consensus strong buy. As well, their average price target stands at $17.67, implying over 35% upside potential. Thus, it’s a great speculative candidate for stocks to buy.

On the date of publication, Josh Enomoto 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.

A former senior business analyst for Sony Electronics, Josh Enomoto has helped broker major contracts with Fortune Global 500 companies. Over the past several years, he has delivered unique, critical insights for the investment markets, as well as various other industries including legal, construction management, and healthcare.

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