5 Ultra-Popular Stocks That Could Lose 50% (or More) in 2021

One of the craziest years in history for the stock market is now in the books. After shedding 34% of its value during the first quarter, the benchmark S&P 500 rallied to finish 2020 higher by 16%. It was the fastest bear market decline in history, followed by the most ferocious rebound rally on record…

It was also a big year for growth stocks and innovation. Approximately 10% of all stocks with a market cap of at least $300 million finished 2020 higher by at least 100%. That’s an incredible figure which probably isn’t duplicable in 2021.

As we move headlong into a new year, it’s quite possible we’ll see some of 2020’s highfliers come back to Earth. Below are five ultra-popular stocks that could realistically lose 50% or more of their value in 2021 as investors reassess their outlooks.

NIO

Few industries were hotter than electric-vehicle (EV) manufacturers in 2020. China-based NIO (NYSE:NIO) was one of the market’s top performers, with a gain of more than 1,100%. NIO has seen capacity increase and vehicle margins reverse from a single-digit negative figure to a positive double-digit number. Most importantly, the company raised billions of dollars last year, which puts to bed any near-term financing worries.

But there are two concerns that could come back to bite NIO in the current year. First off, NIO is a $76 billion company that’s producing an annual run rate of about 50,000 EVs. Its market cap is larger than some traditional auto stocks that are profitable, have multiple manufacturing lines, can produce millions of vehicles a year, and are investing billions in EV and autonomous innovation. In short, a $76 billion market cap seems like a serious reach.

The other worry is that NIO might face increasing competition from deeper-pocketed peers in China. NIO does have the advantage of being based in China, but it’s not exactly blowing the competition out of the water on the production front. It wouldn’t be shocking to see the EV bubble burst in 2021.

Moderna

Clinical-stage drug developer Moderna (NASDAQ:MRNA) had an excellent 2020, thanks largely to its coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine research. Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, mRNA-1273, was granted emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in December after producing a 94.1% vaccine efficacy in late-stage trials. This should lead to multiple billions in sales in 2021.

Though I don’t fault investors for their excitement, there are a couple of worries for Moderna going forward. Perhaps the biggest concern is that other developing vaccines may hold an edge over mRNA-1273. In particular, Johnson & Johnson‘s coronavirus vaccine is administered in a single dose, as opposed to the two doses required or mRNA-1273 (and most other treatments). If J&J’s vaccine produces similar efficacy to mRNA-1273 when it releases interim phase 3 trial results later this month, it could make Moderna’s vaccine less desirable.

The valuation is also a concern. Most biotech stocks tend to trade at a multiple of 3 to 6 times peak annual sales. Moderna has been well above this range for a while. Even if the company’s sales are stellar in 2021, the outlook in future years isn’t so bright. As new treatments are approved, Moderna’s COVID-19 revenue is likely to shrink.

Chipotle Mexican Grill

In a year that saw restaurants around the country struggle due to the pandemic, fast-casual chain Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE:CMG) galloped higher by 66%. Chipotle’s focus on fresher and natural foods, along with its willingness to adjust its operating model to incorporate digital drive-thru (Chipotlanes) and delivery options, helped the company navigate the worst recession in decades.

But feel free to call me skeptical of a restaurant industry stock trading at a forward earnings multiple of 65. Even going out three years, Chipotle is still valued at 40 times Wall Street’s consensus earnings per share. While the addition of Chipotlanes can be construed as innovation, a multiple of…

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