As the saying goes, “nothing ventured, nothing gained.” That’s the trade-off with high-risk stocks. In exchange for the risk of sustaining large losses, investors in risky equities receive the potential for massive gains. During the 2020/2021 runaway bull market, risk-hungry investors crushed it, as speculative growth stocks soared to lofty prices.
This was thanks in large part to factors such as favorable Federal Reserve policy (near-zero interest rates), big inflows of retail investor capital during the pandemic, along with political/social trends that provided a shot in the arm to emerging industries such as electric vehicles (or EVs) and renewable energy.
However, following the Fed’s move to hawkish fiscal policy (higher interest rates) to curb inflation, the resultant economic slowdown and bear market, and the end of speculative frenzy amongst retail traders, profiting from high-risk, high-reward stocks have become more difficult. That said, while the market may no longer be strongly on its side, company-specific catalysts still stand to make (or break) these seven high-risk stocks. Each one could ultimately rocket to the moon, or fall to the depths of the stock market graveyard.
The buzz surrounding generative artificial intelligence (or generative AI) has created a mad rush into AI stocks. One in particular has been C3.ai (NYSE:AI), which is a provider of cloud-based AI software. If adoption of AI by big business continues to accelerate, AI stock could in theory go to the moon. Or, more accurately, get back to the moon. While shares have bolted more than 142% higher in 2023, this spike was preceded by a plunge from as much as $177.47 per share in late 2020, to around $11 per share at the end of 2020.
High volatility is poised to continue. Shares could add to their year-to-date gains, if CEO Thomas Siebel’s forecast of dramatically improved results plays out, but if this fails to pan out and/or the “AI bubble” starts to deflate, C3.ai shares may tumble to new lows (under $10 per share).
Liquidia (NASDAQ:LQDA) may be one of the best high-risk stocks to buy today. It all has to do with the story behind this pre-revenue stage biotech company. Liquidia has developed Yutrepia, a treatment for pulmonary hypertension.
But as a Seeking Alpha commentator recently detailed, United Therapeutics (NASDAQ:UTHR) has effectively delayed its commercialization since 2020, via lawsuits against the company for patent infringement. This ongoing litigation has enabled UTHR, which makes Tyvaso, the incumbent treatment for this medical condition, to maintain a monopoly.
That said, these lawsuits may be headed toward resolution. Once cleared up, Liquidia will be able to bring Yutrepia to market. This in turn could result in a big jump for LQDA stock. However, there’s a caveat. With shares already rising in anticipation of commercialization by 2024 at the latest, if further delays emerge, LQDA could easily fall back to prior price levels.
Plug Power (PLUG)
During 2020 and 2021, excitement about the global push to “go green” sent shares in hydrogen fuel cell (or HFC) company Plug Power (NASDAQ:PLUG) from penny stock levels to the high double-digits.
However, due to macro and company-specific headwinds, PLUG stock has tumbled back to single-digit prices. Even so, plenty of speculators are willing to dive into it, given that the continued move away from fossil fuels could mean big profits for Plug Power’s “green hydrogen” (hydrogen produced using renewable energy) projects.
Plug Power believes that success with green hydrogen and other HFC endeavors could enable the company to hit annual sales of $5 billion and $20 billion in 2026 and 2030, respectively. Doing so could send PLUG back towards past highs. Before buying, however, keep in mind that, as Louis Navellier has argued, further disappointment could push this $8 per share stock back to pre-2020 prices (low single-digits).
Polestar Automotive (PSNY)
Early-stage EV companies are some of the most widely-followed high-risk stocks out there. However, alongside high profile EV contenders like Lucid Group (NASDAQ:LCID) and Rivian (NASDAQ:RIVN) is a name that may offer investors a more favorable risk/reward proposition. That would be Polestar Automotive (NASDAQ:PSNY).
As I have argued previously, this EV maker has made far greater progress reaching the production stage than either Lucid and Rivian. Yet despite already reaching billions in sales, and narrowing its net losses, the market continues to price PSNY stock at a valuation that makes it look dirt cheap compared to LCID and RIVN.
Admittedly, Polestar has recently hit a major setback, with announced delays of its latest vehicle model (the Polestar 3). Still, if this ends up merely being a hiccup, and Polestar’s high growth/move towards profitability continues, the stock may have room to make a triple-digit percentage rebound.
QuantumScape (NYSE:QS) shares are the epitome of a binary stock bet. That is, if this EV battery technology company is successful in bringing solid state batteries (or SSBs) to market, it could one day become a large, very profitable enterprise. However, if the company fails to reach the production stage, QS stock is likely headed toward zero. If you are bullish that this company could disrupt the EV battery industry, shares could be a worthwhile wager to make. Then again, maybe not. Mostly, because the potential upside with QS may not be as massive as it seems.
As I argued earlier this month, dilution from the additional financing QuantumScape will need to raise if it reaches the production stage will limit possible returns. The company is also many years away from coming close to reaching commercialization. You should take both of these factors into consideration before buying.
Cassava Sciences (SAVA)
Cassava Sciences (NASDAQ:SAVA) is another of the high-risk stocks with a binary catalyst. For this biotech firm, the future hinges entirely on the successful commercialization of its flagship drug candidate, Alzheimer’s treatment Simulfilam.
SAVA stock has traded wildly in recent years. Speculators were excited about Simulfilam’s commercial potential during 2020, and for the first half of 2021. However, from late 2021, through 2022, short-seller allegations about trial data integrity led to a severe shift in sentiment. The stock went from prices well north of $100 per share, to as low as $13.84 per share.
Bullishness about Simulfilam has picked up more recently, but this still remains a high-risk play. It’s far from certain that this drug will obtain full regulatory approval. If it does, SAVA could make an epic comeback. If it doesn’t, shares will likely fall back to prior lows (well under $5 per share).
NuScale Power (SMR)
As its ticker symbol suggests, NuScale Power (NYSE:SMR) is a developer of small modular reactors. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, SMRs have numerous advantages to traditional nuclear power plants. They are regarded to be safer, are far cheaper to build, and require less space.
SMR stock debuted in 2022, following a reverse merger with a special purpose acquisition company (or SPAC). Shares initially spiked after the deSPACing, as this transaction completed around the same time the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (or NRC) voted to certify NuScale’s SMR design. However, shares have pulled back since then.
Still, SMR shares may have big comeback potential. With nuclear power gaining renewed support given its status as a clean energy source, NuScale could eventually tap into a massive market. That said, given its current high cash burn, if a nuclear renaissance fails to arrive, substantial downside risk remains.
On the date of publication, Thomas Niel did not hold (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.