It’s been a weird year. For all the noise and headache that 2022 caused us, 2023 has been off to a much stronger start. That’s despite ongoing worries over the U.S. and global economies. It has some investors turning to the pros, looking for analyst-recommended stocks to buy now.

Even with stubbornly high inflation and rising interest rates, the market continues to chug higher. The S&P 500 is up 5.6% this year — despite some recent weakness — while the Nasdaq is up about 13%. If those were one-year gains, most investors would be happy.

However, just seven stocks are driving the bulk of those gains. In other words, mega-cap tech continues to lead the way. If those names falter, the market could unwind some of its gains.

Given this uncertainty, investors may find comfort in turning to analyst-recommended stocks with strong ratings and consensus. Thus, I did a screen for the most-recommended stocks on the S&P 500. Specifically, I wanted at least 30 recommendations, a strong buy rating and a consensus price target at least 25% above the current price.  Here’s what I got for the best analyst-recommended stocks with low risk and high reward.

Alphabet (GOOGL)

Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOGL, GOOG) weighs in with 35 analyst recommendations and consensus upside potential of nearly 30%. Given that the company owns the two most popular websites in the world — Google and YouTube — it’s hard not to be bullish.

Shares suffered a hard-to-fathom decline of 45% from their all-time high down to the 2022 low. While they have bounced back nicely this year, Alphabet has lagged some of its mega-cap peers on the rebound.

Given its balance sheet power and cash flow generation, Alphabet is one to keep in mind for longer-term, conservative tech investors. The company just reported better-than-expected revenue and earnings for the first quarter, showing its cost-cutting efforts are helping offset weakness in the online advertising market.

Analysts are calling for 10.8% earnings growth this year, followed by 19.8% growth in 2024. If that comes to fruition, it leaves shares trading at roughly 20.5 times this year’s earnings and 17.1 times next year’s earnings. That’s cheap when considering Alphabet’s assets.

PayPal (PYPL)

I have been pounding the table on PayPal (NASDAQ:PYPL) lately and — at least for me — it’s not surprising to see it getting some love from the analysts. That said, I am surprised at just how badly it has lagged in the recent rally. Admittedly, investors are confused about this name. Is it a growth stock or a value stock? Where does it fit within the tech space?

I mentioned above that a handful of mega-cap tech names have led the upside rally. PayPal is clearly not one of them. Shares are up just 8.5% from their 2022 low despite suffering a decline of more than 78% from their high. It seems investors want nothing to do with PayPal stock right now.

That’s despite management turning in some pretty decent earnings reports and amid solid upside estimates. Analysts expect more than 18% earnings growth this year and roughly 15% growth next year. Yet, shares trade at just 15 times forward earnings.

There are 31 analyst recommendations on the stock and the consensus target suggests 62.5% upside potential.

Amazon (AMZN)

Ending this list of analyst-recommended stocks to buy now, we have another mega-cap tech stock: Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), which has a market capitalization of $1.08 trillion. Whether it stays in the trillion-dollar club likely depends on how the market reacts to its earnings report, which is scheduled to be released after tomorrow’s close.

While you may want to wait to see what the stock does after earnings, analysts are quite bullish on the online retail giant. With 39 recommendations, the consensus price target points to roughly 37% upside potential.

Due to its conglomerate nature, Amazon has become a bit of a tough one for investors to analyze. On the one hand, Amazon Web Services continues to drive strong financial results. On the other hand, there are worries about growth, as its retail unit is susceptible to rising logistic costs and a slowdown in consumer spending.

That said, Amazon has built an incredible business that is clearly on the mend after a tough 2022.

On the date of publication, Bret Kenwell held a long position in PYPL. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the Publishing Guidelines.

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