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With the way the market is fluctuating lately, I sometimes feel like I'm gambling instead of investing. That's why it does my heart good to see companies delivering consistent solid growth for skittish investors.
Good old Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG ) produced its usual respectable first-quarter earnings today, highlighted by 9% revenue growth and 12% EPS gains in the wake of rising commodity costs.
Uncle Procter (as I fondly call my former employer) delivered 5% organic sales growth, which excludes price increases, mergers and acquisitions, and foreign exchange earnings padding. This sales growth was primarily triggered by the introduction of several new products during the quarter, with double-digit sales increases for products including Head & Shoulders, Cover Girl, and the high-end Gillette Fusion razors. Yes, people still wash their hair, apply makeup, and shave when the economy stinks.
Overall, price increases contributed 3% to P&G's sales growth. Cost of goods sold jumped by 15%, but the company managed to increase net earnings by 9% by keeping selling, general and administrative (SG&A) cost increases to 3%. Operating margin did drop by 60 basis points for the quarter, while net margin remained even.
Strong results for consumer products stocks aren't a given these days, even if they will provide your portfolio with some added defense. Last week, key P&G competitor Kimberly-Clark (NYSE: KMB ) delivered uninspiring third-quarter results with volume drops driven by pricing increases and lower fourth-quarter earnings guidance. We'll get a fuller picture of the industry tomorrow when Unilever (NYSE: UL ) and Colgate-Palmolive (NYSE: CL ) announce their most recent earnings.
And Procter & Gamble isn't immune to the unpredictable market. P&G dropped the low end of its EPS range by $0.03, to $4.15, reflecting foreign exchange and commodity price volatility. Foreign exchange and currency fluctuations are also driving P&G to lower its overall annual sales forecast by 4%.
That said, P&G continues to deliver predictable results. This is the company's 25th consecutive quarter with organic sales growth at or above target. With a P/E of 15 times this year's expected earnings and solid dividend yield, Procter & Gamble looks like a continued "safe" investment through turbulent times.