LONDON -- In choppy waters, it's hard to find a steady, plain-sailing ship.
I could throw all manner of other cliches at you, but there's an overriding truth: When it comes to the stock market today, we live in turbulent times. Naturally, investors grow fearful of risky shares and are more inclined to keep large quantities of powder dry.
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No, in my view you're better off in the market than out of it, but the question is which sector will remain consistent during these uncertain economic times. For me, there's one stand-out choice above all others: consumer goods.
One sector to rule them all
There will always be arguments for other sectors. In particular, there's the potential to latch upon multibaggers, such as Burberry and Oxford Instruments, in the fashion-led retail and fast-moving tech sectors.
However, these come with the elements of risk and competition. What if a new designer comes to the market and the trend shifts away from that company's clothing lines? What if a rival brings out a better system, rendering the original "game-changing" product obsolete?
There are enough "what ifs" in life already, without having to ask the same of your portfolio. What I like about the consumer goods sector is that people will always be in need of its everyday essential products.
The likes of Unilever's (LSE: ULVR.L ) product range, from Persil to PG Tips, features prominently in the majority of household's cupboards -- regardless of whether people shop at Tesco, J Sainsbury, or ASDA. Not that supermarkets should get overlooked, though; they are still highly regarded as defensive shares to see you through recessions and dark times, simply because people still need to eat and are far more likely to eat in, rather than dining out at greater expense.
There's another company in this sector that we at the Fool like. While it doesn't quite have the size of Unilever, it does have a similarly diverse range of products with household names, and what's more, there is the potential for growth due to its established position in emerging markets, such as Nigeria and Indonesia, and a strong operation at home in the U.K. To find out the name of this company, click here to download our special free report, "Top Sectors for 2012." It features three favorable industries and plenty of share ideas, so why not take a look? It's free.
Compare the market
As we've seen recently, the eurozone being all over the place has affected the FTSE 100: One day the index is plummeting, the next it recovers on good news, and then that goodwill fades and it's down again.
But since the turn of the year, while the market itself is down a fraction, five of the Footsie's biggest shares in this sector have outperformed the index. Diageo (LSE: DGE.L ) is the top performer here with a 12% lead on the market, Associated British Foods (LSE: ABF.L ) and SABMiller (LSE: SAB.L ) are close behind with 10% gains, and Reckitt Benckiser (LSE: RB.L ) and British American Tobacco have performed commendably, too, beating the FTSE by 5% and 3%, respectively.
Not bad returns for a lower-risk investment approach, you'll agree I'm sure. It's better than the no-risk approach of keeping your powder dry in a bank account, I feel!
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