In a time of market turbulence, it always helps to have some good defensive dividend stocks in a portfolio. Defensive stocks are those that are relatively insensitive to the state of the economy. They are steady performers that usually have products or services that are necessities. Here are a few names that can help reduce the daily volatility of your portfolio and lead it to calmer waters.
3M: A coronavirus stock
3M (MMM -1.01%) is on the front lines in the fight against COVID-19. The company is ramping up production of N95 masks and other equipment to help meet the demand from health workers. While there have been complaints of price gouging regarding the N95 respirators, the issue is with the resellers that 3M deals with, not 3M.
Aside from respirators, 3M manufactures various other health products, adhesives, adhesive tape, sandpaper, and electrical supplies. Last year, it earned $7.81 per share. Its dividend of $5.76 gives it a yield of 4.4%. While many of 3M's products are industrial-focused and therefore cyclical, the health division accounted for 30% of operating income last year. The stock is down about 24% year to date.
Duke Energy: A classic defensive yield play
Historically (at least before the Enron fiasco), the most boring uber-conservative stocks were public utilities. Regulated utilities are usually the sole supplier of energy for a particular geographic area and therefore generate a state-sanctioned return. Duke Energy (DUK -0.93%) is a regulated utility that covers the Southeast and parts of the Midwest.
As a regulated utility, Duke Energy negotiates every few years with the state regulators who determine what the company is permitted to charge. The states won't let Duke price gouge, but they will ensure the company makes enough to cover its costs and earns a "reasonable return," which is usually a set percentage of assets or equity.
The company has a market capitalization of $58 billion, and a dividend yield of 4.7%. Last year the company earned $5.06, which gives it a P/E of 15.8. So far this year, the stock is down about 8%, which is a much better performance than the overall market. For investors looking for a place to wait out the storm, Duke Energy might be a good safe haven.
Unilever: A global defensive play
Anglo-Dutch multinational Unilever (UL -3.96%) (UN) is one of the premier consumer products companies in the world. Boasting brands like Dove, Lipton tea, Hellmann's mayonnaise, and Axe grooming products, the company has an enviable portfolio of products. Unilever's products fit neatly into the consumer nondiscretionary sector because people will buy them regardless of the economy.
In 2019, Unilever generated $52 billion in revenue. It earned $2.14 a share, giving it a P/E of 23. The company paid a $1.81 dividend last year, which works out to a 3.8% dividend yield based on the closing price of the Dutch shares. Buy the Dutch shares (UN) over the British shares (UL): same earnings, same dividend, same ownership, lower price. The company's payout ratio is about 85%, which admittedly is on the high side. That said, Unilever is one of those boring stocks that will provide income through thick and thin. The stock is down about 16% year to date.
During a time of market volatility, boring stocks like Unilever, 3M, and Duke Energy can provide income and diversification to wait out the storm. The general market sell-off has given investors a chance to pick them up at reasonable yields as well. You probably won't get rich overnight with any of these names, but you will certainly sleep easier with them in your portfolio.