There's a 100% chance the U.S. is heading into a recession within the next 12 months, according to Bloomberg's recession probability model. There's some merit in the projection, what with a whopping 30.3 million Americans filing for first-time unemployment claims since mid-March as of this writing, the majority of business institutions shut because of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, and oil prices crashing to historic lows.
For investors in stocks, a looming recession is a scary thought, as the stock market can fall sharply during a downturn. One way to prepare for a recession is to add some recession-proof stocks to your portfolio, or simply stocks that have the wherewithal to stand the storm. Here are three such stocks you might want to consider now.
An oft-overlooked yet critical industry
Recession or boom, we don't usually give a second thought to the amount of trash we generate. That means any company that's into solid waste management, like Waste Connections (NYSE:WCN), is busy collecting, disposing of, and recycling waste even during a downturn.
Waste Connections is set to release its first-quarter numbers on May 6. The company may have a couple of slow quarters for two reasons: It has suspended some nonessential operations such as yard waste collection, and the oil price plunge could hit operations in oil shale plays where Waste Connections is a key oil waste management player. It might, however, still be able to achieve targeted revenue growth of at least 6% in 2020.
In any case, investors should take a long-term view. Waste Connections ended 2019 with nearly $327 million in cash and equivalents and generated $1.54 billion in operating cash flow. Management also increased dividends by 15.6% in 2019, marking its ninth consecutive year of dividend increases. I believe Waste Connections will continue its dividend growth policy, which should act as a great buffer for investors during a recession.
Dividend income comes handy during a recession
No stock is 100% recession-proof, including utility stocks. However, the nature of the utility business is such that demand for electricity and gas won't fall off the cliff even during a downturn, which is why having a stock like Dominion Energy (NYSE:D) in your portfolio can help ride out a recession.
While Dominion Energy is a traditional utility providing electricity and gas to 7 million customers across 20 states in the U.S., the company's shift to cleaner energy sources is noteworthy. Just days ago, Dominion announced that it's on track to build what would be the largest offshore wind farm in the U.S. off the coast of Virginia Beach, with a capacity of 2,600 megawatts. Construction is expected to begin by 2024. This project is part of Dominion's goal to bring down net carbon dioxide and methane emissions from its power and gas plants to zero by 2050.
Dominion has increased its dividend annually for 17 consecutive years, although its dividend increases will be smaller in the near future as management wants to prioritize debt reduction, retention of an investment-grade credit rating, and investment in growth over dividends for now. That said, the stock is likely to continue to reward shareholders with higher dividends that can support a dividend yield of a least 3% even during tough times.
A no-brainer consumer staple stock to own
Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG) products are so ubiquitous that many of us don't even realize we use them daily. The company operates in 10 care product categories, ranging from skin to fabric, hair, personal, home, oral, and healthcare, that are sold under more than 50 brands, many iconic, across 180 countries. Regardless of the state of the economy, we'll have to buy toothpastes and detergents and toilet paper. A consumer staples stock like P&G, therefore, beautifully fits the recession-proof bill.
In its latest quarter, P&G generated $4.1 billion in operating cash flow and managed to improve its operating margin despite COVID-19 challenges. Volumes rose 6%, while price added a percentage point to its top line. For 2020, P&G expects organic sales to grow 4% to 5% and core earnings to grow 8% to 11% per share.
There's another great reason to consider owning P&G during a recession: dividends. P&G increased its dividend for the 64th consecutive year in 2019, underlining the resilience of its dividends even during a downturn. Who wouldn't like some supplemental dividend income when the going gets tough?