The last time there was a market crash, it was COVID-19-related concerns that sent investors into a panic. While the markets have recovered since then, amidst uncertainty about the strength of the economy and the possibility of a second coronavirus wave, the feeling is that another crash is coming.
On Aug. 28, research company Ipsos released data in its What Worries the World study, and the coronavirus was still the top concern for Americans, with 55% saying it was weighing on their minds -- up from 50% the month before. And 74% of Americans don't believe the country is on the right track, which is nine points higher than when Ipsos asked the question in June. Those feelings alone have the ability to wreak havoc on businesses and the overall market.
The fear that is plaguing the U.S. and other countries around the world could trigger another crash. That's why it's more important than ever to stabilize your portfolio and establish a foothold in some safe stocks. Two great stocks that can help you do just that are CVS Health (CVS -0.83%) and Walmart (WMT -0.80%). Here's why they are both buys today.
1. CVS Health
During a market crash, expensively priced stocks often come crashing down. Fortunately, CVS has its share price in check, trading at a price-to-earnings (P/E) multiple of just nine -- down from more than 17 a year ago. That's a pretty inexpensive multiple, considering that the average ratio for the healthcare services industry is about 20.
But CVS is an intriguing buy not just because of its inexpensive share price. It also offers a slew of products and services with relatively inelastic demand profiles. The pharmacy retailer and health insurance provider (via Aetna) was one of the few places where customers could shop amid lockdowns earlier this year. CVS also offers delivery services, making it easy for customers who aren't able or willing to make the trip to one of its stores to access its wide array of products.
On Aug. 5, the Rhode Island-based company released its second-quarter results for the period ending June 30, in which sales of $65.3 billion were up 3% year over year. In a quarter plagued by lockdowns, it speaks volumes to the company's versatility and resilience that it was able to generate such strong and stable results.
COVID-19 did result in fewer ordered and filled prescriptions as patients deferred visits to doctors offices amid lockdowns. But it also led to a decline in costs related to health benefits, because many hospitals deferred elective procedures during the period. CVS's healthcare benefits segment reported operating income of $3.1 billion -- nearly triple the $1.1 billion profit it generated in the same period last year. By comparison, CVS's retail and long-term care operating profit of $933 million was down 40% year over year, while the pharmacy segment's operating income of $1.3 billion grew by a modest 6.2% from the prior-year period.
Another reason to buy CVS stock is for the company's dividend. Although CVS hasn't increased its dividend payments for multiple years, its current quarterly payments of $0.50 mean that investors who buy the stock today can earn a yield of 3.5% -- well above the S&P 500 average of about 2%. With a generous dividend yield and its recent financial reports, CVS has proven to investors that it's a recession-proof stock worth hanging on to.
Walmart is another business that was still serving the public amid lockdowns earlier this year. And the retail giant has an even greater assortment of products for customers to choose from than CVS. The Arkansas-based company released impressive second-quarter results on Aug. 18 for the period ending July 31. Sales of $137.7 billion grew 5.6% year over year, driven by strong e-commerce sales, which were up 97%.
Walmart's online presence is going to get even stronger as the company rolls out Walmart+ across the country. The new offering, which aims to rival Amazon's Prime service, costs $98 per year and sports many benefits, including unlimited free delivery and same-day delivery for groceries. With more consumers opting to stay at home and shop online, Walmart+ is hoping to win over new and existing Walmart customers. The service officially launched on Sept. 15.
Currently, shares of Walmart trade for 22 times earnings, a fair bit higher than CVS. As a Dividend Aristocrat, increasing its dividend payments for 47 years in a row, Walmart also offers investors a stable payout which yields 1.6%. Walmart's size and strength make it a buy you can count on to bolster your portfolio for years to come.
Which stock is the better buy?
Although both of these businesses have proven resilient and are financially faring well this year, their share prices haven't been moving in the same direction:
As Walmart makes news surrounding its Walmart+ service and posts stellar results, it's not a surprise that it's seen a lot of bullishness from investors. But with a cheaper valuation and higher dividend, if you had to pick just one, CVS is the more tempting buy-and-hold.