Presidential elections can add a layer of uncertainty to the stock market. Various viewpoints on taxes, energy, antitrust cases, financial regulation, and more are certainly valid risks worth considering.
Each election means different key issues, different candidates, and a different outcome. An uncertain political trajectory adds a level of risk to the market, but a few companies should see less of an impact on their businesses than others. The Clorox Company (CLX 0.26%), Starbucks (SBUX 0.04%), and Waste Management (WM 0.27%) all seem to be good buys no matter who wins the election.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, Clorox was a seldom-discussed consumer staple stock living in the shadow of larger leaders like Procter & Gamble. Surging demand for bleach and wipes, which Clorox is the market leader in, has changed that. Today Clorox is booming, and none of that has to do with who's in the Oval Office.
Revenue, net income, and free cash flow (FCF) are all at five-year highs, helped by the pandemic. But Clorox's successful performance extends beyond the last few quarters.
From fiscal year 2015 (FY15) to FY20, Clorox has produced a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.5% for sales and 10% for EPS. In FY20 (which ended June 30), Clorox grew sales by 8% and diluted EPS by 16%, so it's reasonable that the company is expecting sales to only have a flat to single-digit increase and earnings to have a mid-single-digit decrease in FY21.
Aside from its steady stream of revenue, earnings, and FCF growth, Clorox has had 43 years of consecutive dividend increases, earning it a spot on the famed list of Dividend Aristocrats. Clorox yields 2.1% at the time of this writing.
Elections aside, the world still needs its coffee. Despite a rough year, Starbucks remains an industry leader and a go-to safe stock for long-term investors.
After shuttering stores and suffering its first quarterly loss in about seven years, Starbucks seems to be embracing the pandemic as an opportune time to deploy its new strategy. Going forward, Starbucks plans to run a leaner operation that focuses on drive-thrus, curbside pickup, and smaller stores, all built upon the success of the Starbucks App. And why not? Mobile ordering and Starbucks Rewards are leading to higher revenue per transaction and now comprise a sizable share of total transactions.
Although Starbucks has achieved only modest growth over the past few years, its new direction seems like an excellent way to encourage higher volume, faster service, and higher-priced transactions. Its mobile app is the No. 4 rated food and drink app on the Apple App Store and No. 11 on the Google Play Store.
Aside from its growth prospects, Starbucks pays a respectable dividend that has increased more than five-fold over the past 10 years, and currently yields 2%.
Waste Management is one of the few industrial stocks that isn't particularly affected by the outcomes of U.S. elections. Its leading position in the waste collection, transportation, and disposal industry makes it more concerned with the safety and health of its customers than who they are voting for.
Some investors may be put off by Waste Management's somewhat expensive valuation. But with Waste Management, you get a company that has proven time and time again that it can perform no matter the circumstances.
Waste Management is flashing every sign that it has what it takes to thrive during a recession. A diversified business model has protected Waste Management's performance so much that it only expects a 5% or less decline in revenue this year.
Like most profitable companies, tax reform is the main political issue that would affect Waste Management's FCF and earnings. When asked about the issue on its second-quarter earnings call, CFO Devina Rankin commented that it is a dramatic change going from a 35% tax rate to a 22% rate. "Paying attention to the level of impact to cash is something that is significant and, therefore, we'll have a close eye on that, but [we're] not trying to predict it at this point," she said.
Higher taxes or not, the company's FCF remains strong and is expected to finish the year more than double its dividend obligation, meaning even if taxes go up, the company should still be earning plenty of excess cash. Waste Management shareholders have enjoyed 17 consecutive years of dividend growth. Similar to Clorox and Starbucks, Waste Management yields 2% at the time of this writing.
A versatile trio
Clorox, Starbucks, and Waste Management are three completely different companies but three very similar stocks. All three are hardly affected by the outcomes of political elections thanks to their diversified business models, and all three pay growing dividends. Together, they offer a balanced approach for investing in the stock market, despite what's going on politically.