The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) is made up of 30 companies that are meant to reflect the broader market. But when you measure its price performance, the Dow does consistently worse than the Nasdaq Composite and the S&P 500, and it will probably continue to underperform those benchmarks for years to come.
The Dow itself may have flaws, but some of the companies in the index are worth buying on their own. Industrial behemoth Honeywell International (HON 0.73%), software giant salesforce.com (CRM 0.72%), and recession-proof conglomerate Procter & Gamble (PG -0.48%) are all screaming buys right now. Here's why.
1. Honeywell International
Despite a rocky performance in 2020, particularly from its aerospace segment, shares of Honeywell are trading near an all-time high. At first glance, Honeywell's valuation looks expensive. Its 2021 earnings are uncertain and Honeywell depends on both the defense industry as well as the commercial airline industry, both of which are struggling. However, Honeywell is positioned to benefit from a bull market. It also has the fundamentals to survive a prolonged period of low growth.
During the second quarter of 2020, Honeywell's earnings were surprisingly OK, despite the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Its overall sales declined less than 20%, which is an impressive feat for an industrial conglomerate with exposure to aerospace, oil and gas, industrial materials, and manufacturing. The third quarter showed a slight improvement. Management is optimistic that Honeywell can return to a period of growth and margin expansion -- assuming a successful vaccine rollout, a low interest rate environment, and a growing economy.
There's a reason Honeywell's stock has consistently beaten the market over a one-, three-, five-, and 10-year time frame (even when the industrial sector has underperformed). The company has a rock-solid balance sheet with low debt and it generates tons of free cash flow that supports its stable and growing dividend. It also has some impeccable growth prospects that combine software, operational technology, and industrial manufacturing -- positioning the company to be a leader in the growing market of industrial internet of things (IIoT).
Honeywell was a screaming buy when it was added to the Dow in late August. Seeing as the fundamentals haven't changed, it remains a screaming buy right now.
Unlike Honeywell, whose stock price has surged 27% since being added to the Dow in August, Salesforce's stock price is virtually unchanged. In fact, it's heavily underperforming the market's 10% rise during that time.
The market didn't like Salesforce's acquisition of Slack, and that's one big reason why the stock has been selling off. There's an argument that Slack will weigh down Salesforce's earnings in the short term. But over the long term, Salesforce should retain its pole position as the leading enterprise software solution for managing customer relationships and driving sales.
Salesforce just reported its best second and third quarters in history. It has grown faster than other leading technology companies over the past three and five years. And yet, it trades at a P/S ratio almost as low as Apple's.
It would be one thing if Salesforce were facing slowing growth. But that doesn't look to be the case. The numbers aren't in yet, but management is guiding for 23% revenue growth in calendar year 2020 to finish the year with $21.11 billion in revenue. The company is guiding for 21% revenue growth in calendar year 2021, forecasting $25.5 billion in revenue. Salesforce is capturing several tailwinds, including cloud computing, e-commerce, and using data to help its customers increase their sales through customer relationship management. These tailwinds should help it grow revenue to $50 billion by 2025.
3. Procter & Gamble
Shares of Procter & Gamble held their ground when the market was crashing last spring. But after an initial run-up, P&G stock has underperformed the market despite posting excellent earnings. Unlike the general market, shares of P&G are trading within striking distance of their five-year average valuation, which is a P/E ratio of around 25.
P&G is a stodgy company that's ideal for retirees and dividend investors. Unlike Honeywell and Salesforce, it doesn't have high growth prospects. But P&G is one of the best companies on the market if you're interested in collecting a stable and growing dividend. It has raised its dividend for 64 consecutive years, earning it a top spot on the list of Dividend Kings. An even more esteemed list than Dividend Aristocrats, Dividend Kings are members of the S&P 500 that have increased their annual dividends for 50 or more consecutive years. Fewer than 30 companies make the list.
P&G is arguably one of the best consumer staple stocks on the market. Despite the sector's reputation, consumer staples are actually one of just four sectors that have beat the market since 2005. Given the market's high valuation, consumer staples could be one of the best performing sectors of 2021. Either way, P&G is a good conservative investment that can help balance an otherwise riskier portfolio.
The perfect trio
Honeywell, Salesforce, and P&G are three completely different companies that balance each other out. Honeywell is a low-debt option for investing in industrial stocks. Its high valuation is justified by its record for outperformance, growth prospects, and dividend raises. Salesforce is a mega-cap tech stock that has sold off recently despite its growth prospects, giving it a now reasonable valuation. P&G has also sold off -- and what it lacks in growth it makes up for with income. Equal weights of all three companies give you a decent dividend, upside potential, and recession resilience. If that's a combination you can get behind, then you may want to pick up a few shares of all three right now.