There is concern among some investors that the stock market has gotten ahead of itself and is now richly valued. While predicting when the market will fall is difficult, if safety and preservation of capital is your concern, there are stocks that fit the bill.
These companies have defensive characteristics, including offering everyday products and growing dividends, which allow the stocks to hold up when the overall market goes down sharply.
Colgate-Palmolive (NYSE:CL) makes and sells toothpaste (accounting for 40% of the market) and toothbrushes under the Colgate brand. Some of its other products are soaps, deodorants, and dishwashing liquids that it sells under popular names like Palmolive, Softsoap, Speed Stick, and Ajax. These are available around the world, in more than 200 countries.
The combination of well-recognized, highly thought of products, and the manufacture of basic necessities means Colgate-Palmolive does well no matter what is happening, including a recession and global pandemic. With weak economic growth in many countries and COVID-19 cases surging, the company's third-quarter adjusted sales rose by 7.5% to $4.2 billion, and earnings increased by 11% to $0.79 a share.
This kind of business generates a healthy and stable cash flow. For the first nine months of 2020, Colgate-Palmolive's operating cash flow was $2.8 billion, and its capital expenditures were $249 million. This meant there was plenty of free cash flow to pay the $1.2 billion of dividends.
It's no wonder that the company has built a tremendous dividend record, paying one since 1895. Better still, it has raised the payment annually for the last 57 years, and it currently offers a 2.2% dividend yield. This makes Colgate-Palmolive a Dividend King, which is a member of the S&P 500 that has raised dividends for at least 50 straight years.
Procter & Gamble
Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG), founded in 1837, has proven it can survive by selling a host of products, such as laundry detergents, diapers, paper towels, shaving products, and shampoo. Some of its brands are Downy, Gain, Tide, Luvs, Always, Bounty, Gillette, and Head & Shoulders.
These brands are not only well known around the world (sold in 180 countries), but people buy them no matter what the economy is doing. In its first fiscal quarter, which ended on Sept. 30, adjusted sales grew by 9% to $19.3 billion and earnings per share were 22% higher to $1.67.
With growing sales and earnings, it produces an increasing amount of free cash flow. In the most recent quarter, it generated $3.9 billion, paying out $2 billion of dividends. For the prior year, its free cash flow was $14.3 billion, and it paid $7.8 billion of dividends.
With this stability and cash flow, Procter & Gamble has paid a dividend for 130 straight years and raised it for the last 64 years. The dividend yield is 2.4%.
Walmart (NYSE:WMT) started its first discount store nearly six decades ago, and it has become the world's largest retailer by holding down costs and passing these saving on to its customers. Offering ultra-low prices is a good strategy, and the company has become so successful, it serves 265 million customers weekly at its stores and online.
Selling a variety of items at low prices, Walmart does well in various economic environments. Its fiscal third-quarter (which ended on Oct. 31) adjusted sales increased by more than 6% to $135.8 billion, and earnings per share were $1.34, 16% higher.
The company is a cash machine, too. For the first nine months of the year, Walmart's free cash flow was $16.4 billion, allowing it to easily pay the $4.6 billion of dividends.
When it comes to raising dividends, it also has a strong record. Since initiating a payment in 1974, it has boosted the amount every year. That's doesn't make it a Dividend King yet, but it is heading in that direction. Walmart's dividend yield is 1.5%.
Of course, it is hard to concentrate on what to invest in when external events take over and panic sets in. But these three stocks offer an oasis with stable businesses that do well no matter the circumstances. Additionally, their strong track record of raising dividends provides a nice income stream while you wait for normalcy to return.