The level of risk you're willing to maintain in your portfolio at any given time very much depends on your personal comfort level and investment goals. And the truth is, you don't need to hold a basket of high-risk/high-reward stocks to generate notable and consistent portfolio returns.
If you want to maximize your portfolio growth without exposing yourself to excessive risk, there are plenty of high-quality stocks to pick from that can help you do just that. Let's take a look at three such safe stocks for long-term investors to buy right now.
1. Johnson & Johnson
When it comes to tried-and-true companies with a robust selection of products and a track record of resilience in a variety of economic conditions, one of the top healthcare stocks that comes to mind is Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ). After nearly a century and a half in business, the company has pulled through many storms in its time, and the volatility of the pandemic market was no different.
While Johnson & Johnson reported mixed quarterly results in 2020, it still finished the full year with 0.6% total sales growth for the 12-month period. While that may seem like a modest increase, it's actually the same rate of sales growth the company reported in 2019 before the pandemic hit. Johnson & Johnson's total sales growth in 2020 was bolstered by 3% sales growth in its consumer health segment and an 8% bump in pharmaceutical segment sales.
In Johnson & Johnson's most recent quarterly report for the first quarter of 2021, it was clear that the company's balance sheet was rebounding from any lag it may have experienced as a result of the pandemic. During the three-month period, the company's total sales increased 7.9% on a year-over-year basis, and its net earnings grew 7% year over year.
In fact, Johnson & Johnson's strong performance during the quarter led management to boost the company's full-year guidance. The company is targeting more than 9% adjusted operational sales growth and an increase in adjusted operational earnings per share (EPS) of approximately 17% for 2021.
Johnson & Johnson had several catalysts in its portfolio to thank for its robust top- and bottom-line growth in the first quarter, including single-digit sales increases in both its pharmaceutical and medical device segments. While overall sales in Johnson & Johnson's consumer health segment fell slightly in the quarter, sales of its skin health/beauty, oral care, and baby care products still surged by respective rates of 4%, 6%, and 8% year over year.
The company also recorded notable sales growth for a number of its top-selling pharmaceutical products. For example, first-quarter sales of its immunology drugs Stelara and Tremfya increased by respective amounts of 18% and 41% from the year-ago period. And sales of its oncology drugs Darzalex, Erleada, and Imbruvica popped 46%, 83%, and 9% year over year.
Meanwhile, shares of Johnson & Johnson have grown by more than 17% over the past year and about 5% year to date. Johnson & Johnson is also a Dividend King that yields about 2.6% right now. And with nearly six decades of consecutive dividend boosts behind it, shareholders can be confident in the company's commitment to its payout. Long-term investors searching for an all-weather stock to buy can find safe harbor in Johnson & Johnson's stable growth trajectory, steady share price increases, and robust dividend.
2. Costco Wholesale
If you're searching for another stable stock to add to your buy basket, Costco Wholesale (NASDAQ:COST) is a smart choice to add to your list. The company owns and operates hundreds of warehouses around the world, with its most robust presence in North America. Costco also has a burgeoning e-commerce presence that has gone from strength to strength since the beginning of the pandemic.
Costco reports its fiscal year a bit differently than some other companies. Its fiscal 2020 concluded on Aug. 30, 2020. During the 12-month period, the company's net sales grew by more than 9%, while its comparable sales increased by about 8%. However, e-commerce comparable sales jumped by an eye-popping 50% compared to fiscal 2019.
In the first three quarters of Costco's fiscal 2021 (ended Nov. 22, Feb. 14, and May 9), it reported net sales increases of 17%, 15%, and 22% from the year-ago periods. The company's comparable sales for these quarters also marked double-digit increases of 15%, 13%, and 21% on a year-over-year basis.
Once again, Costco recorded the largest rates of year-over-year growth from e-commerce sales. During the first three quarters of the company's fiscal 2021, its e-commerce comp sales spiked by respective percentages of 86%, 76%, and 41% from the same quarters in fiscal 2020.
Costco owes its stellar financial performance in varied market conditions to the constant demand for its products and services, which also makes it an appealing buy for long-term investors. The company was one of a number of big-box retailers that maintained "essential business" status during the lockdown days of the pandemic. From daily essentials, to clothing, to electronics, to household appliances, to pharmacy services, members can find just about anything they need at Costco's warehouses.
As Costco's business and balance sheet have continued to expand during the pandemic, so has its share price. The stock is currently trading more than 30% higher than one year ago and is up 4% from the beginning of this year.
On a final note, Costco also pays a dividend that yields just a little under 1% at the time of this writing, and which it regularly increases. If you're looking for dividend income, consistent portfolio growth, and recession resilience, this high-caliber consumer staples stock offers investors the best of all worlds.
3. Procter & Gamble
The final pick on today's list is another premium buy in the world of consumer staples. Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG) has been in business for nearly two centuries, and its comprehensive portfolio of products continues to drive meaningful growth regardless of market headwinds or periods of economic downturn.
The company pays a healthy dividend that yields about 2.6% based on current share prices. Like Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble is a Dividend King, but with an even lengthier track record of dividend increases. The company has consistently increased its dividend payout for 64 years in a row.
Procter & Gamble's products are used daily in households around the world, and it has a brand authority few companies can compete with. Among its family of brands are well-known names like Vicks, Pepto-Bismol, Ivory, Olay, Old Spice, Febreze, Gillette, Bounty, Charmin, and Tide. The durable demand for Procter & Gamble's products and its established history of growth makes the company an appealing stock buy in any market environment.
In the first three quarters of the company's fiscal 2021 (ended Sep. 30, Dec. 31, and March 31), Procter & Gamble said that its net sales grew by respective rates of 9%, 8%, and 5% from the year-ago periods. The company also consistently increased its net earnings on a year-over-year basis during these three quarters: 19% in the first, 4% in the second, and 12% in the third.
The company closed the most recent quarter with $10 billion in cash and cash equivalents out of about $117 billion in total assets. It also reported that it had approximately $8.8 billion in debt due within the next year, giving it plenty of liquidity to pay down its liabilities and continue covering its shareholder obligations. And Procter & Gamble generated $4.1 billion in operating cash flow in the third quarter of its fiscal 2021 alone.
Shares of Procter & Gamble have retracted slightly from the beginning of the year but are still trading about 17% higher than this time last year.
With its juicy dividend yield and strong balance sheet performance both through the decades and amid the tumultuous market conditions of the past year plus, Procter & Gamble is a golden egg to add to your portfolio that can generate consistent growth for the long haul.