Stocks have been squashed of late, owing to record-high inflation levels, the Federal Reserve's interest rate hikes, undesirable effects from Russia's war against Ukraine, and fresh concerns of a brewing recession. Year to date, the S&P 500 has declined 20%, and the Nasdaq Composite has dropped 29%, serving as one of the worst starts to a year in stock market history.
Warren Buffett, who is famed for his value investing strategy, typically looks for stable businesses that pay handsome dividends and are more likely to flourish during periods of economic uncertainty. These types of businesses are performing exceptionally well at the moment, especially compared to high-growth technology stocks and other speculative investment classes.
Coca-Cola (KO 0.47%), one of his favorite companies ever, has been firing on all cylinders. In contrast to the market, shares of the multinational beverage company are up 4% since the start of the year, and the company continues to deliver on the operational front. As investors brace themselves for a turbulent stock market moving forward, it wouldn't be unwise to give Coca-Cola a closer look today.
Coca-Cola's business is defying a challenging economy
Unlike many companies right now, Coca-Cola is doing extremely well. As a consumer staples stock, its business, which consists of selling essential everyday items, is primarily uninfluenced by economic cycles. This is surely evident in the beverage company's first-quarter earnings report: Total sales surged 16.3% year over year to $10.5 billion, and diluted earnings per share soared 23.1% to $0.64. The company's operating margin also expanded 230 basis points to finish at 32.5%, compared to 30.2% in the same quarter a year ago.
Coca-Cola generated $406 million in free cash flow (FCF) during the quarter, adding to its $10.2 billion over the past twelve months. For the full fiscal year, analysts expect the beverage juggernaut to expand its top and bottom lines by 8.1% and 6.5%, respectively, indicating strong growth rates in a waning economy. But you can't talk about Coca-Cola without highlighting its attractive 2.81% dividend yield, which equates to a $0.44 per-share quarterly dividend payment.
Owning 100 shares of the company's stock today would lead to $176 in annual dividend payments, assuming the dividend amount stays constant over the course of a year. While this may not seem like a lot, it surely adds up over time and provides additional protection in a down market.
The beverage company has increased its annual dividend for 60 consecutive years, drawing attention to its remarkable business. Although the past can't predict the future, Coca-Cola investors can comfortably expect this pattern to continue moving forward.
A great moment to buy
Coca-Cola is not only a phenomenal long-term investment, but it's also the perfect play in an increasingly troubled stock market. The company supplies investors with a consistent stream of income with its 2.81% dividend yield, and its business is well-insulated from high inflation and a rising interest rate environment since it sells essential everyday products. If you're worried about a potential recession or simply want to buy shares of a dependable business, Coca-Cola is the stock for you today.