Just when it looked like it was safe to tiptoe back into the market, wham! Tuesday's 1.3% tumble from the S&P 500 (^GSPC 0.68%) reminds us stocks aren't out of the woods yet as the index is seemingly positioned to continue giving back hard-earned gains made earlier in the month.
But a handful of tickers are still chugging higher, extending uptrends that have been in place for some time now despite the hit-and-miss market environment. Here's a rundown of three of these winners that may be worth considering for your investment portfolio in light of their resilience.
You're probably more familiar with National Beverage (FIZZ 1.00%) than you realize. This company is the name behind drinks brands like La Croix, Faygo, Crystal Bay water, and a few others. It's no Coca-Cola, but it generated a little over $1.1 billion worth of sales during the fiscal year ended in April. That's up 6% from 2021's top line, which was 7% better than the previous year's sales. And of last year's revenue, $158.5 million resulted in net income despite soaring costs across the board. Though down slightly from last fiscal year, that's still better than 2020's bottom line of just under $130 million.
It may not be immediately clear to some observers how this relatively small drinks company has grown so consistently in an arena that tends to be dominated by large-scale operators. However, it becomes more apparent the more one studies the company. National Beverage has found its loyal customer base within a couple of niches.
One of these is the space somewhere between ordinary bottled water and ordinary soda, where La Croix sparking water does well. The other niche is unique soda flavors that aren't available through any other brand, like Faygo's cotton candy or candy apple. These unusual flavors are also offered in a variety of packaging sizes.
Shareholders are being rewarded for the company's success within these slivers of the drinks market. Although still down from its early 2021 peak, the stock's up 30% from March's low despite the S&P 500's continued losses. Better yet, following Tuesday's gains in the face of marketwide weakness, National Beverage is knocking on the door of new multi-month highs.
When investors think of auto parts stores, chains like AutoZone, Advance Auto Parts, and O'Reilly Automotive tend to come to mind. Genuine Parts (GPC -0.62%) generally doesn't. It's just an off-the-radar outfit.
But maybe it's not as off-the-radar as you might think. Genuine Parts sports roughly the same market cap as the likes of O'Reilly and AutoZone, and does a similar degree of annual business. All told, Genuine Parts Company -- the retailer you know better as NAPA Auto Parts -- did nearly $19 billion worth of business last year, up a little more than 14% from 2020's COVID-crimped top line.
It's worth adding that even in COVID-crimped 2020, NAPA and other Genuine Parts Company stores only did about 2% less business than they generated the year before. That's not bad, given the wave of mandatory shutdowns and broken supply chains we all dealt with in 2020.
The company's sales and earnings are reliable growers, mostly due to the nature of the business itself. People may or may not opt to splurge on luxury clothing or take an extravagant vacation, depending on the economic environment at the time. With Cox Automotive reporting that the average new car in the United States now costs a little over $47,000, though, maintenance of vehicles is an investment rather than an expense.
It's an expense that's being increasingly prioritized. Consumer market research outfit Cardlytics says per-customer spending on auto parts was up 16% last year, while overall spending on auto parts grew 8%. This industry-wide undertow is one of the key reasons shares of Genuine Parts Company are up more than 10% for the past 12 months, reaching record highs yet again just this week.
Finally, add Unilever (UL 0.15%) to your list of tickers that are pushing through the bigger-picture headwind. Shares of the household goods company have faced a tough past few months, but thanks to Tuesday's rally they're now priced 13% above last month's low, and testing the waters of even higher highs. Credit its recent half-year report along with an optimistic outlook for the remainder of the year.
Unilever is the U.K.-based maker of Dove soap, Hellmann's mayonnaise, and Vaseline, just to name a few. The company was able to generate sales growth of 8.1% during the first six months of the year despite imposing average price increases of 9.8%. That topped analysts' outlook for only 7.2% sales growth. Better yet, its previous guidance for top-line growth of between 4.5% and 6.5% for this year was upped, although the company didn't offer any numerical specifics regarding its raised outlook.
There are still credible concerns. Namely, the company's top brass knows sustained inflation could continue to chip away at the consumer goods industry's profit margins. Unilever is adapting as needed, though, with a combination of higher prices and cost-cutting. The half-year report's longer-term outlook indicates margins should start to meaningfully improve in 2023 and continue to do so through 2024.
The kicker: It could have evolved into a battle of wills, but during Tuesday's conference call Unilever CEO Alan Jope not only acknowledged that activist investor Nelson Peltz is now a board member, but added that he's bringing value-building perspective to the table. Activist investor relationships can sometimes be contentious, particularly when the activist is heavily involved and driving for significant, disruptive shakeups.
This one appears to be healthy, though, with Peltz and Jope ultimately striving for the same goal. That's a higher stock price.