The S&P 500 has rallied about 10% over the past month as declining gas prices and signs of supply chain improvements have suggested that brighter days are ahead. However, the benchmark index remains down about 10% year to date -- and rising interest rates could still trigger even steeper declines.

So instead of going all-in on the market's wobbly rebound, investors should still keep an eye on defensive stocks that can withstand its next downturn. I believe three resilient stocks fit that description: Oracle (ORCL 2.53%), General Mills (GIS -0.87%), and LVMH (LVMUY 1.65%).

Two people cheering while looking at a computer screen.

Image source: Getty Images.

1. Oracle

Oracle, the world's top database management software company, had once been considered an also-ran of the tech sector. Its sales of on-premise software had been cooling off across the saturated market, and cloud-based challengers like Amazon and Microsoft were threatening to disrupt its aging business.

But instead of sitting still and becoming obsolete, Oracle transformed its on-premise software into cloud-based services. It also expanded that sticky ecosystem with enterprise resource planning (ERP) tools through several big acquisitions. Those efforts were costly, but they enabled Oracle to consistently grow its revenues again and avoid becoming the next IBM.

Oracle's revenue growth stalled out in fiscal 2019 and 2020 (which ended in May of the calendar year) as it implemented those turnaround strategies. But its revenue subsequently rose 4% in fiscal 2021 and 5% in fiscal 2022. It expects its cloud revenues to grow 30% organically in fiscal 2023, accelerating from its 22% growth in fiscal 2022, while analysts expect its total revenue (including its recent acquisition of Cerner) to rise 17%.

Oracle's earnings per share have also risen consistently, partly driven by buybacks, and analysts expect its earnings (including Cerner) to grow 67% this year. That's an impressive growth rate for a stock that trades at less than 20 times forward earnings. It's also reduced its share count by 45% over the past 10 years and pays a decent forward dividend yield of 1.6%.

2. General Mills

General Mills sells over 100 brands of packaged food products, including Cheerios, Yoplait, Häagen-Dazs, Betty Crocker, Green Giant, and Pillsbury. It also sells premium pet products through its Blue Buffalo subsidiary.

General Mills is a great stock to own during a downturn for three reasons. First, its business is resistant to inflation, recessions, and other macroeconomic headwinds because people (and their pets) need to eat. For fiscal 2023 (which started this May), General Mills expects its organic sales to increase 4% to 5% and for its adjusted earnings per share (EPS) to grow 0% to 3% in constant currency terms. That stable outlook suggests it can comfortably pass on some of its inflationary costs to consumers with price hikes while protecting its bottom-line growth with tighter cost-cutting measures.

Second, it's firmly profitable and pays out nearly half its earnings to fund its forward dividend yield of 2.8%. The company and its predecessor have also paid out uninterrupted dividends for more than a century. Lastly, General Mills' stock is still cheap at 19 times forward earnings. That low valuation arguably makes it more attractive than comparable packaged foods stalwarts like Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, which currently trade at 26 and 27 times forward earnings, respectively.


Lastly, high-end luxury stocks are good defensive plays during market downturns because affluent customers are more resistant to macro headwinds. My favorite play in that sector is LVMH, the world's largest luxury company. The French conglomerate owns 75 houses across five markets -- wines and spirits, fashion and leather goods, perfumes and cosmetics, watches and jewelry, and selective retailing -- and its top brands include Louis Vuitton, Dior, Fendi, Loewe, Bvlgari, Tiffany & Co., Hennessy, and Sephora.

LVMH experienced a slowdown during the pandemic as it temporarily closed many of its stores. But in 2021, its revenue surged 44% as its net profit soared 156%. Relative to 2019 (which skips the pandemic-related disruptions), its revenue and profit rose 20% and 68%, respectively.

LVMH faces some near-term challenges -- including supply chain disruptions, the Russo-Ukrainian war, and intermittent COVID lockdowns in China -- but inflation shouldn't pose much of a threat because it can easily pass on its higher costs to its well-heeled consumers.

That's why analysts expect LVMH's revenue and net profit to rise 18% and 17%, respectively, this year. Its stock is reasonably valued at 25 times next year's earnings -- especially considering that its rival Hermès trades at 50 times forward earnings -- and it pays a decent forward yield of 1.7%.