Even blue-chip stocks can get the blues. That's evident with the Dow Jones Industrial Average sinking close to 15% year to date.
Most of the 30 stocks in the well-known index are in negative territory this year. But not all of them. Here are the three best Dow Jones stocks of 2022 so far -- and whether or not they're good picks to buy now.
1. Chevron: The Dow's only energy stock
Chevron (CVX 0.12%) ranks as the clear winner among Dow stocks this year. Shares of the oil and gas giant have soared well over 30%. This performance follows an impressive 39% gain in 2021.
Energy stocks, in general, have delivered solid returns in 2022. Russia's invasion of Ukraine played a key role in boosting the sector. This disruption to the supply of oil and gas coincided with an increase in demand as the global economy emerged from the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic.
After the Dow Jones booted ExxonMobil in 2020, Chevron was left as the only energy stock in the prestigious index. It's definitely good for the Dow that Chevron is still a component. Without it, the index's year-to-date loss would be even worse.
2. Merck: A big winner despite a few stumbles
Merck (MRK -0.65%) trails behind Chevron as the Dow's second-best stock of 2022 so far. The big drugmaker's shares have vaulted more than 12% higher and jumped as much as 24% year to date in July.
Investors often prefer big pharma stocks during periods of overall market volatility. It certainly helped Merck that the company continued to deliver strong growth. For example, the drugmaker's sales soared 28% year over year in the second quarter of 2022. Merck also picked up a big regulatory win in the U.S. for pneumococcal vaccine Vaxnuevance as well as four additional European approvals for cancer immunotherapy Keytruda.
However, Merck has had a few stumbles recently. The company announced disappointing results this summer for three late-stage clinical studies evaluating Keytruda. It also looks like Merck's bid to acquire Seagen has stalled.
3. Travelers: Hanging on despite a turn for the worse
Travelers (TRV -0.66%) holds the No. 3 spot among the best-performing Dow Jones stocks of the year so far. And it's managed to do so with a year-to-date gain of less than 5%. That shows just how tough 2022 has been for the Dow.
Most of Travelers' momentum came in the first quarter. The property casualty insurer reported strong premiums and earnings growth in Q1. CEO Alan Schnitzer even said the company was "off to a terrific start in 2022."
That "terrific start" was marred by high-catastrophe losses in Q2, though. Travelers also incurred a significant loss from its investments. As a result, the company's net income plunged 41% year over year in Q2. But even with this negative turn of events, Travelers stock has stayed in positive territory throughout most of 2022.
Are they buys now?
I suspect that all three of these stocks will continue outperforming the overall Dow over the near term. However, I'm not a big fan of Travelers over the longer term. The stock isn't bad; it just isn't likely to deliver exceptional returns, in my view.
What about Merck? Despite a few setbacks for Keytruda, I expect the blockbuster drug will continue to drive the company's revenues and earnings higher. Merck's vaccines should also be solid growth drivers. I think the stock will perform well at least for the next few years, although the patent expiration for Keytruda in 2028 looms large.
Chevron is another stock that should beat the market over the near term, in my view. I don't see an immediate end to the uncertainty that's impacting fuel prices. Chevron also offers an exceptionally attractive dividend yield of over 3.6%.