Investors cited 3M's (NYSE: MMM) and Caterpillar's (NYSE: CAT) results as proof that the economy had regained its footing. But more recent gross domestic product and manufacturing-activity data left investors wondering whether to trust those hopeful signs.

We think the 3M and Caterpillar results were good, and the data weren't so bad. But that doesn't mean the economy's humming along. 3M and Cat faced easy comparisons to the lean, credit-crunched days of 2009. Acknowledging the economy's still uncertain prospects and its recent upward trajectory, Fools should look instead toward blue-chip consumer staples such as Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG) for a reasonable valuation and stability.

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Michael Olsen owns shares of 3M. 3M is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Procter & Gamble is a Motley Fool Income Investor selection. The Fool owns shares of and has written covered calls on Procter & Gamble. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.