It's been about two months since the markets' last major down day, but the duck-and-cover attitude returned on Wall Street with a vengeance yesterday. When all was said and done the Dow Jones Industrial Average had shed nearly 270 points, the S&P 500 gave back almost 34 points, and the Nasdaq Composite lost more than 80 points.
The culprit? Once again it was crude oil pricing which slid by 4% to its lowest level in five years. Falling oil prices do carry some positives as it means lower prices at the pump and potentially more disposable income for consumers, but protracted declines in the oil market could cost workers jobs in the energy industry and might be a precursor to a recession.
When the stock market is plunging you can choose to react one of two ways. You can either panic, which is what most emotional traders would do and why the market tends to be so volatile in the first place, or you can assess things from the long term perspective and use these dips as all the more reason to pick up great companies with excellent business models that have the ability to outperform in practically any environment.
Assuming you fall into the latter category, here are three stocks that I'd opine you could consider buying right now even with the market plunging.
No. 1: Allstate (ALL 1.10%)
Want a simple way to avoid the markets' volatility while collecting dividends from an extremely steady business model? Then consider putting your faith in the good hands of Allstate.
Insurance isn't the most exciting business by any means, but boring businesses sometimes lead to the best profits. Insurance is a fairly inelastic product, which is what makes it such a profitable business. If you own a home with a mortgage, or drive a car, then you're likely required to purchase insurance on those items in case something were to happen. This gives insurers like Allstate a lot of pricing power and also provides some degree of predictability to their cash flow. And when you look at Allstate's underlying property-liability combined ratio (the percentage of premiums that Allstate spends) -- it dropped year-over-year last quarter to 86% from 87% -- a good sign that Allstate is maintaining cost discipline and growing profit per policy when we adjust for certain factors.
The biggest two factors investors in the insurance sector really need to concern themselves with are ensuring that the company they've invested in has enough cash on hand to take care of its members when a catastrophe occurs, and keenly watching lending rates since insurers invest their premium payments into fixed and variable rate safe assets in order to generate investment income. With lending rates near historic lows the thought here is investment income for Allstate and the rest of the sector may have nowhere to go but up.
A plunging market is likely of little concern for Allstate shareholders.
No. 2: Johnson & Johnson (JNJ -0.53%)
Another smart way to beat the volatility and collect substantial dividend income is to look toward the pharmaceutical industry and companies like Johnson & Johnson.
Johnson & Johnson, or J&J for short, is actually a three-headed healthcare juggernaut comprised of its pharmaceutical operations, a consumer products division, and medical devices and diagnostics. The real moneymaker for J&J is its pharmaceutical operations which provide the bulk of its profits and revenue growth. Since 2009 Johnson & Johnson has launched 14 new drugs which, through the midpoint of 2014, had generated more than $12 billion in total sales over that five-plus year period.
"Why pharmaceuticals?" You ask? For one, branded drugs are protected by patents from generic competition and thus come with healthy price tags conducive of high margins for the innovator (in this case J&J). Also, people can't choose when they get sick or what type of illness they get. For pharmaceutical companies like Johnson & Johnson it means a fairly consistent demand for its products regardless of how well or poorly the stock market is performing.
J&J's operational diversity means it has a lot of revenue streams working in its favor, and its 52-year streak of boosting its dividend is merely icing on the cake for long-term-minded investors.
No. 3: TD Ameritrade (AMTD)
Lastly, consider putting traders' emotions to work for you instead of against you by taking a closer look at an investment brokerage company like TD Ameritrade.
Think about it this way: When the stock market is plunging skittish investors are looking to move in and out of the market with greater frequency, which means more trading fees for TD Ameritrade and the entire industry. In addition, volatility in the stock market may increase consumers' desire to seek out investment advisory and asset management services, such as those offered by TD Ameritrade.
As of November, TD Ameritrade boasted $675 billion in total client assets, a 16% increase from the Nov. 2013 (and a 2% increase from the month prior). Best of all, fee-based balances rose to $152.5 billion, up 17% from Nov. 2013.
I think TD Ameritrade is really in a position to benefit no matter how well or poorly the economy does over the next couple of years. If the stock market sinks and volatility picks up it could see a big increase in trading fees. If the market continues to soar the Federal Reserve will likely begin raising its federal funds target next year, allowing TD Ameritrade and other financial service companies to reap the benefits of higher lending rates. With a 1.6% yield this is a company long-term investors should give serious consideration to.