The fear trade worked very well this month. While October has been a great month for investors, it has been even better for those who played it safe.
The biggest winning sectors so far this month were telecoms and consumer staples, as these two defensive groups have significantly outperformed the overall market. The SPDR Consumer Staple (XLP) is up a 6.4% so far this month, while the iShares Telecommunication (IYZ) is up 5.2%.
But that performance is going to fall back to earth in November. The reasons for the outperformance were fairly obvious at the beginning of October, traditionally a tough month for investors. (Some of the largest market declines have happen in October.)
In addition, investors were faced with the debt ceiling debate that was far from being resolved at the start of the month. No wonder market participants gravitated to defensive issues like consumer staples and telecom.
Now, with those issues behind us, look for a more aggressive posture to be taken in November. You’ll want to sell those blue-chip stocks and look for beta — stocks that are more volatile than the rest of the market — for the remainder of the year.
A year-end rally is likely, with little in the way of headwinds. There will be no taper talk until at least next year. As such, bond yields will drift lower … further enticing the risk on trade.
Here are three defensive blue-chip stocks to jettison from your portfolio.
Yes, there is a renaissance in the oil industry — mainly a boom in domestic production. That doesn’t mean owning a vertically integrated monster oil name like Exxon Mobil (XOM) makes sense.
Investors gravitated to the stock thanks to its near 3% dividend. But in a best-case scenario, Exxon shares will gain 5% in the next year. Add the dividend and you have a 8% return. That just doesn’t cut it in a risk-on environment. Investors made 3% on this name alone in October; look for weaker returns to close out the year.
One of the biggest winners in October was AT&T (T): The stock gained more than 7% in the month as investors flocked to the company’s 5% dividend yield. They also got a stock that beat earnings estimates for the third quarter. That defense made sense in a month filled with fear.
Expect the opposite for the remainder of the year. From a valuation perspective, AT&T is simply unappealing. Analysts expect the company to grow profits by 8% in 2014. At current prices, shares trade for 15 times 2013 estimated earnings — that’s flat-out spooky. Investors have bid up the share price as they chased the yield, but look for AT&T to underperform the market for the rest of the year.
Procter & Gamble
If you ever want to gauge the fear level in the market, look no further than a stock like Procter & Gamble (PG). This slow-growing consumer staple behemoth gained nearly 8% in October. That kind of growth is just unnatural for a stock like this.
If you own the stock, you should cash out those big gains immediately — PG will rarely jump that much in a full year. Going forward, I would expect some sort of reversion to the mean. The 3% dividend is nice, but not if the stock retreats from current levels. With the company expected to grow profits by single digits, and with shares trading for 19 times current fiscal year estimated earnings, I’d stay far away from this spooky stock.