It has been a great year for growth stocks, especially high-profile ones. Just look at the gains for operators like Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN), Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) and Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL).
But IPOs have also done quite well. Keep in mind that a spate of top-notch tech companies have come to the markets, such as Dropbox (NASDAQ:DBX), Docusign (NASDAQ:DOCU) and Zuora (NYSE:ZUO) — posting standout returns.
However, these growth stocks are far from guaranteed. As we saw early this year, there can be wrenching corrections.
This is why it’s a good idea to have exposure to so-called steady Eddie stocks as well. They tend to do well despite the economic environment.
So which ones to consider? Well, here’s a look at seven:
Steady Eddie Stocks: Northern Trust (NTRS)
Northern Trust (NASDAQ:NTRS) definitely fits within the “steady Eddie” category. Consider that this financial institution has been around since 1889 (launched in Chicago).
According to the company’s website: “Our guiding principles not only survived but thrived during the Great Depression, two world wars and the 2008 financial crisis. We burnished our reputation as a global leader delivering innovative investment management, asset and fund administration, fiduciary and banking solutions enabled by sophisticated, leading technology. And through it all, we continually laid a solid, forward-looking foundation on which future generations can continue growing and achieving greater.”
The firm’s two core businesses — which include private wealth management and custodial services — have powerful barriers to entry. There are also secular tailwinds, as the number of wealthy people continue to grow.
In terms of the financials, they have been robust. During the second quarter, total revenues jumped by 14% to $1.5 billion and earnings came to $390.4 million. Then again, the firm continues to expand its asset base. Note that the assets under custody and administration is a hefty $10.7 trillion.
Steady Eddie Stocks: Automatic Data Processing (ADP)
Payroll is something a business can’t afford to make mistakes with. Not only are there severe financial penalties, but there is also potential jail time! What’s more, payroll rules are subject to constant changes, conforming to federal, state and local requirements.
So is it any wonder that many companies just wind up outsourcing this service? Of course not. And one of the biggest beneficiaries is Automatic Data Processing (NASDAQ:ADP), which is the largest payroll provider in the US. There are currently over 700,000 clients.
But over the years, the company has been aggressive in buying up rivals and also adding new services. For example, the WorkMarket platform helps manage the complexities with the freelancers and gig-economy workers. There is also the Global Cash Card, which allows for instant and on-demand payments for workers.
As for the finances of ADP, there is little to complain about. The company has raised its dividend for 43 consecutive years.
Steady Eddie Stocks: Waste Management (WM)
The nice thing about the trash business is that it will not be disrupted by some type of highly funded Silicon Valley startup. If anything, the industry is about economies of scale, as there is little in terms of differentiation.
The leader in the industry is Waste Management (NYSE:WM), which has more than 21 million customers. The company operates the largest network of landfills, at 249, and there are 305 transfer stations. The system allows for much more efficient disposal of waste. In fact, WM also uses the waste to create energy.
Granted, the company’s top-line is muted. But WM has been consistent with generating strong free cash flows. In the latest quarter, they came to $621 million, up 19.4% on a year-over-year basis. More importantly, the company has been shareholder friendly, with much of the excess cash used for dividends and share buybacks.
Steady Eddie Stocks: Service Corporation International (SCI)
Service Corporation International (NYSE:SCI) is not a household name. But many people use the company’s services. It is the largest provider of deathcare offerings, which include a network of 1,488 funeral locations and 473 cemeteries across 45 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. Some of the brands include Dignity Memorial, Dignity Planning, National Cremation Society, Neptune Society and Trident Society.
A key to the business model is preneed sales, which helps to lock in future market share. The current backlog is about $11.1 billion.
There is also lots of room for growth, as SCI currently has about 15% to 16% of the market in the Norther America. However, many of the operators are small operators. Because of this, SCI has pursued a disciplined M&A strategy that has been key for building a highly competitive platform in the industry.
Steady Eddie Stocks: SAP (SAP)
SAP (NYSE:SAP) is the leader in ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) applications, which manage critical areas like HR, inventory and financials. This kind of software is generally sticky because customers do not want to go through the disruption of making a switch.
This has definitely been good for SAP. The company has more than 404,000 customers and over 150 million users.
What’s more, with its strong cash flows, SAP has been aggressive in moving towards the cloud, such as with a variety of acquisitions for companies like Ariba, Concur and SuccessFactors. The company is even eyeing the massive CRM (Customer Relationship Management) market that’s dominated by Salesforce.com (NYSE:CRM).
To this end, SAP has created SAP C/4 HANA, which the company considers to be a fourth-generation CRM platform. The company’s massive ERP footprint is likely to help in a big way to get adoption. And there are likely many customers who would be interested in alternative to Salesforce.com.
Steady Eddie Stocks: Danaher (DHR)
Danaher (NYSE:DHR) is not well-known. But the company’s management team is top-notch when it comes to M&A. Over the years, they have focused on areas like life sciences, medical diagnostics and environmental and applied solutions.
Still, the healthcare business represents the main source of revenues. They are also generally recurring in nature, which has led to strong cash flows. For the year so far, they have come to $1.9 billion, up 18.5%.
Yet the company recently announced it will spin off its dental unit as a public company. The main reasons include: the division was underperforming, the competitive environment was getting more intense and there was not a good fit with the other segments.
All in all, the move should free up a large amount of capital, which can be use to bolster its existing businesses and allow for more buybacks and dividends increases. The unit represents about 15% of overall revenues.
Steady Eddie Stocks: Bank Of America (BAC)
Because of its large size, it is tough for Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) to post strong revenue gains, but the company still is generating juicy profits. Part of this is from the strong growth in the U.S. economy. Then there is the rise in interest rates, which provides higher margins with the loan business. In the latest quarter, net income jumped by 33% to $6.8 billion.
Yet BAC has also been investing in R&D. For example, the company has more than 25 million active mobile users and 10 million of its customers use other digital platforms. The Zelle payments app has also been getting traction, processing 35 million transactions during the latest quarter.
And finally, the valuation on BAC stock is at reasonable levels, with the forward price-to-earnings ratio at only 10.6X. And for the next 12 months, the company plans to ramp up its buybacks and dividend payouts to $25 billion, up from $17 billion.
Tom Taulli is the author of High-Profit IPO Strategies, All About Commodities and All About Short Selling. Follow him on Twitter at @ttaulli. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.