Despite the Dow Jones Industrial Average enjoying a robust start to September, investors should remain leery. Aside from the ongoing U.S.-China trade war, we have the Brexit drama in the U.K. that could turn out ugly. Additionally, Germany is on the brink of a recession, if it’s not there already. Logically, this doesn’t bode well for certain market segments like consumer stocks to buy.
If you’ve been paying attention to the global economy and not just our own indices, you’ll appreciate that a cautious approach to investing is best. Early this year, South China Morning Post contributor David Brown suggested that international central banks must act quickly to quiet troubling economic conditions. Because that action apparently didn’t happen, we’re probably going to suffer some slowdown. Thus, consumer stocks levered to discretionary spending are suspect.
However, I’m still interested in specific names of this far-reaching segment. While spending will likely slow over the next few months, it won’t stop outright. Recession or not, people must make certain purchases, which means secular-industry consumer stocks to buy are very much in play.
Furthermore, I’m eyeing some companies that have a vice element. Although it’s an incredibly cynical argument, let’s face reality: vice tends to go up during economic hardships. For example, imbibing overall increased during the Great Recession, likely as a stress-coping mechanism.
Here are seven consumer stocks to buy that can outlast the coming recession.
For several years, shares of Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) languished in largely sideways trading. In retrospect, part of that probably had to do with the generally strong market and economic dynamics at the time. For example, in a robust bull market, a name like KO stock doesn’t necessarily appeal to you. That’s especially the case when you have high-flying technology companies competing for your attention.
Now, the situation is different. Sure, KO stock is considered one of many consumer stocks, and in a downturn, consumers will reduce their spending. But as I mentioned earlier, they won’t kill all consumptive behaviors, but rather, are more mindful of their expenditures. Here, Coca-Cola products are compelling because they offer a treat, a nice distraction away from stressful events or circumstances.
And let’s not forget that any form of cheap entertainment or distraction carries a premium in a recession. That was one of the main arguments supporting KO stock in the last major downturn. I believe a similar dynamic will support Coca-Cola in the next one.
Campbell Soup (CPB)
While many investors have tuned into the Coca-Cola story this year, another name among consumer stocks to buy has made ripples, but perhaps without the same level of attention. Shares of Campbell Soup (NYSE:CPB) have soared this year, gaining over 45%. You’d have to go back quite a ways to when a bowl of soup was this interesting. Yet CPB stock might have room to fly.
First, as strange as it is to say this, a recession would really help the case for CPB stock. If the economy slows, consumers will invariably whittle down their discretionary spending. Thus, the family budgeting for going out to eat should decline sharply. In addition, a particularly troublesome recession could see consumers cutting their personal budgets down to the bare essentials.
Guess what? Campbell Soup is the bare essentials.
Second, I like the fact that, like KO, CPB stock pays a dividend. And with a current yield of 3%, it gives concerned investors some buffer against potential volatility.
In the first two consumer stocks to buy, I featured consumables in the literal since. But with Clorox (NYSE:CLX), most of their products are not things you want to put in your mouth. That said, you might want to consider putting CLX stock in your portfolio. Let’s take a look at some of the basics.
For starters, most folks know the Clorox brand name as a household cleaning supply specialist. Here, the argument is simple: even in a recession, you’ve got to keep yourself and your environment clean. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure or more, especially with current healthcare prices.
And this logic for CLX stock extends beyond human use. One of Clorox’s brands is Fresh Step, which is a popular cat litter brand. Americans love their pets, often changing their lifestyles to accommodate their furry friends.
Finally, CLX stock isn’t just about cleaning nowadays. Through the Hidden Valley brand, Clorox has some exposure to the food industry. Additionally, its Burt’s Bees division offers lucrative personal care revenue opportunities.
Costco Wholesale (COST)
I’ll admit that I struggled with whether to include Costco Wholesale (NASDAQ:COST) in this list of consumer stocks to buy. In a bull market, COST stock makes sense. Although it charges a membership fee, customers are more than willing to pay it. Indeed, mainstream comedies like Employee of the Month confirm that Costco is both a cultural and retail phenomenon.
But will shoppers be willing to dish out money for the membership dues — and the 800 gallons of mayonnaise — in a bear market? After all, people don’t just shop at Costco for the necessities. They also go there to buy ultra-high definition TVs and the latest digital gadgets. Plus, not everything in Costco is a great deal. In a downturn, that doesn’t support the case for COST stock.
However, here’s an important stat to remember: $100,000. That’s how much money the typical Costco shopper earns in a year. In contrast, the typical Walmart (NYSE:WMT) shopper earns a much lower $56,482. Thus, in a downturn, Costco’s revenue stream is more resilient than its competitors, driving the case for COST stock.
Genuine Parts Company (GPC)
If we do incur a serious recessionary crisis, consumers will most likely abandon high-dollar, longer-term purchases. That’s an incredibly longwinded way of saying most folks probably won’t shell out money for new cars. In turn, economic hardship will incentivize people to hold onto their vehicles longer. Invariably, this benefits Genuine Parts Company (NYSE:GPC) and GPC stock.
Now, Genuine Parts may not be a household name. However, you almost surely heard of their brands like NAPA Auto Parts. With large warehouses stacked with various automotive parts, drivers can save themselves significant money by doing basic work themselves. Thanks to various do-it-yourself videos on platforms like Alphabet’s (NASDAQ:GOOG, NASDAQ:GOOGL) YouTube, the investment proposition for GPC stock isn’t as much of a stretch as you might think.
Moreover, there’s a chance that GPC stock could benefit from higher-than-average income earners who drive European — specifically German — cars. As an automotive enthusiast, I appreciate the many intangibles that German carmakers bring to the table. However, their cars are ridiculously expensive to maintain.
To get around this dilemma, I can imagine cash-strained drivers buying third-party components for their vehicles. Therefore, I wouldn’t ignore GPC in your search for best consumer stocks to buy.
Anheuser Busch Inbev (BUD)
Perhaps one of the more surprising picks for consumer stocks to buy, shares of Anheuser Busch Inbev (NYSE:BUD) are actually performing very well this year. Since January’s opening price, BUD stock has gained 50%. However, I think the fundamentals justify the enormous rally.
First, entertainment or escapism comes at a premium during economic hardships, as I mentioned earlier. Now, it’s true that technically, we’re not in a recession. But some clues exist that we’re headed there. For example, while the unemployment rate is at multi-year lows, this stat has never indefinitely stayed deflated. Plus, the August jobs report was disappointing, give all of us pause.
However, that suggests some extra drinking off the job will occur, driving the case for BUD stock.
Second, Anheuser Busch owns the Bud Light brand, among other popular beers. Bud Light is the most popular beer in America by a long shot. Plus, it’s incredibly cheap, which may help to steer recession-burnt and cash-strapped millennials back to beer from other frivolities. Logically, this boosts the case for BUD stock.
Altria Group (MO)
Clearly, Altria Group (NYSE:MO) is the laggard in this list of consumer stocks to buy. On a year-to-date basis, MO stock is down 10%. Even worse, since the first of April of this year, shares are down nearly 25%.
While declining interest in smoking has obviously hurt MO stock and its ilk, big tobacco has another concern: the ongoing vaping crisis. In short, a rash of acute lung illnesses which federal agencies believe is associated with vaping has impacted several states. So far, authorities are investigating six deaths that they presume relate to vaping.
On the surface, that hurts MO stock because Altria has a 35% stake in Juul. At the center of the firestorm, anti-smoking advocates and politicians have blasted Juul for their marketing practices and their easily concealable products. Worst of all, the President threatened to ban flavored vaping liquids, which may decimate the industry.
However, that creates all kinds of ugly that I don’t have the space to detail comprehensively here. The big takeaway, though, is that it may do nothing to stop underage vaping because the proposed ban won’t affect all vaping liquids. Moreover, banning vaping altogether may violate legal adult users’ constitutional rights, as well as destroying an economically viable industry.
Granted, this is a risky play. But if we have a reasonable resolution, which I think we will, MO stock could fly far higher than many other consumer stocks.
As of this writing, Josh Enomoto did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.