The novel coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a mass-market selloff in almost every industry from travel to hospitality. However, defense stocks have remained a bright spot in an otherwise volatile market. In times of economic uncertainty, these stocks have been known to provide a safe haven for investors.
One reason for this is because defense companies are largely funded by the government’s deep pockets. This means that despite an economic crisis, the industry still has a reliable customer that’s footing a large share of its bills and maintaining stable demand for its goods and services.
But not all defense stocks are created equal. This is especially true with the numerous unknowns brought on by the looming presidential election.
Most defense companies provide a wide range of services. However, like the tech industry, some of these companies are overvalued. As such, you need to look for defense stocks that have a strong bottom line and offer the perfect mix of growth and value. The defense companies with this sort of backbone are the ones that will thrive regardless of who is elected president in November.
Here are the top three defense stocks to buy this year:
Defense Stocks to Buy: Lockheed Martin (LMT)
LMT stock is a strong buy in the defense sector right now. As one of the biggest defense contractors in the world, the company’s stock has risen by an impressive 85% in the last five years. Lockheed has managed to keep revenue levels stable given that the Pentagon is its biggest customer.
The company produces various defense arsenals, such as missiles and aviation jets. But it is also well-known for being the lead contractor in the production of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. That fighter is the most expensive plane in the world. Consider that it’s a leader in these spaces — the manufacturing of fighter planes and high-tech missiles — and it’s clear why it’s a standout among defense stocks. The fact that it has a strong research and development team also bolsters the bullish case.
Thanks to its well-stocked arsenal, Lockheed Martin increased its dividend payout to 8.3% this year. Notably, it stated that in the fourth-quarter, its dividend per share would increase by 20 cents. In addition to this, the board sanctioned a stock buyback program worth $1.3 billion. This brings the total repurchase program to $3 billion year-to-date.
Lockheed Martin has been fairly immune to the effects on the Covid-19 pandemic and continues to thrive amid a global crisis. With a strong bottom line and a high dividend payout, this is one of the best defense stocks to buy at the moment.
Boeing has been in the press since its 737 Max jet crashed, killing all the passengers and crew members on board. But despite the negative headlines, the BA stock is slowly but surely making its way back on investors’ “buy” list.
This comes after Boeing’s management predicts that the 737 jets will be back in service in the fourth-quarter after undergoing modifications. Aircraft sales are also expected to remain stable despite airlines seeing little to no movement in this year. This is a huge win for Boeing, which currently holds the title as one of the top aircraft manufacturers in the world.
The company also has a number of projects in the pipeline, including the production of the F/A-18 and the F-15 aircraft along with the Navy’s Stingray drone and the Airforce KC-46 refueling tanker. These projects could support Boeing’s bottom line until the airline sector reaches its pre-pandemic levels.
But while Boeing may have put its worst days behind them, the path to recovery is expected to be slow. Analysts on Wall Street are not too bullish on BA stock right now. However, they remain confident in its ability to make a comeback. According to Barron’s, less than 40% of the analysts have given the defense stock a “Buy” rating. But with that being said, the company is poised for a resurgence and it would wise to invest while prices remain low.
Leidos Holdings (LDOS)
Leidos is one of the largest government service companies in the U.S., making it a great defense stock to buy. With a remote work environment in place, Leidos’ has the ever-important role of keeping workers connected through the services they provide. Prior to the pandemic, the company scored a major project to maintain the computer networks for the U.S. Navy and was rapidly expanding its business. Although the coronavirus put a wrench in its plans it’s not all doom and gloom. LDOS stock has declined 10% since February, but it is still up 4% year-to-date.
Thankfully, Leidos’ portfolio isn’t just limited to its IT services. More recently it has expanded into the production of hardware for autonomous ships. It also provides classified research services for intelligence units. Given the scale of its operations, the company has a large financial cushion to help it weather the Covid-19 storm. And this diversity is a large part of what makes it stand out from other many other defense stocks.
Analysts concur with the positive sentiment and predict that Leidos will see an increase in sales by 12% in 2021. Earnings per share are also expected to increase from $5.17 to $5.48 in the next quarter. The fact that Leidos is backed by the government and is more immune to the effects of the pandemic than privately held companies also helps support these rosy predictions.
However, LDOS stock is still significantly lower from its high of $123.22 in February. It has continued to lag in the broader market since then, trending at just $89.09 as of this writing. Nevertheless, Leidos finds itself in a much stronger and safer position than many of its IT service counterparts. This defense stock may not be at its best right now, but it is definitely worth buying at its current price to reap the gains in the future.
On the date of publication, Divya Premkumar did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in any of the securities mentioned in this article.
Divya Premkumar has a finance degree from the University of Houston, Texas. She is a financial writer and analyst who has written stories on various financial topics from investing to personal finance. Divya has been writing for InvestorPlace since 2020.