Although American society appears to be firing on all cylinders following the devastation of the novel coronavirus pandemic, a recent report from Reuters revealed just how devastating the crisis was. On an annualized basis, the U.S. economy contracted 19.2% from its fourth-quarter 2019 peak. This stark data confirmed that the “Covid-19 recession was the worst ever.” Still, that’s past news. So it’s on to recession-resistant stocks to buy, right?
Maybe. But there’s a growing number of voices that are skeptical about the economic recovery. For one thing, the magnitude of mobility is somewhat disappointing. Between Q2 2019 to Q2 2021, national GDP increased by 6.7%. Given the fallout of the pandemic, this metric is something to be celebrated. Nevertheless, between Q2 2017 to Q2 2019, GDP increased by 10.2%, suggesting it’s not so crazy to consider recession-resistant stocks to buy.
Another worrisome element from the latest batch of government data is M2 money velocity, or the rate at which each unit of currency circulates throughout the economy. In Q2 2020, this metric fell to an all-time low on record at 1.1. Basically, each dollar circulates just over one time before it gets taken out of circulation (perhaps due to savings). Logically, this deflationary trend supports the case for recession-resistant stocks to buy.
What’s more, in Q1 2021, M2 money velocity only increased slightly to 1.121. In the following quarter, the metric actually declined ever so slightly to 1.12. To me, that’s a very odd development. Our society is so much better off than it was in Q2 of last year. Generally, people are happier and more understanding. As well, the concept of retail revenge should bolster money velocity but it hasn’t.
Finally, investors should note that the wealth gap in this country is getting out of control. According to the latest read, the share of net worth held by the top 1% of wealthy individuals is at a staggering 32.1%. Compare that to the aftermath of the dot-com bubble and the 9/11 attack, when this metric was 25%. In my view, everyone should at least consider recession-resistant stocks to buy. Here are my ideas for portfolio protection.
- American Express (NYSE:AXP)
- Lowe’s Companies (NYSE:LOW)
- IBM (NYSE:IBM)
- Colgate-Palmolive (NYSE:CL)
- Cardinal Health (NYSE:CAH)
- Livent Corp (NYSE:LTHM)
- FireEye (NASDAQ:FEYE)
Generally, it’s best to focus on companies that have strong secular businesses; that is, industries that may not be the sexiest but are always relevant. At the same time, I don’t think you can ignore technological developments — or even raw consumerism for that matter. Therefore, I’ve kept this list of recession-resistant stocks to buy as diverse as possible.
American Express (AXP)
Despite every effort to promote budgeting and personal responsibility, financial advisors must feel like they’re talking in the wind. That’s because as Kimberly Amadeo of The Balance wrote, “Consumer spending comprises 70% of GDP.” And you know what? It was 70% back in 2012, when Mic contributor Rick Mathews discussed the topic.
Americans love to spend, even in the face of unprecedented calamity. Of course, spending behaviors and the product categories where those dollars go to are unpredictable. Therefore, if you’re thinking about recession-resistant stocks to buy, you should consider American Express.
True, there are other credit card companies that have greater reach or approachability like Mastercard (NYSE:MA), Visa (NYSE:V) and Discover Financial Services (NYSE:DFS). Certainly, you can bet on these financial institutions because of their stability, size and reliable passive income stream.
But here’s the deal, according to Michael Battle of WalletHub.com. “In 2018, for example, the average American Express cardholder spent $14,480. In contrast, the average spending across Visa, Mastercard and Discover cards that year was only $3,918.”
Lowe’s Companies (LOW)
Based simply on the wild housing market, Lowe’s Companies is worth considering, whether you’re specifically seeking recession-resistant stocks to buy or a stable growth opportunity. To be sure, I’m personally hesitant about residential real estate and price sustainability. However, you can make the argument that you shouldn’t fight the tape — what a massive tape it is!
Therefore, if you believe that housing sentiment can last, LOW stock is an ideal place to put your money. Even a skeptic like me can appreciate that the real estate boom doesn’t operate in a monolithic silo. What I mean is, some markets are simply red hot for a reason, such as Austin, Texas.
Plus, you have high-income earners from the coastlines moving inland, which suggests that this rally (or bubble) may have longer legs than the skeptics believe.
But set aside the housing argument for a moment. Consider that Lowe’s — along with rival Home Depot (NYSE:HD) — represented critical retail infrastructure during the Covid-19 lockdowns. Should we have another similar disruption due to the delta variant, Lowe’s will once again play a pivotal role in keeping America’s lights on.
A technological powerhouse during its glory days, IBM has become somewhat of an afterthought in light of other innovative firms, particularly Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOG, NASDAQ:GOOGL), taking centerstage. For many years, the company struggled under the weight of its legacy businesses, which were gradually shedding relevance.
But the opportunity, though, is that the investor community still focuses on the headline-generating firms in the tech space. That makes IBM stock undervalued, both against its market performance and based on fundamental metrics. For the former, shares of “Big Blue” are down roughly 33% from their closing peak.
In terms of the latter, IBM stock has a price-earnings (P/E) ratio of less than 24 times, whereas its industry median PE is 32X. Furthermore, the company has a forward PE ratio of slightly over 13X, which compares favorably to the industry median of nearly 34X.
Again, this suggests that the investor community is largely ignoring IBM. But that might not be the wisest move, considering that the company has moved into relevant businesses, ranging from artificial intelligence to cybersecurity to blockchain applications. Therefore, if you want recession-resistant stocks to buy, this isn’t a bad place to look.
Easily one of the most boring stocks to buy, Colgate-Palmolive is usually a company you can depend on through thick and thin. True, economic recessions take the wind out of consumer spending. Nevertheless, when crises hit, Americans — despite their penchant for spending on luxuries — will immediately cut discretionary and superfluous items.
Indeed, we saw just that when the Covid-19 crisis initially hit us. With live sports and other content categories taken offline, many consumers decided to cut the cord. The Wall Street Journal reported record cord-cutting, which makes perfect sense: why pay for stuff that you’re not going to use or enjoy?
However, you can’t make that argument for household goods, such as toothpaste. I mean, a recession would have to be pretty darn awful for people to skimp out on the bare necessities. Therefore, I’d feel comfortable with CL stock in my portfolio if the smelly stuff hits the fan.
Now, to be fair, CL suffered a steep loss due to its Q2 earnings report. Though it was a solid result on the top and bottom lines, “management noted cost headwinds to persist in the second half of 2021” per Zacks Equity Research. Still, aggressive investors seeking downside-resistant stocks to buy might view this as a discounted opportunity.
Cardinal Health (CAH)
Improving the cost effectiveness of healthcare services, Cardinal Health is an omnipresent force in the broader medical field. According to its website, Cardinal Health “is a distributor of pharmaceuticals, a global manufacturer and distributor of medical and laboratory products, and a provider of performance and data solutions for healthcare facilities.”
In addition, the company serves nearly 90% of U.S. hospitals while also providing for the needs of 3.4 million home healthcare patients. Basically, if you’re looking for anything medical related, CAH stock will likely be levered to it.
On a purely cynical basis, you may want to consider Cardinal Health as one of your recession-resistant stocks to buy based on rising coronavirus cases. Last year, the company generated revenue of $152.9 billion, up 5% from the $145.5 billion rung up for 2019.
Even without the Covid-19 crisis, Cardinal Health is powerfully relevant. After all, the pandemic-related lockdowns have created pent-up demand for non-Covid hospital visits and medical procedures. And another cynical argument: rising tensions in society means more patients due to tragic circumstances like gun violence.
Livent Corp (LTHM)
With Livent Corp, I’m going to reach into the riskier side of recession-resistant stocks to buy. Under ordinary circumstances, a commodity production firm that doesn’t pay a dividend and depends on robust economic conditions is not a candidate for a safe investment. Nevertheless, this argument might change if the commodity in question is lithium.
Though it’s the company’s own marketing pitch, I do like the way management presents itself. “Livent powers the things that power our lives. From the revolution in electric vehicle batteries and mobile devices to the strong, lightweight alloys and advanced polymers that take innovation further, we harness lithium technology to help the world move forward—cleaner, healthier and more sustainably.”
While very PR-ish, the sentiment rings true across the board. Moving forward, lithium may very well be the new gold. Plus, rival nations such as China are aggressively investing in next-generation technologies. Invariably, then, lithium will rise dramatically in relevance, which bolsters the case for LTHM stock.
Of course, if we do suffer a recession, LTHM will be volatile — there’s no question about it. But if you can stomach some risk, the pertinence of the underlying commodity may easily overcome near-term headwinds.
If I had written this article a few years ago, I wouldn’t include FireEye among recession-resistant stocks to buy. Not that I hate the business or anything. Most definitely, cybersecurity is a sector that will only increase in relevance. Once you open the digital Pandora’s box, you must accept the good with the bad. And by that, I mean cybersecurity breaches.
However, the scope and scale of cyberattacks in recent years have been alarming. Throughout the Trump administration, alleged Chinese theft of U.S. intellectual property had been a thorn on the side. That hasn’t gone away, with federal authorities continuing to assign blame to China regarding cyberattacks. As well, we all know about the Colonial Pipeline breach.
If there was any wakeup call that everyone — from individuals to corporations to government entities — needs to take cybersecurity seriously, that was it. Colonial’s breach imposed a severe impact on transportation networks and the broader economy. This was a real cost to regular folks, not just some high-level ransom attempt.
Will that narrative reach down to FEYE stock, though? It might, and so this could be something of interest if you have some speculation funds to spare.
On the date of publication, Josh Enomoto did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.
A former senior business analyst for Sony Electronics, Josh Enomoto has helped broker major contracts with Fortune Global 500 companies. Over the past several years, he has delivered unique, critical insights for the investment markets, as well as various other industries including legal, construction management, and healthcare.