Safety is back, there’s no doubt about that. Gone are the days of easy money, and thus risky high beta stocks have gone out of vogue. The cyclicality of the market is in full effect. Last year headline space was dominated by the special purpose acquisition companies, electric vehicle stocks and many other volatile growth stocks.
Fast forward a year and the story is entirely different: Most headlines feature the worst inflation this country has experienced in 40 years. Those figures are fairly familiar by now: 7.5% in January and 7% in December. Consumers and investors are clamoring to understand what February will bring. The Federal Reserve, for its part, is doing what it can. But both consumers and investors are resigned to the fact that we have entered a new period where safety will be paramount.
Value is in, growth is out. Investor capital will continue to head into value stocks. Strong fundamentals, revenues, dividends, earnings and other measurables are key. Consumers are looking toward value whether it be at the supermarket or the gas pump. Investors are looking for underappreciated stocks with strong fundamentals. That’s where safety is in the current stock market.
Here are seven safe stocks to buy that meet those criteria:
- 3M (NYSE:MMM)
- Coca–Cola (NYSE:KO)
- Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG)
- Verizon (NYSE:VZ)
- FedEx (NYSE:FDX)
- Costco Wholesale (NASDAQ:COST)
- Equinor (NYSE:EQNR)
Safe Stocks to Buy: 3M (MMM)
The reasons to invest in 3M stock are the same reasons to consider investing in many other safe stocks: a relatively cheap price and the safety of a dividend. Identifying equities with reasonable P/E ratios and a long history of paying dividends is a strategy worth adopting currently.
And that describes 3M very well. Its P/E ratio of 14.5 is middle of the road compared to other conglomerates with similar profiles. But that P/E ratio is well below that of the S&P 500 currently. That index carries a P/E ratio of 24.7.
The other good news there is that 3M’s P/E ratio is near a 10-year low. Combine that fact with its rock steady dividend that hasn’t been reduced since 1959 and its attractiveness becomes more apparent.
Further, 3M reported better than expected results on Jan. 25. As reported in Barron’s, “3M reported fourth-quarter earnings on Tuesday of $2.31 a share and free cash flow of $1.5 billion from $8.6 billion in sales. Wall Street was looking for $2.01 a share and $1.3 billion in free cash flow from $8.6 billion in sales.”
Here’s a hint for investing in current markets: If Warren Buffett is behind it, it makes more sense than ever. The Oracle of Omaha is the most notable value investor in the world and the most notable investor period.
KO stock is a consumer staple brand. It has proven that consumers purchase its products no matter how the economy is going. Case in point: Coca-Cola surpassed expectations with its recent quarterly earnings. It posted $9.5 billion in sales, well exceeding the $8.9 billion Wall Street was predicting. The strong quarter contributed to a year in which the firm reported $38.7 billion in sales, ahead of an anticipated $38.1 billion.
Coca-Cola will continue to pay investors a modest 2.8% forward dividend. That isn’t bound to blow anyone’s socks off, but it’s the way Coca-Cola stock operates: slow and steady and in it for the long game.
If ever there was a time to consider establishing a position in KO stock, it’s now. My assumption is that investors are going to begin to understand the value proposition much more clearly in 2022. Coca Cola is a great test case for that purpose.
Safe Stocks to Buy: Procter & Gamble (PG)
Procter & Gamble is very much a “safe” stock. It won’t make investors rich overnight, but it should continue to grow steadily. Its 10-year performance shows that it has appreciated in price by 129%. It is the kind of stock investors appreciate for set-it-and-forget-it reliability. There’s no reason to expect that to change.
That’s especially true because of the current economic environment. Again, inflation figures play a key role, especially in relation to PG stock. The company provides products that consumers buy regardless of how bad things get. Tide laundry detergent and Pampers diapers are two great examples. So, despite 7.5% inflation Procter & Gamble is confident that its business will continue to thrive.
Procter & Gamble executives have already stated that price increases will continue throughout 2022. That might scare investors into believing that PG stock might suffer losses given that capital tends to flee when a company increases prices. Fortunately for Procter & Gamble it has pricing power. It is in the unique position of being capable of raising prices while maintaining growing profitability and margins. That’s exactly what Procter & Gamble expects for the remainder of 2022.
Investors will continue to scrutinize value metrics with a finer attention to detail throughout 2022. That will likely be a positive for Verizon. For one, the firm’s P/E ratio is near a 3-year low. Its trailing twelve month P/E ratio is better than 75% of the telecommunications industry. That’s not a number that is so low that investors will worry that capital will stay away for fear of a lack of interest. Similarly, Verizon’s price-to-book ratio is near a 10-year low. That also suggests that investors will continue to increasingly look into VZ stock moving forward. Equally importantly, those figures denote safety.
Another figure that implies relative safety with Verizon is its beta of 0.39. Beta is a measure of volatility with figures under 1 denoting lower volatility. In essence, Verizon is less prone to swing with the markets upward or downward. In unpredictable times like now, that is synonymous with safety.
Verizon’s 5G rollout hasn’t gone as smoothly as other carriers’. That’s a relative knock on the company. However, it did manage to slightly outperform expectations with recent EPS (earnings per share) figures slightly outpacing expectations.
Safe Stocks to Buy: FedEx (FDX)
It’s no secret that logistics companies and supply chains have become increasingly important to our economy. And FedEx benefits as a household name operating in that sector. The scale of FedEx’s impact may surprise, though.
According to the firm, “FedEx has a direct impact of approximately $70 billion on the national economy through its annual revenue and accompanying economic activity generated for the national gross output.” Drill down into the transportation sector and FedEx’s impact becomes even more apparent: “Focusing on the transportation sector, which encompasses public and private jobs ranging from transit operators to mechanics to line-haul truck drivers, the direct contribution of FedEx to the sector’s gross output increased between February and November of 2020 from 1.48% to 1.67%.”
So, why should FedEx be considered a safe stock to buy in March? FedEx is handling a difficult labor market well. Labor inflation is an issue across the economy. Workers cost more now than they did prior. FedEx has handled those associated costs well for its more than 375,000 employees. The $4.83 EPS figures FedEx reported were well ahead of the $4.27 Wall Street was expecting from the firm.
Costco Wholesale (COST)
There’s a reasonably strong argument that Costco is in great position right now. The bulk retailer sells the necessities consumers require at a time when they should flock to its locations. With inflation seemingly out of control, Costco is as appealing as ever. Consumers will continue to go to Costco as bulk items become more attractive. The worse inflation numbers get, the more attractive Costco becomes. It’s simple.
Growth is slated to continue for the firm. Costco is expected to see approximately $219 billion in revenues in 2022. That figure should rise to $235 billion in 2023. So, it isn’t top line numbers that pose much of a concern.
It is P/E ratios that should, however. Costco is currently trading at 44.2 times earnings. That’s not too far from its 10-year high of 48.81 times earnings. That will cause some hesitation. However, I’d still choose to go in given what a strong company Costco is overall.
Safe Stocks to Buy: Equinor (EQNR)
Equinor is a Norway-based oil and gas firm that is 67% owned by the Norwegian government. The company is primarily an oil and gas producer but it also invests in alternative energy including wind and solar.
Equinor is doing very well on high gas and oil prices and posted a record quarter recently. Revenue reached $32.6 billion, up 178% on a year-over-year basis. Equally importantly for the argument relating to safety, Equinor announced a share buyback program that could be as large as $5 billion in 2022. It concurrently announced a 20 cent dividend.
The firm’s Troll phase 3 project has breakeven prices under $10 per barrel. That bodes very well given current at the pump prices. Its Bacalhau Phase 1 project is 50% is expected to carry breakeven prices under $35 per barrel.
On the date of publication, Alex Sirois 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.