Stock Market Crash Alert: 3 Must-Buy Healthcare Stocks When Prices Plunge


  • Plan to buy these healthcare stocks if or when prices plunge in a crash.
  • Abbott Laboratories (ABT): Its medical device sales are proving to be an impressive performance. 
  • UnitedHealth Group (UNH): Managing to overcome a cyberattack, the healthcare giant has posted solid earnings. 
  • Johnson & Johnson (JNJ): This well-known brand likely has its products in every household.
healthcare stocks to buy - Stock Market Crash Alert: 3 Must-Buy Healthcare Stocks When Prices Plunge

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Healthcare stocks certainly haven’t set the world on fire lately. The S&P Health Care Index is up 3% so far in 2024 compared to an 8% gain in the benchmark S&P 500. Yet, many leading healthcare companies just issued better-than-expected financial results for this year’s first quarter.

Additionally, these stocks tend to perform well during presidential election years. Why? Healthcare is often an issue for candidates on the campaign trail.

Many analysts expect healthcare stocks to outperform going forward, especially since health securities can act as a defensive play during times of market volatility. That unpredictability could worsen in coming months should the timing of interest rates get pushed out further. Or, we could run into problems caused by stagflation, i.e. when inflation continues to rise as the economy slows.

So, let’s examine three worthy healthcare stocks to buy and hold should prices plunge.

Abbott Laboratories (ABT)

Close up of Abbott Laboratories sign at their headquarters in Silicon Valley
Source: Sundry Photography/

Abbott Laboratories (NYSE:ABT) just reported strong first-quarter financial results due to robust sales of its medical devices, notably its glucose-monitoring product. The healthcare company announced Q1 earnings per share (EPS) of 98 cents compared to 95 cents that was expected among analysts. Revenue in the January through March quarter totaled $9.96 billion versus $9.88 billion that was forecast on Wall Street.

Much of the company’s success came from medical device sales that came in at $4.45 billion. Further, sales of its glucose monitor “FreeStyle Libre” generated $1.5 billion of revenue. Analysts had anticipated medical device sales of $4.30 billion in the quarter. Abbott Laboratories’ medical device sales have grown in recent quarters due to a resurgence in demand for joint replacements and other surgeries that were delayed because of the Covid19 pandemic.

Like most healthcare companies, ABT has been soft lately, declining 4% over the past 12 months. And so, the stock looks richly valued trading at 33 times future earnings estimates. Investors should wait for a further pullback before taking a position.

UnitedHealth Group (UNH)

The UnitedHealth (UNH) headquarters in Minnetonka, Minnesota.
Source: Ken Wolter /

UnitedHealth Group (NYSE:UNH) has traded sideways over the past year (down 1.5% through 12 months). But it too is trading at a high multiple of 30 times future earnings estimates.

Also like Abbott Laboratories, UnitedHealth Group reported better-than-expected financial results for Q1 of this year. The largest medical insurance company in America announced EPS of $6.91 compared to $6.61 that was expected among analysts. Revenue in the January through March quarter came in at $99.80 billion versus $99.30 billion by the Wall Street forecast.

Sales were up 9% from a year earlier. UnitedHealth Group said its Q1 growth was driven by an increase in the number of people that it serves in the U.S. The total number of domestic consumers grew by two million during the most recent period.

Also, the print was especially impressive as it showed the company managed to overcome a recent cyberattack on its subsidiary Change Healthcare. UNH disclosed in February that a cyberattack breached part of Change Healthcare’s information technology network. While the fallout from the cyberattack has been far-reaching, UnitedHealth Group has moved quickly to contain the damage. The stock has doubled over the last five years, rising 111%.

Johnson & Johnson (JNJ)

jnj healthcare stocks
Source: Raihana Asral /

Also, Johnson & Johnson’s (NYSE:JNJ) first-quarter profit got a big boost from strong sales of medical devices. The consumer healthcare company reported EPS of $2.71 versus $2.64 that was expected among analysts. Revenue came in at $21.38 billion compared to $21.40 billion that was forecast on Wall Street.

Sales rose 2% from a year earlier. The company’s Medtech division that makes devices for surgeries, orthopedics and vision saw a rebound in sales during Q1. That happened as demand grows for non-urgent surgeries among the elderly.

Johnson & Johnson’s medical device business generated sales of $7.82 billion in Q1, up 4% from a year ago. The company makes growth of its medical device business a priority. For example, it recently announced a $13.10 billion acquisition of heart device firm Shockwave Medical. Also, JNJ bought two other heart device companies over the last two years, spending $16.60 billion to buy Abiomed and $400 million to buy Laminar.

Additionally, Johnson & Johnson increased its dividend to $1.24 a share, up 4.2% and the 62nd year of consecutive dividend increases. JNJ stock looks affordable, trading at nine times future earnings estimates and with a dividend yield of 3.39%. The stock is down 9% year-to-date (YTD).

On the date of publication, Joel Baglole 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 Publishing Guidelines.

Joel Baglole has been a business journalist for 20 years. He spent five years as a staff reporter at The Wall Street Journal, and has also written for The Washington Post and Toronto Star newspapers, as well as financial websites such as The Motley Fool and Investopedia.

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