Some may be trying to call a bottom with stocks, but many more believe the rout could continue. With this, it’s best to stay cautious. Instead of diving into more speculative stocks, stick with the best bear market stocks instead.
What do I mean when I say, “bear market stocks?” Stocks that perform well during a market downturn. A better phrase to describe them may be defensive stocks. These are the shares in steady, consistently profitable companies, that hold steady during a bear market and continue paying out dividends.
You won’t “get rich” with a bear market portfolio. You will, however, be able to possibly lessen losses during the downturn, protecting your capital while the downturn carries on.
So, what are the best bear market stocks to buy today? Consider these seven, high-quality names that have been resilient thus far in this year’s market downturn, and will likely stay steady.
Johnson & Johnson (JNJ)
Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) is a stock that needs little introduction. The healthcare giant has long been a favorite among investors. Growing its dividend 59 years in a row, it’s not only a “dividend aristocrat,” it’s also a “dividend king.”
Still, despite its appeal as a long-term buy-and-hold, you can buy JNJ stock today at a favorable valuation. Shares today trade for just 17.4x earnings. That’s below the S&P 500’s current price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of 19.4x. So far in 2022, this stock has moved slightly higher (3.9%).
Couple that with its forward dividend yield (2.54% annually) and shares stand to deliver steady returns this year. If you’re looking to add bear market stocks to your portfolio, consider this to be one of your top choices. Past performance is not indicative of future results, yet if a downturn continues, chances are JNJ will hold up.
Lockheed Martin (LMT)
Defensive giant Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT) has outperformed this market this year. This should come as no surprise. The geopolitical conflicts/tensions that have cropped up recently underscore the importance of national defense and the companies like this one that provide the necessary hardware.
It may be a while before LMT stock pops again, like it did at the onset of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. However, if you’re looking for the best bear market stocks (i.e., resilient stocks), this is also a great choice. Given the recession-resistant nature of defense contracting, the company will likely continue to report steady results.
It’ll also likely continue paying out its $2.80 per share quarterly dividend (forward yield of 2.58%). In turn, shares have a strong chance of holding steady, in the event the market dives again. Another reasonably priced safe harbor stock, add it to your watchlist.
Just like when I last about it in June, in my view, Pepsico (NASDAQ:PEP) remains my favorite of the two main cola stocks. Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) may be the larger soda brand. The company may also have the advantage of having Warren Buffett as a long-time investor.
Yet for investors who don’t own either yet, PEP stock remains the better choice. Mainly, because it has a higher level of forecasted earnings growth. It all has seen a greater level of dividend growth in recent years than Coca-Cola. Its dividend payout ratio is also lower than KO’s.
Consumer staples stocks like this one make great defensive plays. If you’re looking to build a bear market portfolio, this is another name to add into the mix. Down only slightly in 2022, it is likely to stay resilient, if the bear market carries on through the rest of this year.
Based on the recession-resistant nature of its business, Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) is naturally a great bear market stock. Yet besides this factor, there’s something else that makes it appealing. The market continues to overly discount its future results.
With the Covid-19 vaccination wave long since peaked, the expectation is that the company will see its earnings drop starting in 2023. However, the market has overreacted to what’s really a modest earnings decline, by giving the stock a single-digit forward valuation.
This excessive caution also ignores the fact that there’s evidence that this drop-off in vaccine revenue will not be as heavy as previously anticipated. There’s limited downside thanks to its low valuation. There’s ample upside potential from its vaccine catalyst having a longer runway. Add in its solid dividend yield (3.1%), and there’s a lot pointing to holding PFE stock during today’s turbulent market.
Philip Morris International (PM)
In the past, I have recommended Altria Group (NYSE:MO), parent company of Philip Morris USA. However, considering all factors, you may want to skip out on MO, and go with its former corporate sibling, Philip Morris International (NYSE:PM) instead.
Why? Two reasons. First, like Altria, with PM stock you get exposure to a recession-resistant, cash-cow business (tobacco products). Second, unlike Altria, you get with this stock a tobacco maker with a much stronger “post-smoking” catalyst. That is, the market is bullish that its move to buy alternative nicotine/tobacco products maker Swedish Match (OTCMKTS:SWMAF) helps it hedge against the decline in cigarette smoking.
Meanwhile, Altria must contend with a possible loss of its Juul vaping product due to recent actions by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). A great bear market play, with possibly less long-term risks than Altria, consider Philip Morris International a buy.
Many of the best bear market stocks are names in the personal products space. A good example is Unilever (NYSE:UL). This Anglo-Dutch firm is unique in that it’s involved in both personal products as well as food products.
It’s also unique in that, unlike some peers such as Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG), UL stock sells at a much lower valuation. At today’s prices, it trades for only 16.8x, compared to 24.8x earnings for PG stock. But besides its bear market bona fides, there’s another reason why this stock looks interesting.
That would be activist investor Nelson Peltz’s involvement with it. Recently added to its board, Peltz’s expertise in turning around consumer brands could help improve the company’s operating results going forward. This too could help move the needle for UL stock. Given all these positives, this is another name to add to your watchlist.
UnitedHealth Group (UNH)
A great stock to hold for the long term, UnitedHealth Group (NYSE:UNH) is another stock to consider buying during the continued bear market. This provider of health insurance and related services should continue to deliver strong results. Even in an economic downturn.
Earnings could continue to grow by double-digits annually. In turn, this might enable UNH stock to sustain and grow its current valuation. This healthcare play and long-time stock market winner is also beginning to emerge as a dividend stock.
Management has raised UnitedHealth’s dividend by an average of 18% over the past five years. Currently sporting a forward yield of 1.31%, its forward yield could keep climbing. Thanks to both earnings growth, as well as the fact that at present it only pays out 30.2% of its earnings as dividends. Holding steady during this year’s market downturn, now may be the time to enter a position.
Thomas Niel held a LONG position in MO stock. He 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.