Stocks to buy

It’s time to be looking for stocks for an uncertain economy. Because, as investors, we face a highly complicated macroeconomic outlook. For one, the Federal Reserve has raised interest rates at the fastest pace in decades. Yet, inflation remains elevated. Two, the war continues to drag on in Eastern Europe. Three, tensions are mounting with China amid a seeming period of deglobalization. In short, there are a lot of things that could potentially go wrong for investors over the next 12 months.

Yet, over time, the stock market has a way of rising even in the face of adversity. And it generally pays to stay invested even in uncertain times. As such, a smart move could be to buy resilient stocks — the sorts of defensive stocks that can thrive even if the economy tips into a recession. Here are seven safe stocks to put on your watchlist today.

WMT Walmart $152.81
DUK Duke Energy $99.41
BF-A BF-B Brown-Forman $64.49
CL Colgate-Palmolive $78.33
KMB Kimberly Clark $146.23
PSA Public Storage $287.44
CSV Carriage Services $28.36

Walmart (WMT)

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The Dow Jones Index is made up of 30 of the largest, most conservative, most stable blue-chip companies in America. Despite that, if you invested in all 30 Dow stocks in 2007, at that market peak, you were in for a rough ride as the index lost nearly half its value between then and March 2009.

However, just one of the 30 Dow stocks increased in value over that span. That would be Walmart (NYSE:WMT). If a company could make it through the 2008 financial crisis while delivering a positive shareholder return, it is probably going to be fine in whatever economic shocks come in the future.

Walmart’s strength is that it is known for its everyday low prices. Over the years, Walmart has built a tremendous brand around providing unbeatable value to consumers. Even in unsettling times, such as the current inflationary conditions we face today, Walmart’s commitment to delivering extraordinary value speaks to consumers. Times are hard right now. People are going to be trading down, prioritizing budget over style. Walmart is perfectly positioned to pick up market share as people revisit their shopping patterns.

Duke Energy (DUK)

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Duke Energy (NYSE:DUK) is a leading power utility. The recession-resistant appeal should be clear; people will keep paying their power bills even as they have to cut other expenses. The company has also enjoyed strong growth in recent years as it operates in markets with rapid population growth, such as Florida. The pandemic-era housing market saw a ton of folks move into Florida, North Carolina, and other key Duke operating regions.

Plus, it has a huge position in renewable power and green energy. The firm is building 3,100 MW of new solar by 2028, along with 1,600 MW of battery storage by 2029. It has efforts in onshore wind and other promising fields as well. And, with the way regulated utility works, Duke often receives guaranteed returns on these green investments.

DUK stock has sold off 15% over the past year. This has set up an intriguing entry point today, with the stock at 17 times forward earnings while offering a 4.1% dividend yield.

Brown-Forman (BF-A) (BF-B)

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There’s perhaps no industry more recession-proof than the spirits industry. Brown-Forman (NYSE:BF-A) (NYSE:BF-B) has been manufacturing its Jack Daniels whisky at a stiff 80-proof for decades, and it has plenty of other strong spirits as well.

Jack Daniels is such a remarkable brand that its company was able to stay in business even during America’s long Prohibition period. If a whiskey company can survive that, it can survive just about anything. And the Brown-Forman of nowadays has enjoyed tremendous growth. It has made Jack Daniels a global brand, known from Southeast Asia to Latin America and everywhere in between. Shrewd acquisitions, such as the purchase of Herradura tequila many years ago, have broadened the company’s brand profile.

In addition, a smart move into ready-to-drink beverages has proven profitable. A recent deal to launch Jack & Coke in a can with Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) should boost sales even further. Whether times are good or people are drinking through the down days, alcohol demand tends to be stable. Brown-Forman shares have produced tremendous returns over the decades, and that should continue for many years to come.

Colgate-Palmolive (CL)

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Another resilient category in any recession is consumer essentials. Regardless of what the economy is doing, people are going to brush their teeth and use soap. Colgate-Palmolive (NYSE:CL) is a leading producer of goods for these sorts of basic needs. Colgate has a tremendous market share for toothpaste, particularly so in developing countries. And Colgate-Palmolive’s other hygiene products are a staple in people’s pantries.

CL stock has been an underperformer recently as sales dipped following a pandemic-induced stocking-up period. In addition, higher commodity prices have pressured profit margins. But the long-term demand picture for hygiene and cleaning products is unlikely to change much. Colgate isn’t glamorous, but it produces stable cash flows and reliable dividends in all economic climates.

Kimberly-Clark (KMB)

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Sticking with the consumer essential themes, Kimberly-Clark (NYSE:KMB) is another great defensive stock holding. The firm is known for making toilet paper and other bathroom essentials. It is also involved in hand soap, cleaning supplies, and other such necessities. In addition, it is a major player in both diapers and incontinence products, giving it a cradle-to-grave presence in peoples’ lives.

Like Colgate, KMB stock hasn’t been much to write home about over the past year or two. Shares enjoyed an initial surge in 2020 as people bought extra toilet paper, but the stock hasn’t moved since then.

Things could be set to heat up for Kimberly-Clark, however. Inflationary pressures are receding as the price of lumber (and thus wood pulp) along with other important input goods has plunged. As the economy normalizes, Kimberly-Clark’s profit margins should stabilize, leading the company to rising profitability. In the meantime, shares offer a sturdy 3.3% dividend yield.

Public Storage (PSA)

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It’s been a rough ride for real estate investment trusts (REITs) over the past year. As interest rates have soared, people are demanding higher dividend yields from their income stocks. In addition, rising interest rates will cause REITs to have to pay higher amounts of interest on their debts. However, not all REITs deserve to be sold off so sharply. Public Storage (NYSE:PSA), for example, is in a good place since it is the leader in the storage arena.

Storage is one of the few areas within real estate that is recession-proof. That’s because people still need to store their stuff even during hard times. Indeed, storage stocks surged in 2008 as foreclosures spiked. Recessions can sometimes stimulate additional demand. People that move to different apartments or are foreclosed upon may need to take advantage of Public Storage services in the interim.

PSA stock has dropped more than 25% over the past year, making it a relative bargain today. The dividend yield has crept up above the 4% mark. And with its industry-leading size and more planned acquisitions on the way, Public Storage has the brand and scale to keep dominating the industry for many years to come.

Carriage Services (CSV)

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Carriage Services (NYSE:CSV) is perhaps the ultimate recession-proof stock. It is, after all, a company that provides funeral services. Even an economic shock can’t disrupt father time. Carriage Services is present in all parts of its industry; it offers funerals, cemetery services, and related products such as caskets and urns.

Shares were quiet for many years. However, management has gotten more aggressive in recent years. It has engaged in a massive share buyback program, which has boosted earnings considerably. CSV stock became overvalued amid the euphoric market conditions of 2021. However, shares have now fallen by more than half since their peak, which puts shares at just 13 times forward earnings. That’s a great entry point for this defensive stock.

On the date of publication, Ian Bezek held a long position in BF-A stock. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.

Ian Bezek has written more than 1,000 articles for InvestorPlace.com and Seeking Alpha. He also worked as a Junior Analyst for Kerrisdale Capital, a $300 million New York City-based hedge fund. You can reach him on Twitter at @irbezek.

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