Stock Investment

With investors having less money for investment due to the surge in cost-of-living, Maxim Manturov, Head of Investment Advice at Freedom Finance Europe, gives four safe investments to get investors through uncertain times. 

Periods of uncertainty are not a time to experiment with or risk investments. The most important aspect of any investment strategy during a recession, or when money is tight, like a cost-of-living crisis, is safety.  

While it may seem tempting to survive a recession or cost-of-living crisis without stocks, investors may find that they are missing out on significant opportunities by sitting it out. Historically, there are companies that thrive during economic downturns, you just need to know where to look.

During a crisis period, it is best to focus on industries that offer goods and services that are in constant demand. These are safe investment options as they are basic consumer goods and essentials that people need, and buy, regardless of their financial situation.

It is therefore worth continuing to invest and accumulate these investments despite the rising cost of living. Crises are more likely to be short-term, while in the long term present an excellent opportunity for returns.

 

Where to invest during a cost-of-living crisis 

Coca-Cola (KO). The world’s largest soft drink company generates most of its revenue internationally, with its key markets outside of the US and UK being countries like Mexico, Brazil, and Japan. Over the last decade, Coca-Cola’s gross margins have been relatively stable at around 60%. Even in the pandemic-ridden 2020, its gross margin was 59.3%, with Coca-Cola delivering excellent operating margins.

Price power is crucial in an environment of rising inflation and Coca-Cola has demonstrated price power for decades. If Coca-Cola’s input costs rise because of inflation, which is currently the case, Coca-Cola can pass those increases on to consumers to protect its profit margin. Coca-Cola beat earnings per share and revenue estimates in the latest quarter and raised its full-year forecast, posting earnings per share of $0.70 (£0.63) in the second quarter, three cents above the target set by Wall Street.

The outlook for the full year has been raised with the company now expecting organic revenue growth of 12% to 13%, up from the previous forecast of 7% to 8% growth. Growth potential to the average target price at $70 (£63), about 23% upside.

Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) is the world’s largest healthcare company. Key reasons for J&J to succeed includecontinued earnings growth and growth through mergers and acquisitions. Specifically, J&J’s total revenue, excluding its consumer business, is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) in the low single digits and its earnings at a compound annual growth rate in the single digits over the next 5 years. 

Late last year, J&J announced plans to spin off its consumer health products business into a new public company within the next 18-24 months. J&J wants to focus solely on healthcare through two other segments – pharmaceuticals and medical devices. The move should help boost the company’s revenue growth. 

J&J’s largest therapeutic areas by revenue are oncology and immunology. These two areas are also the largest and fastest growing in the pharmaceutical industry. In addition, J&J has increased its dividend every year for a long time and is likely to continue rewarding its shareholders with payouts. There is upside potential to an average target price of $187 (£169), about 13% upside.

Lockheed Martin (LMT) is the world’s largest defence contractor and has dominated the western high-end fighter aircraft market since the F-35 programme was launched in 2001. Lockheed Martin has a robust business model, high and growing free cash flow, a desire to spend it on shareholder returns and a long history of consistent and high dividend growth. 

LMT is on track to meet its $4 billion (£3.6 bn) annual forecast in stock buybacks as it seeks to deliver more than 100% free cash flow to shareholders during the year, including dividends. It continues to pursue its long-term strategy of disciplined and dynamic capital allocation, increasing free cash flow per stock and thereby delivering strong long-term returns to shareholders. 

With stable military budgets in the US, increased international sales of defence equipment and a return to the expansion phase of commercial aircraft deliveries, the defence industry has long-term growth potential, with a focus on modernisation and research and funding for defence contractors. Moreover, US defence spending has grown significantly in recent years and is currently projected to grow over the next decade. The country’s current annual spending is at around $700 billion (£631 bn), and this amount is projected to rise to more than $900 billion (£811 bn) in 10 years, implying a 28% increase. Growth potential to the average target price at $470 (£424), about 16% upside.

Costco (COST) is a leading retailer with 815 shops worldwide (at the end of fiscal year 2021). It sells memberships that allow customers to shop in its warehouses with low prices on a limited range of products. 

The main argument is that this retailer has long demonstrated the ability to thrive regardless of general economic conditions. This is what gives this discount club operator an advantage over traditional discount retailers. Costco, for example, has historically shown consistent results in times of recession. This advantage is also true when it comes to an inflationary period like the one we are currently in and as seen in its quarterly results, it continues to “thrive amid belt-tightening”, which was also seen in the previous report. 

That said, it is reasonable to expect that the company will continue to show good results in the coming quarters. Simply put, investors are beginning to realise that the story hasn’t changed. As expected, net sales rose strongly during the quarter. Revenue for the quarter was $51.6 billion (£47 bn), up 16.3% year-on-year. Earnings per stock (EPS) of $3.04 (£2.74) rose 10.6%, it was good to see that both revenue, $52.6 billion (£47.5 bn) and EPS of $3.04 (£2.74) per stock beat consensus forecasts. Upside potential to the average target price of $610 (£550), about 28% upside.