Insights

2 Stocks Continously Show They Are Safe Bets

Are you looking for a safe place to invest right now? A good strategy for investors is to buy shares of large businesses that provide customers with essential products and services. These are the types of businesses that can prove to be solid investments even amid inflation and a possible recession.

Both UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH) and PepsiCo (NASDAQ: PEP) fall into those categories. And their resilience is evident in their recently released quarterly reports.

1. UnitedHealth Group

Earlier this month, UnitedHealth released its second-quarter earnings. For the period ended June 30, the company’s revenue totaled $80.3 billion and rose 13% year over year. Analysts were expecting $79.7 billion in sales. On the bottom line, the beat was even better; UnitedHealth’s profit of just under $5.1 billion was better than Wall Street estimates of $4.27 billion.

In addition, the company bumped up its guidance. UnitedHealth now projects its per-share earnings to be between $20.45 and $20.95 for the full year, which is 15 cents more than an earlier forecast. However, solid results are par for the course for UnitedHealth as there’s always a need for health insurance coverage, especially as seniors account for a greater chunk of the population. In recent years, UnitedHealth has generated steady but consistent revenue growth:

UNH Revenue (Quarterly YOY Growth) data by YCharts.

I’ve also shown in the past how the company’s modest 1.3% (vs. the S&P 500‘s 1.7%) dividend yield looks a whole lot better when taking into context the gains that the stock has generated for investors in the past.

For a stalwart investment that’s both growing and paying a good dividend, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a much safer buy right now than UnitedHealth. Year to date, shares of the healthcare stock are up 5%, performing far better than the S&P, which is down 17%.

One negative about the stock right now is its valuation, which may have become a bit rich. UnitedHealth trades at a forward price-to-earnings multiple of 24 while the average stock in the Health Care Select Sector SPDR Fund trades at a multiple of 16. However, given the long-term potential the stock offers through both its dividend and steady growth, it may still make for an excellent investment today.

2. PepsiCo

PepsiCo’s products aren’t nearly as essential and crucial for consumers as UnitedHealth’s services are. However, not everyone is willing to cut out their favorite snack or beverage, even if it saves a few dollars. So for those consumers, I’d argue they are essential. Some of the big names in PepsiCo’s portfolio include Lay’s, Mountain Dew, Ruffles, Cheetos, and Quaker Oats. The strength of PepsiCo’s brands is evident in its second-quarter numbers. 

In Q2, the company soundly beat expectations with revenue of $20.2 billion, coming in higher than analyst expectations of $19.5 billion. And adjusted earnings per share of $1.86 for the period ended June 11 were far better than the $1.74 that Wall Street was anticipating. A clever way the company combats inflation is not just through raising prices but also by shrinking the size of its products. That’s part of its strategy moving forward to help offset rising costs. A subtly smaller package is going to be less noticeable to consumers than a big price hike that you’ll see on a receipt.

But regardless of what situation it faces, PepsiCo has consistently found ways to generate steady revenue growth (aside from the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic):

PEP Revenue (Quarterly YOY Growth) data by YCharts.

Amid reopenings, PepsiCo may even stand to benefit from greater demand for its products as stores and restaurants restock their inventories. Like UnitedHealth, PepsiCo has hiked its guidance, projecting 10% organic growth for this year (vs. its previous forecast of 8%). 

Year to date, the stock has fallen a relatively modest 2%. And although its valuation may be a tad rich, trading at 26 times its future profits, the stock can be a safe place to park your money amid this bear market. PepsiCo also pays an above-average dividend yield of 2.7%.

David Jagielski has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends UnitedHealth Group. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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