There are a handful of safe haven stock sectors that investors tend to rely on during market downturns. Healthcare, utilities, and REITs come to mind. Lately, some have been saying bank shares may also prove a good defense. However, investors should be very wary of two of those just mentioned: healthcare and banks. While on the surface healthcare stocks look very good for a recession—it is not as if people stop getting sick—the reality is that there has never been more regulatory pressure on the sector (from both sides of the aisle), which means it is far from safe. Additionally, the idea that banks have become safe, utility-like dividend machines is flawed, as bank earnings are very exposed to the economic cycle, and thus will likely see big moves in both price and yield.
FINSUM: We agree with this assessment entirely. Healthcare is more vulnerable than it has been in memory and banks are a long way from being dependable utilities (excellent PR job by Wall Street though!).
Rates are looking likely to head sharply lower, and the inversion does not seem likely to abate. Since the Fed’s 25 bp cut a few weeks ago, markets and the economy’s outlook have moved sharply lower. This will likely lead to several cuts over the next year. According, what is the best way to play this big change? Two asset classes that fit the bill are gold and dividend stocks/funds. Gold thrives when there are worries about the economy and when rates are falling, so this is a perfect environment for the metal. Throw in the fact that it has been in a bear market for years and you also have valuation on your side. Dividend stocks look likely to do well because they tend to rise as rates fall. Additionally, the sharp drop in long-term yields means a 2% yielding stock looks incredibly more attractive than it did a year ago.
FINSUM: Gold seems to have a lot of momentum and valuation is on its side, but dividend funds seem like a really good bet to us.
Despite all the headlines to the contrary, beware of dividend stocks right now. On the surface, dividend stocks look attractive at present, as falling rates make their yields look more attractive. However, picking the wrong ones can be very costly. For instance, the most commonly held high dividend stocks are from blue chips. The problem there is their growth is usually weak and they generally have weaker valuations than the market.
FINSUM: The wrong dividend stocks could go very badly in the current environment, so it will be wise to have a very particular strategy.
Buyback stocks have developed a poor reputation recently. Stock buybacks are seen as financially irresponsible and a way for executives to manipulate earnings and share prices. While that may be true to a degree, they also happen to be a great way for companies to return money to shareholders. Additionally, and what is not well understood, is that buyback stocks have a great track record historically. Since 1995, the one hundred S&P 500 stocks with the highest level of buybacks have significantly outperformed the index, earning a 13% return versus the index’s 10%. The same is true for the Russell 3000, so it is not just a case of buybacks working for large caps.
FINSUM: Yes, buybacks may be at their highest total levels historically, but they are flat as a percentage of earnings, so buying hasn’t been any less conservative than in the past. The other good thing is that buyback stocks are usually cheaper than average.
Retirement income is such an important aspect of a financial advisor’s job, that one could reasonably argue it is the main duty of the profession. With that in mind, here are a couple ways to create lasting retirement income for clients. The first tip is simple, and every advisor should know it—delay claiming Social Security until 70, which significantly boosts annual income. Social Security is uniquely built to help protect against many of the risks of retirement, with one specialist saying “It’s indexed for inflation, it protects against longevity risk, and if the stock market crashes, it doesn’t go down”. The second part of this two-part strategy is to invest like one is still young. Since once is more hedged by greater Social Security income, one can afford to be more aggressive in markets.
FINSUM: This is a good basic strategy, though it requires working longer and a good degree of self-control.