Stocks to buy

There are plenty of investors who are rightly concerned about the potential for a market crash. Inflation continues to remain hot, and the Federal Reserve is doing what it can to bring inflation down. That means higher interest rates, which depress valuations.

Thus, stocks are getting hit across the board. For growth investors, this pain has been particularly acute.

Now, 2023 has seen a rebound in certain sectors, including growth, and due to expectations a pause may be on the horizon. That said, a pause can only take place if we see some significant economic headwinds. Thus, a bet on lower rates is essentially a bet on a market crash, or at least a recession.

For those anticipating that a market crash (or maybe something less scary) is on the horizon, getting defensive is a great idea. These three stocks are among my top picks for investors looking to do so.

Duke Energy (DUK)

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Duke Energy (NYSE:DUK), as its name would suggest, is an energy company that operates in two segments. The company provides both Electric Utilities and Infrastructure (EU&I) and Gas Utilities and Infrastructure (GU&I). Through producing, transmitting, distributing, and selling power, EU&I serves retail consumers in the Southeast and Midwest areas of the United States. GU&I serves natural gas customers, including wholesale customers served by municipalities, for residential, commercial, industrial, and power generation purposes.

Warren Buffett’s personal portfolio includes Duke Energy, an electric utility company that offers high dividend yields. For most of the past decade, Duke Energy was overshadowed by growth stocks as investors preferred faster-growing companies that could take advantage of low lending rates. As a result, utility stocks with traditionally slow growth rates received little attention. However, with the possibility of a market crash, predictable utility stocks, particularly those with high dividend payouts, are gaining interest again.

Although the utility sector is generally considered unexciting when purchasing promising stocks, investors should keep an eye on Duke Energy. Like other utility companies, Duke Energy benefits from natural monopolies, which offer significant barriers to entry for competitors. This makes competition less of a concern for the company.

Indeed, as far as defensive options are concerned, DUK stock is a great place for investors to start their search. This is a company I have on my radar right now.

Restaurant Brands (QSR)

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Three of the most recognizable food service companies worldwide are under the umbrella of Restaurant Brands (NYSE:QSR). This Canadian conglomerate includes world-class banners Burger King, Popeye’s, Tim Horton’s and Firehouse Subs. Thus, this lesser-known company is among the most prominent chain restaurants worldwide, with a market capitalization of roughly $30 billion.

As with Duke Energy, Restaurant Brands benefits from any economic environment. The convenience and low-cost nature of the company’s fast food products means that in times of turmoil, diners will often trade down to Restaurant Brands’ offerings. Accordingly, the company’s strong financial performance in good times and bad makes this company a particular gem to consider right now. Indeed, I believe Restaurant Brands is one of the best-positioned companies to withstand a market meltdown.

The company’s recent financial results offer a compelling case. In the previous year’s fourth quarter, Restaurant Brands displayed a strong performance in all areas, with 12% year-over-year growth in system-wide sales. This data highlights the company’s impressive financial standing and makes it an attractive option for potential investors seeking a profitable opportunity.

If we avoid a recession, QSR stock and its 3.3% yield certainly seem to provide total return upside worth considering. However, if the market turns sour, this stock could quietly outperform. That’s the kind of holding I like right now, and the reason this is my biggest position.

McCormick’s (MKC)

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McCormick’s (NYSE:MKC) stock may experience a potential upswing shortly. The spice producer recently announced price hikes, and despite some resistance, this move could lead to increased earnings for the company. Over the past few years, McCormick has experienced a slight decline in revenues, and implementing these price hikes could help turn the tide. As a result, it’s worth considering investing in McCormick’s stock now, as this decision may pay off down the line.

MKC stock may see appreciation, if the company is able to pass on inflation-related costs to consumers. Given the quality of McCormick’s brands, I think this is more than likely. The company has demonstrated strong pricing power; something investors should be watchful for right now.

Additionally, although MKC only yields 2.2%, its payouts have increased by 9.4% over the last five years. As a result, investors looking for consistent dividend growth rather than immediate profit should consider investing in MKC shares.

In its latest quarter, the manufacturer of cooking spices and herbs, and well-known brands such as Old Bay, French’s, Frank’s RedHot, and Grill Mates, surpassed analysts’ predictions. McCormick attributed its successful quarter to a diverse global range of products and a well-balanced approach between consumer and commercial customers. The company’s solid performance indicates its ability to effectively navigate and thrive in today’s competitive market.

On the date of publication, Chris MacDonald has a position in QSR. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the Publishing Guidelines.

Chris MacDonald’s love for investing led him to pursue an MBA in Finance and take on a number of management roles in corporate finance and venture capital over the past 15 years. His experience as a financial analyst in the past, coupled with his fervor for finding undervalued growth opportunities, contribute to his conservative, long-term investing perspective.

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