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7 Safe Stocks to Steady Your Portfolio in 2024

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With the high-flying equities sector suddenly going soft in the second half, investors may want to consider safe stocks. These ideas might not be the first choice among market participants. Maybe they’re too boring or seemingly not relevant to present circumstances. Still, some surprises may be in order.

To better qualify which ideas are the steady stocks to trust, I turned to TipRanks’ Top Smart Score Stocks indicator. Measuring the viability of publicly traded securities based on eight factors, companies that enjoy the maximum score of 10 tend to significantly outperform the performance of the benchmark S&P 500.

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Subsequently, all of the below safe stocks feature the highest score. While that shouldn’t be confused as a guarantee of performance, it should provide some comfort during these strange times.

Vulcan Materials (VMC)

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Standing as the nation’s largest producer of construction aggregates – primarily crushed stone, sand and gravel – Vulcan Materials (NYSE:VMC) also is a major producer of aggregated-based construction materials, including asphalt and ready-mixed concrete. To be fair, building-related companies like Vulcan may face risks if the economy falls into a recession.

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Nevertheless, with President Biden’s Build Back Better plan – along with Republican infighting that may help the Democrats’ reelection bids – VMC could be an interesting idea for safe stocks to buy. Indeed, since the beginning of this year, shares gained almost 20% of equity value. And over the past 365 days, they swung up nearly 36%.

Financially, Vulcan benefits from a strong three-year revenue growth rate of 14% and a consistently profitable business. While it’s not generous from a passive income perspective, it still does pay something to pad the total return.

Lastly, analysts rate VMC a consensus strong buy with a $252.54 price target, implying 20% growth.

Merck (MRK)

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Just an overall excellent idea for safe stocks to consider, Merck (NYSE:MRK) is a world-famous multinational pharmaceutical company. One of the largest enterprises of its kind, Merck develops and products medicines, vaccines biologic therapies and animal health products. Unsurprisingly, the company benefits from multiple blockbuster drugs and products.

In fairness, MRK printed a slow performance this year, losing about 7% since the beginning of January. Looking at the trailing one-year period, the security gained 12%, which isn’t all that impressive. Still, that also translates to a relatively good deal for patient investors. Presently, shares trade at a forward multiple of 12.32x, lower than the sector median 15.13x.

Just like Vulcan Materials above, Merck enjoys an above-average revenue growth rate (at 15.4%) and is consistently profitable. The bonus here is that Merck offers a forward yield of 2.82%, making it a great candidate for steady stocks. Finally, analysts peg MRK a moderate buy with a $124.36, implying 20% growth.

Leidos (LDOS)

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Primarily a contractor with the U.S. Department of Defense along with the Department of Homeland Security, Leidos (NYSE:LDOS) is an important cog in national security. Per its public profile, the company specializes in defense, aviation information technology, and biomedical research. It provides scientific, engineering, systems integration and technical services.

For full disclosure, Leidos represents a rather choppy name. Part of that stems from an earlier profitability miss for its first-quarter earnings report. So far, LDOS slipped almost 10% on a year-to-date basis. In the trailing one-year period, shares gained just under 4%. While not impressive by any standard, LDOS now trades at a discount of 12.8x forward earnings. In contrast, the sector median stands at 22X.

Given that LDOS has been relatively de-risked in the charts, it could be one of the safe stocks to consider. Also, it pays a forward yield of 1.52% with a low payout ratio of 19.48%, indicating confidence in terms of yield sustainability. To close, analysts rate LDOS a consensus strong buy with a $113.80 target, implying over 20% upside.

Upwork (UPWK)

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Originally known as Elance-oDesk, Upwork (NASDAQ:UPWK) changed its name (and for the better I’d say). Essentially a platform for independent contractors seeking typically short-term opportunities, Upwork connects professional laborers with businesses seeking functionalities to fill. Though a relevant idea given the burgeoning gig economy, UPWK has struggled for consistent chart performance.

Since the start of the year, shares gained just under 3% of equity value. However, in the trailing one-year period, UPWK lost more than 13%. Still, some encouraging signs exist that may catalyze long-term growth. For example, Morningstar reported that, adjusted for one-time items, Upwork earned 10 cents a share in Q2 this year.

Plus, fundamental realities may help support UPWK. To be sure, by the financial print, Upwork doesn’t appear to be one of the steady stocks to buy. However, with major companies continuing to cut their workforce this year, the gig economy may expand more than anticipated.

Analysts peg UPWK a moderate buy with a $14.17 target, implying nearly 28% upside.

Live Nation Entertainment (LYV)

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An incredibly controversial entity for utterly dominating the live events ticketing industry, Live Nation Entertainment (NYSE:LYV) caught the ire of Taylor Swift fans. Basically, Live Nation’s Ticketmaster brand is the primary market provider for Swift’s global Eras Tour. However, during a presale event for true “Swifties,” Ticketmaster’s system crashed. Once online, fans quickly recognized that scalpers ended up with the lion’s share of the tickets.

Now, disheartened fans had to go through the secondary market to acquire their tickets. Of course, the scalpers recognized the value of these admissions and subsequently jacked up the price. Naturally, a cacophony of fierce criticism erupted, putting Live Nation under a bad light. Still, LYV ranks among the safe stocks. Why? There’s just nowhere else to go.

Plus, the scalping business isn’t necessarily evil. Some folks just don’t want to wait for hours on end to gain admission. Instead, they’ll gladly pay a premium. It’s capitalism at its finest. Anyways, analysts rate LYV a strong buy with a $110.64 target, implying over 28% growth.

Taiwan Semiconductor (TSM)

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While Taiwan Semiconductor (NYSE:TSM) might not immediately come to mind as one of the steady stocks based on the geopolitical backdrop, the chip contract manufacturing and design firm may draw speculative interest. And that might not be a bad thing. Since the beginning of this year, TSM swung up nearly 25%. In the past one-year period, it returned almost 39%.

In fairness, earlier this year, TSM suffered some volatility based on serious concerns about the consumer economy. With smartphone and PC demand waning, Taiwan Semi issued a warning about top-line erosion. Still, with the U.S. jobs market continuing to print robust figures, it’s possible that demand may remain relatively strong.

Either way, the softness in shares also means that TSM has been de-risked. Therefore, it’s a risky but enticing candidate for safe stocks. For instance, TSM trades at 16.12x forward earnings, lower than the underlying sector median value of 20.7x. Analysts peg TSM a strong buy with a $122.50 target, implying almost 33% upside.

Osisko Gold Royalties (OR)

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Based in Canada, Osisko Gold Royalties (NYSE:OR) holds royalties in gold, silver and diamond mines. Principally, the business is structured in the form of net smelter returns and streams. Further, Osisko also invests in mineral exploration companies through equity share purchases. Given the business model, Osisko offers a higher level of predictability compared to pure-play miners.

Now, is OR one of the steady stocks? To be quite blunt, you’re going to need a high-conviction attitude to put your money here. With a good chance that monetary policy will be more hawkish in 2024 to combat inflation, this framework doesn’t necessarily bode well for precious metals nor other commodities. At the same time, gold and silver may benefit from the fear trade.

As well, it’s important to note that precious metals are vital for various industries. Thus, Osisko could be a contrarian choice for safe stocks.

On a final note, analysts rate OR a moderate buy with a $17.44 target, implying over 50% upside potential.

On the date of publication, Josh Enomoto did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the Publishing Guidelines.

A former senior business analyst for Sony Electronics, Josh Enomoto has helped broker major contracts with Fortune Global 500 companies. Over the past several years, he has delivered unique, critical insights for the investment markets, as well as various other industries including legal, construction management, and healthcare. Tweet him at @EnomotoMedia.

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