Almost everybody agrees that the midterm win of the House of Representative by the Democrats assures one thing: gridlock. Generally, as a rule, Wall Street has always favored gridlock as it tends to keep both parties from becoming overly aggressive with legislation, and typically that works for stocks. One thing is for sure, and that is next year could bring more volatility. Certain sectors, like health care, may be a good place to be.
In a new research report, Jefferies also sees a gridlocked Congress starting in January. While certain items in health care may cross the aisle, there could be little done on a national basis. The report noted this:
From a broad perspective, the split Congress seems likely to reach gridlock on most controversial topics, though drug costs remain an area of common ground. We also look at the results of some of the healthcare-important gubernatorial races and assess what they might mean for Medicaid expansion and work requirements. Overall, we believe the potential for additional Medicaid expansions and insulation from “Repeal/ Replace” will benefit healthcare stocks.
These four top stocks are rated Outperform at Jefferies and look like solid picks for long-term growth accounts.
This company has a slightly higher bias to Medicaid, but it is one of the four stocks to Buy at Jefferies. Centene Corp. (NYSE: CNC) operates local health plans and offers a range of health insurance solutions. It also contracts with other health care and commercial organizations to provide specialty services, including behavioral health management, care management software, correctional health care services, dental benefits management, in-home health services, life and health management, managed vision, pharmacy benefits management, specialty pharmacy and telehealth services.
The Medicaid business provides health insurance sponsored by the state and federal government for qualified lower income individuals, children and their families through programs such as Medicaid, State Children Health Insurance Programs (SCHIP), foster care and the Aged Blind and Disabled programs.
The Jefferies price target for the stock is $162, and the Wall Street consensus target is $161.16. The stock traded on Thursday’s close at $141.94.
This is a solid value buy in the health care sector. Cigna Corp. (NYSE: CI) is a major health services organization that provides insurance and related products and services in the United States and internationally. All products and services are provided exclusively by or through operating subsidiaries of Cigna, including Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company, Life Insurance Company of North America, Cigna Life Insurance Company of Canada and their affiliates.
The health care giant offers an integrated suite of health services, such as medical, dental, behavioral health, pharmacy, vision, supplemental benefits and other related products, including group life, accident and disability insurance. Cigna maintains sales capability in 30 countries and jurisdictions, and it has approximately 86 million customer relationships throughout the world.
Jefferies has a $273 price target, and the consensus target is $244.32. The shares closed on Thursday at $222.52.
This company could be a beneficiary of the continued aging of the U.S. population. Humana Inc. (NYSE: HUM) is one of the largest managed care organizations in the United States, offering health insurance to members in the government and commercial segments. The company has a focus on Medicare Advantage but also participates in other government programs including TRICARE and Medicaid. The company also has a commercial business offering medical and specialty products.
The company recently reaffirmed 2018 guidance, announced an accelerated stock repurchase program and updated its 2019 membership growth guidance. Better Medicare Advantage (MA) and lower standalone Prescription Drug Plan outlook, net a positive to the earnings outlook. Overall, the announcement shows that the core MA growth story is on track.
Humana shareholders receive a 0.61% dividend. The $410 Jefferies price target is well above the $388.16 consensus target. The stock closed at $330.29 on Thursday.
This is a top stock to buy in the rapidly consolidating managed health sector and is still the favorite pick at Jefferies. UnitedHealth Group Inc. (NYSE: UNH) offers the full spectrum of health benefit programs for individuals, employers and Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, and contracts directly with more than 850,000 physicians and care professionals and 6,000 hospitals and other care facilities.
The company is considered the most diversified payer, either by product line, geography or customer type. Its operating segments include United Healthcare, OptumRx, OptumInsight, and OptumHealth. UnitedHealth recently updated its full-year outlook ahead of its investor day. The insurer expects to earn between $14.40 and $14.70 a share on revenue of $243 billion to $254 billion.
UnitedHealth investors receive a 1.28% dividend. Jefferies has set a $315 price target. The consensus target is $308.45, and shares were last seen at $282.55.
Again, with 2019 looking like a more volatile year for stock investors, it makes sense to shift to stocks that have consistent streams of revenue. While not immune to market sell-offs, they tend to act better in downturns and are solid defensive plays.