Healthcare Business

Why Big Pharmaceutical Stocks May Be the Best Place for Worried Investors Now

Lee Jackson

One thing has become increasingly obvious as the weeks have passed since the coronavirus threat entered the daily lexicon. Worried investors are unsure how to redeploy all the cash they have generated. In fact, money markets are currently bursting at the seams with an estimated $245 billion stashed in them. With money market yields very low, and some concern over all the backstopping for them, some investors are looking for conservative growth ideas, and big pharma may be the ticket.

One place that usually makes sense, in good times or bad, is the big pharmaceutical companies. Now is as good a time as any to own them. It should be noted that while a COVID-19 vaccine that is effective will be a breakthrough, most agree that it would probably not be a huge financial windfall for the company that makes the discovery. Yet, it would be a very positive corporate public relations windfall for sure.

We screened the Merrill Lynch pharmaceutical universe for stocks rated Buy and found four great ideas for nervous investors looking to put money back to work.

Abbott Laboratories

This top pharmaceutical and med-tech stock has very solid growth potential. Abbott Laboratories (NYSE: ABT) manufactures and sells health care products worldwide.

The company’s Established Pharmaceutical Products segment offers branded generic pharmaceuticals to treat pancreatic exocrine insufficiency; irritable bowel syndrome or biliary spasm; intrahepatic cholestasis or depressive symptoms; gynecological disorders; hormone replacement therapy; dyslipidemia; hypertension; hypothyroidism; Ménière’s disease and vestibular vertigo; pain, fever and inflammation; migraines; anti-infective clarithromycin; cardiovascular and metabolic products; and influenza vaccines, as well as to regulate physiological rhythm of the colon.

Its Diagnostic Products segment provides immunoassay and clinical chemistry systems; assays used to screen or diagnosis cancer, cardiac, drugs of abuse, fertility, infectious diseases, and therapeutic drug monitoring; hematology systems and reagents; diagnostic systems and cartridges; instruments to automate the extraction, purification and preparation of DNA and RNA from patient samples, and detects and measures infectious agents; genomic-based tests; informatics and automation solutions; and a suite of informatics tools and professional services.

Abbott Labs is unveiling a coronavirus test that can tell if someone is infected in as little as five minutes, and it is so small and portable it can be used in almost any health care setting. Last Friday, the company received emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) “for use by authorized laboratories and patient care settings.”

Investors receive a 1.78% dividend. The Merrill Lynch analysts have their price target set at $95, but the Wall Street consensus target was last seen at $98.27. Abbott Laboratories stock closed Monday’s trading session at $79.34 per share, up over 6% on the day.

AstraZeneca

This stock offers investors a solid entry point after being hit hard in the panic selling. AstraZeneca PLC (NYSE: AZN) is a global, innovation-driven biopharmaceutical business that focuses on the discovery, development and commercialization of prescription medicines, primarily for the treatment of cardiovascular, metabolic, respiratory, inflammation, autoimmune, oncology, infection and neuroscience diseases. AstraZeneca operates in over 100 countries, and millions of patients worldwide use its innovative medicines.