4 Defensive Stocks Rising During 2016 Market Panic

The year 2015 brought a bull market interruption with the Dow Jones Industrial Average falling 2.2%. Now we have seen the worst start of a year since 2008 — and we can all remember what happened after that. Unless the commodities bust gets massively worse, a repeat of the Great Recession seems unlikely. Also worth considering is that the drop in Shanghai on Thursday still did not take out the lows of August 2015 in that local volatile market.

There is a saying that there is always a bull market somewhere. Sure, they may not always be easy to find, but they do exist. Investors having bought up every single market sell-off for more than four years. This brings up the interest in some of the defensive stocks in the stock market.

Is it possible that defensive stocks are changing their stripes? Historically these have been pharmaceutical companies, companies that literally kill their customers selling cigarettes, food and water, and utilities. 24/7 Wall St. wanted to feature some of the companies that have managed to gain in the opening days of 2016 while the Dow was down almost 5% at the lows of Thursday morning, just in four trading sessions. And to think people said “Happy New Year” all weekend.

These might not exactly seem like massive winners on the surface, but a drop this big makes it hard to find winners.

Dollar Tree Inc. (NASDAQ: DLTR) was last seen down almost 2% at $79.15 on Thursday afternoon, but this is up from $77.22 at the end of 2015. Shares also hit $80.00 on Wednesday. The driving force here is simple: if you are going to spend money in hard times, you are going probably do it on the cheap. Dollar stores are now really stores with prices under $10.00. Dollar Tree has a consensus analyst price target of $83.73 and a 52-week trading range of $60.31 to $84.22. The company has a market cap of $18.5 billion, but it currently pays no dividend.

Reynolds American Inc.

(NYSE: RAI) sells tobacco, making it an old-school defensive stock. When people get stressed they tend to smoke more, and many ex-smokers are always there to fall off the wagon or cheat a bit here and there, taking a puff when they drink. And if you switched to vaping, they have that too! Despite being down 1% at $47.25 on Thursday afternoon, the stock was at $46.15 at the end of 2015, and it almost hit $48.00 on Wednesday. Reynolds American has a market cap of $67.4 billion and a consensus price target of $50.88. The 52-week trading range is $32.45 to $49.56. Does it sound right that a tobacco dividend yield is only 3%?

Senior Housing Properties Trust (NYSE: SNH) may not seem defensive at first as a real estate investment trust (REIT), but its operations have a lot of defensive characteristics. They are in the business of mostly owning properties targeting senior citizens. Baby boomers are now starting to retire, and this could be a generational growth stock. Despite being down 1% at $15.38 on Thursday, this was a $14.84 stock as of 2015’s close. The stock even hit a high just over $15.60 this week. The consensus price target is $16.08, and the 52-week trading range is $13.63 to $23.83. The market cap is $3.6 billion, but what really may stand out here is a 10% dividend yield.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT) was the worst performing stock of 2015. And if consumers still have to eat and buy clothes and other things to live on, chances are high that “Always Low Prices” sticks in their heads after years and years. Wal-Mart shares were actually up by 1.9% at $64.765 late on Thursday, and that is more than 5.5% higher than the 2015 closing price of $61.30. Wal-Mart has a 52-week trading range of $56.30 to $90.97. The consensus price target is $63.63, and the dividend yield is 3.0%. The company has a market cap of $206.6 billion.