Dividend Stocks

3 Stocks to Give You Shelter From the Coming Market Crash

Market crashes are inevitable. Destruction of your portfolio doesn’t have to be

Sometimes the best offense is a good defense. In today’s market, buying defensive stocks is probably one of the best strategies you can adopt to protect your portfolio’s gains. 

After the huge run-up last year and over the first three months of 2024, the stock market is getting a little choppy. We’re starting to see more volatility, more manic swings as company earnings are printed. That’s often a sign of a market top and a crash that’s about to come.

Protecting your downside now without going to an all-cash position is a smart move. You should prefer remaining full invested because markets can be irrational for a long time. There have been numerous head fakes already in this bull market and you don’t want to miss out on future gains.

Instead, you should buy defensive stocks that will do better in downdrafts, even if they don’t generate the same sort of gains when the market is rising. Here are three excellent stocks to seek shelter in before the market crashes.

Altria (MO)

Source: viewimage / Shutterstock.com

One of the best stocks to own to protect yourself is tobacco giant Altria (NYSE:MO). It offers particularly strong protection, as smokers will buy cigarettes no matter the market.

While smoking is in a secular decline in the U.S., there are still tens of millions of people who still choose to smoke, and they are willing to pay up for it too.

Tobacco is a heavily taxed product at the federal, state and sometimes even the local level. It is estimated over 42% of the cost of cigarettes consists of taxes. Every time the government hikes them, Altria and other cigarette makers pass on those costs. Although cigarette makers do lose a few smokers every time, the rest willingly pay. That makes Altria a very profitable company.

Over the past 10 years, MO’s gross margins have averaged around 63%, but in the past five years they are actually north of 66%. Last year gross margins stood at almost 70%. The tobacco king ends up throwing off a lot of cash too, some $9 billion worth of free cash flow in 2023.

It returns most of that to investors in the form of dividends. Its FCF payout ratio is 75% but that’s right within management’s target range of around 80%. With the payout yielding 8.9% annually, Altria stock is a safe haven in the event of a market crash.

Cardinal Health (CAH)

Cardinal Health (CAH) sign with bushes in front of it

Source: Shutterstock

Medical supplies and services distributor Cardinal Health (NYSE:CAH) is the second stalwart defensive stock to buy for a downturn. Because good health is a necessity no matter the market, it is a segment that does not get easily ignored.

Cardinal is one of the leading providers in the space. It serves nearly 90% of U.S. hospitals, over 60,000 U.S. pharmacies and more than 10,000 specialty physician offices and clinics. It also provides more than 3.4 million patients with more than 46,000 home healthcare products. 

Cardinal just reported fiscal third quarter earnings that showed business is booming. Revenue jumped 9% year-over-year to $54.9 billion, while adjusted earnings surged 20% to $2.08 per share. The drug wholesaler boosted its full-year outlook as well, as demand for weight-loss drugs such as Ozempic continue to grow.

Cardinal also pays a dividend that it has been increasing for 27 years, making the stock a dividend aristocrat. It’s a stock to buy to shelter you in any storm.

McCormick (MKC)

McCormick & Company spices lined up on a grocery store shelf.

Source: Arne Beruldsen / Shutterstock.com

You could also choose to spice up your portfolio with seasonings giant McCormick (NYSE:MKC). The stock is also dividend royalty. It’s made a payment to shareholders every year for almost 100 years, while increasing the payout for 37 consecutive years. It also split its stock 2-for-1 during the pandemic, as the forced shutdown of restaurants had more people cooking at home.

Business is still going strong. McCormick is the biggest player in the spices and herb market, according to Euromonitor, which says it has a 20% share — that is nearly four times bigger than its next closest competitor.

Still, with high inflation, high interest rate environment will take a toll as consumers cut back spending. We’re starting to see that crop up in a lot of retail earnings reports and it’s evident in McCormick’s own results. First quarter sales grew 3% year over year on a three percentage point push from price hikes. It also gained a percentage point from favorable currency exchange rates. Actual sales volumes declined 1%. 

Yet that’s the importance of having the top brand in the market. Consumers will still reach for your product, even with higher prices. That gives investors the assurance McCormick stock will sustain them through market crash, all the while being paid a healthy dividend yielding 2.2% annually.

On the date of publication, Rich Duprey held a LONG position in MO and CAH stock. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.

Rich Duprey has written about stocks and investing for the past 20 years. His articles have appeared on Nasdaq.com, The Motley Fool, and Yahoo! Finance, and he has been referenced by U.S. and international publications, including MarketWatch, Financial Times, Forbes, Fast Company, USA Today, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Cheddar News, The Boston Globe, L’Express, and numerous other news outlets.

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