Over the course of the last year, shares in British American Tobacco (LSE: BATS) have easily beaten the FTSE 100. In fact, while the UK’s leading index has fallen by 7%, British American Tobacco is up by 20% and a key reason for this is the company’s reliability versus its peers.

In other words, with the economic outlook during the last year having been decidedly uncertain it seems as though investors have sought out defensive growth stocks such as British American Tobacco, which has pushed its share price higher.

With the outlook for the global economy being uncertain due to Brexit, US interest rate rises, a slowing China and the US Presidential election, British American Tobacco could remain in vogue among investors in the coming months.

Beyond that, its popularity is likely to remain high due to the opportunity for growth from e-cigarettes, with the cost of production likely to fall as sales increase and British American Tobacco also having the potential to raise prices of traditional cigarettes. Therefore, buying a slice of the company now seems to be a shrewd move.

FTSE beater?

Also benefitting to an extent from its defensive growth profile in the last year has been Diageo (LSE: DGE). As with British American Tobacco, Diageo’s top and bottom lines are relatively robust and with investor uncertainty being high, this could prove to be extremely appealing in future.

One aspect of investing in Diageo that has arguably been somewhat disappointing in recent years has been its income prospects. Having risen rapidly, shares in Diageo began to offer a rather low yield, but in future this could change. As well as now having a yield of 3.2%, Diageo is forecast to record a rise in its bottom line of 8% in the next financial year. Alongside a payout ratio of just 66%, this indicates that rapid dividend rises could be on the horizon which may not only improve investors’ income returns, but also act as a positive catalyst on Diageo’s share price and allow it to keep beating the FTSE 100.

High price

Meanwhile, online estate agency Purplebricks (LSE: PURP) has soared by 50% since it listed in December 2015. A key reason for this is the opportunity the company appears to have within the estate agency space, with its low-cost model likely to prove popular. And with the company’s recent update being relatively positive and showing that Purplebricks is set to move into profit in 2017, investor sentiment could remain buoyant in the coming weeks and months.

Clearly, Purplebricks is dependent on a healthy housing market with lots of transactions to keep its top and bottom lines improving. However, with interest rates set to rise over the medium term, houses are likely to become less affordable – especially for first time buyers. This could cause Purplebricks’ forecasts to be downgraded somewhat and with its shares trading on a forward price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of 24, its shares could be hit even harder.

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Peter Stephens owns shares of British American Tobacco. The Motley Fool UK has recommended Diageo. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.