It may be an awful day for the markets, but not all stocks are losers. There are at least a handful of FTSE 100 stocks that are making fairly decent gains. No prizes for guessing which these are though. These are the classic defensive shares investors buy when there is some serious economic and stock market uncertainty around.
These include the healthcare biggie and Covid-19 vaccine developer AstraZeneca (LSE: AZN) and precious metals miner Polymetal International (LSE: POLY). While the AstraZeneca stock is up some 3% as I write, Polymetal International is up 1.4%. If stock markets keep falling, I think I can be fairly certain that both stocks will have further upside to them.
AstraZeneca is a dependable healthcare stock
Being a healthcare company, AstraZeneca’s treatments are in demand even during times of economic slowdowns. Additionally, the fact that they are successful and widely accepted makes it an even more coveted stock to hold. This shows up in its financials too. This makes AZN a far safer place for me to park my funds than real estate and industrial metals stocks that are vulnerable to withdrawal of fiscal stimulus by governments.
That said, it is not devoid of its own, very particular, challenges. For instance, the company was in disagreement with the European Union earlier this year regarding the distribution of vaccines. Also there were questions around the efficacy of the vaccine itself. Despite all this, it has always been a pricey stock. Its current price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio is at 39 times, and this is among the lowest I have seen since I started tracking the stock.
Polymetal International is a precious metals play
Polymetal International mines gold and silver, both of which see rising demand during uncertain times. Last year was a good example of this. As stock markets crashed, gold prices rallied. They only slowed their upward climb when the economic outlook improved.
But I like the stock because of its performance even before the gold price rally started. Since 2017, the company has seen a consistent rise in both its revenues and profits. In other words, even if it benefits from higher gold prices, its performance is not dependent on them, which makes it a far more dependable stock to hold than many others. It also has a dividend yield of a high 7.4%.
The only catch to the stock, I feel, is the share price crash it has seen. In the last year, it has fallen by more than 25%. This is a big downer, but then again it is potentially good for portfolio de-risking when there is a slowdown. Also, I think that as its share price has fallen so much, that it was only a matter of time before it started rising.
Would I buy these FTSE 100 shares?
I bought both stocks a while ago. And this is only partly because of their defensive nature. I just really liked their performance. And over time, if it is maintained, it only goes in the stocks’ favour. They are still good buys, in my view.
Manika Premsingh owns shares of AstraZeneca and Polymetal International. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. Views expressed on the companies mentioned in this article are those of the writer and therefore may differ from the official recommendations we make in our subscription services such as Share Advisor, Hidden Winners and Pro. Here at The Motley Fool we believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.