With the global macroeconomic outlook being decidedly uncertain, it could pay to invest in shares that are less positively correlated to the performance of the world economy. In other words, their sales and profitability are less dependent on a growing economy and are more heavily influenced by internal factors such as the amount invested in research and development, as well as the outcome of various drugs trials.
However, stocks that offer less positively-correlated financial performance are arguably becoming rarer. That’s because the world continues to become more globalised, with countries now being highly interdependent and the policy decisions made by one major economy having a sudden and direct impact on the rest of the world.
That’s partly why the healthcare sector remains popular among investors. A number of its constituents are more heavily impacted by the patent boom and bust cycle rather than the business cycle. As such, they offer diversification potential and can deliver impressive share price returns even during uncertain times for the wider stock market.
One notable business within the healthcare sector is GlaxoSmithKline (LSE: GSK). It offers a large amount of diversity through having three segments to its business, with pharmaceuticals, vaccines and consumer goods combining to create a relatively low-risk business that in the long run looks set to deliver strong profit growth.
A key reason for this is GlaxoSmithKline’s cost savings and impressive pipeline of around 40 potential treatments. With the company’s shares having a beta of just 0.9 and trading on a price-to-earnings growth (PEG) ratio of only 1.1, they offer strong growth, appealing value and excellent defensive prospects.
Also having a bottom line less positively-correlated with the wider economy is Consort Medical (LSE: CSRT). The contract development and manufacturing specialist is forecast to post a rise in its earnings of 11% in each of the next two financial years and with it having posted impressive net profit growth in the last three years, it seems to be a relatively consistent performer.
As with GlaxoSmithKline, Consort trades on a relatively appealing PEG ratio of 1.4 and with its shares having a beta of 0.3, they seem to offer a less volatile shareholder experience than the wider market, which could be a useful ally in the coming months.
Meanwhile, Allergy Therapeutics (LSE: AGY) has posted a share price rise of 22% in the last year while the FTSE 100 has fallen by 11% during the same time period.
Certainly, Allergy Therapeutics is a relatively high-risk play due in part to the fact that it’s expected to be lossmaking in both the current year and next year. However, with the pharmaceutical company having a cash pile of £33m, reporting a rise in revenue of 12% in its most recent results and having a beta of just 0.2, it may be worth a closer look for less risk-averse investors who are seeking to diversify their portfolios.
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Peter Stephens owns shares of GlaxoSmithKline. The Motley Fool UK owns shares of and has recommended GlaxoSmithKline. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.