Will Shire plc and AstraZeneca plc protect your portfolio from the upcoming storm?

With concerns about both the UK economy and global economy taking centre stage in the financial press, it seems the markets are becoming increasingly jittery and investors are becoming concerned about what the future holds for equities.

At times like these, it’s often best to hunker down, review your equity holdings with a long-term outlook and try not to make any rash decisions based on day-to-day market movements.

Two companies that may protect your portfolio from the upcoming storm are Shire (LSE: SHP) and AstraZeneca (LSE: AZN). These two pharmaceutical giants are leaders in their respective industries and because of their defensive nature the health of the global economy has little impact on their day-to-day operations.

What’s more, both these companies are looking to achieve steady growth over the next few years. Combine this projected growth with Shire and Astra’s defensive nature and you have two defensive growth stocks that should protect your portfolio from any market turbulence while achieving steady earnings growth over the next few years.

Steady growth outlook

City analysts expect Shire to report robust earnings growth over the next two years. Specifically, analysts have pencilled-in earnings per share growth of 84% for the year ending 31 December 2016. Further earnings growth of 16% is expected for the next year. 

And when you consider these market-leading growth rates, Shire’s shares look exceptionally good value at current levels. Indeed, based on current figures shares in Shire are trading at a forward PE of 14.2, implying a PEG ratio of 0.2 — a PEG ratio of less than one implies that the shares offer growth at a reasonable price. Going out to 2017, Shire’s shares trade at a 2017 PE of 12.2. 

Shire currently offers a token dividend yield of 0.4%, and the payout is covered 8.6 times by earnings per share, so there’s plenty of room for further payout growth.

Income champion 

Astra’s earnings are expected to fall for the next two years as the company continues to grapple with the loss of exclusive manufacturing rights for some of its treatments. Nonetheless, when it comes to income, Astra could make a great accomplice to Shire in any portfolio. 

Astra’s shares currently support a dividend yield of 5.1%, and the payout is covered one-and-a-half times by earnings per share. City analysts expect the company’s earnings per share to fall 9% this year and 1% for the year ending 31 December 2017 before returning to growth during 2018. Astra’s shares currently trade at a forward PE of 13.9.

The bottom line 

So overall, if you want to protect your portfolio from market turbulence then Shire and Astra could be two perfect picks. Shire’s growth is really set to take off over the next few years and the company could make a great growth investment for any portfolio. Meanwhile, Astra is a FTSE 100 income champion, which would boost any portfolio’s income stream with the company’s 5.1% dividend yield.   

Should you buy?

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Rupert Hargreaves has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has recommended AstraZeneca. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.