The continued fall in the FTSE 100’s price level due to coronavirus fears could cause many investors to adopt a cautious attitude. After all, the stock market could decline further in the near term, which may make less risky assets such as cash and bonds appear to be more attractive.
However, the FTSE 100 contains a number of companies that offer defensive qualities. As such, they could offer superior performances relative to their index peers. Here are two such stocks that could deliver impressive total returns in the long run, as well as relatively low risks in the short term.
The AstraZeneca (LSE: AZN) share price has held up relatively well in recent weeks compared to the wider FTSE 100. Investors continue to be buoyed by the company’s improving financial performance over the past couple of years, with the business delivering bottom-line growth following a long period of decline.
Looking ahead, further earnings growth is forecast by the market. AstraZeneca is expected to post a rise in its bottom line of 25% next year, which could catalyse investor sentiment. It may also lead to a rising dividend, which may increase the income appeal of the stock while it has a dividend yield of 2.8% following its recent share price rise.
In addition, the pharmaceutical company’s financial performance may be less negatively impacted by market uncertainty. With investor sentiment having weakened in recent months as the threat of a slowdown in the world economy’s growth rate has increased due to the coronavirus, AstraZeneca’s defensive characteristics may increase its popularity among risk-averse investors.
As such, now could be the right time to buy the stock as it delivers improving financial performance despite a weakening global economic outlook.
Another FTSE 100 company that appears to offer defensive characteristics is Severn Trent (LSE: SVT). The utility company’s outlook has improved over the past couple of months since the possibility of the sector being nationalised has declined considerably following the general election.
This could make investors more upbeat about the prospects for utility companies – especially since they have a solid track record of dividend growth and their business models are relatively immune to the prospects for the wider economy. Their increasing popularity among investors could catalyse their share prices over the medium term.
Since Severn Trent has a dividend yield of 3.8%, it seems to offer fair value for money. Certainly, there are risks ahead for the sector, such as from regulatory change. But with the UK economy facing an uncertain period due to Brexit, and the world economy’s growth rate having been negatively impacted by the coronavirus, the risk/reward ratio offered by Severn Trent could mean that now is the right time to buy a slice of it and hold it for the long run.
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Peter Stephens owns shares of AstraZeneca. The Motley Fool UK has recommended AstraZeneca. 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.