We’re facing the worst global pandemic in a 100 years. The stock market has crashed, leaving some FTSE 100 stocks down by as much as 50%. In this situation, working out where to put your retirement savings is pretty difficult.
To solve this problem, I prefer to invest in companies that provide essential products and services. The kind of thing we can’t do without. In this piece I’m going to look at three firms which I rate as buys in today’s market.
Healthcare should deliver long-term growth
My first pick is FTSE 100 pharmaceutical group GlaxoSmithKline (LSE: GSK). This may seem an obvious choice in the coronavirus pandemic, but in reality I don’t think this crisis will have much impact on Glaxo.
The group’s boffins are working with peers at French firm Sanofi to develop a vaccine for Covid-19. But even if this is successful, it will only be one of many vaccines sold by GlaxoSmithKline, which is heavily invested in this sector.
As well as vaccines, the Brentford-based group also specialises in treatments for respiratory illnesses, HIV, and cancer. Glaxo also has a large portfolio of branded consumer healthcare products such as Sensodyne and Panadol.
I expect this FTSE 100 stock to deliver reliable growth for decades to come. At current levels, the shares offer a dividend yield of 4.8% and trade on around 14 times forecast earnings. I’d like to buy more at this level.
This FTSE 100 stock looks too cheap
A long-term holding in my own portfolio is FTSE 100 insurer Aviva (LSE: AV). This insurance and savings group paid out £33bn in claims in 2019 and ended the year with more than £500bn of assets under management.
Aviva has been in business for more than 320 years. As you can see from the numbers above, it’s a pretty large business. I’m pretty confident that products such as home and life insurance will remain important to us in the future.
Unfortunately the group has suspended its dividend, following pressure on insurers from the UK’s financial regulator.
However, Aviva reported a capital surplus of £12.6bn at the end of 2019. I’m fairly comfortable the company will be able to absorb extra losses resulting from the pandemic. I expect the dividend to return fairly quickly.
The market crash has left Aviva stock trading at a 45% discount to its 2019 net asset value of 434p. I think that’s too cheap and rate this FTSE 100 stock as long-term buy.
A great British engineer
Smiths Group (LSE: SMIN) has featured in the news recently as a supplier of ventilators to the NHS. But this business is an old-fashioned engineering conglomerate which operates in a number of sectors.
In addition to medical equipment, Smiths makes products including airport security scanners, flexible hoses, and electronics. The group also provides specialist seals and filtration systems used in sectors including oil and gas and chemicals.
Some of these businesses could see a slump in demand over the next year or two, in my opinion. But Smiths’ latest results show the group performing well during the six months to 31 January, with half-year profits up by 17%.
Smiths shares haven’t traded at current levels since 2016. I see this as a good opportunity to buy into a successful industrial group which has evolved over more than 100 years. The shares look reasonably priced to me, on around 15 times forecast earnings.
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Roland Head owns shares of Aviva and GlaxoSmithKline. The Motley Fool UK owns shares of and has recommended GlaxoSmithKline. 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.