Shareholders of CVS Caremark (CVS) are having a solid 2013 -- shares of the retail pharmacy and benefits manager have rallied almost 25% so far this year. CVS has had some good timing lately. The firm acquired Caremark in 2007, buying exposure to a stable pharmacy benefit manager just as the floor was falling out of the economy; as a result, CVS actually managed to grow during the recession.
Today, CVS Caremark boasts more than 7,000 retail pharmacies and benefits management for around 1 billion prescriptions each year. More recently, the introduction of MinuteClinic health clinic locations at around 500 of CVS' retail locations has provided attractive exposure to a growing corner of the healthcare business. As healthcare costs continue to push consumers away from conventional physicians' offices, cheaper alternatives like MinuteClinic offer a big advantage for health screenings and minor medical treatment.The addition of MinuteClinic to CVS' stable of offerings is important for another reason -- it creates a complete vertical integration of healthcare provider, benefits management and retail pharmacy, a combination that should keep costs low and incentivize customers to use CVS each step of the way. Of the defensive names on our list, CVS has the biggest differential between its bull market beta and its bear market beta. That means that this stock benefits way more when times are good than it suffers when they aren't. I also featured CVS in "5 Trading Setups With Upside This Week."
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