Bad news is everywhere and investors are scared.
Crude oil prices have slumped over 25% since the start of the year on fears of oversupply, and we're only in January. Global indices such as the Japan's Nikkei and London's FTSE have lost over 20% from recent peaks, officially entering a bear market.
But there are some stocks that don't follow the market on its way down. They have been among the few bright spots in the recent carnage. All of them have made moves that would suggest a solid-or-better performance in the coming months -- if not beyond. In a few cases, conditions have become more favorable in their industries.
Macy's (M) - Get Report
Former retail powerhouse Macy's ended 2015 47% lower than its start, but this year the stock is smartly up 11%.
It has been known for a while now that the retail giant is facing immense pressure from online retailers such as Amazon, as shoppers increasingly move their purchases from brick-and-mortar stores to online channels. This had led Macy's to close down 40 stores at the start of this year.
However, what is mainly driving the stock up in the falling market is David Einhorn led hedge fund Greenlight Capital's investment in the retailer. Einhorn expects a private equity firm to join hands with a real estate investment trust (REIT) to buy Macy's, thus unlocking more value for stakeholders. While Macy's was opposed to becoming a REIT earlier, it is now looking at its real estate assets more professionally, says CNBC.
The defensive utility sector will never go out of fashion. When the going gets tough, investors tend to flock to the comfort of their stable and dependable business model and consistent dividend payouts. Consolidated Edison is a name that delivers on both counts.
In New York, the company serves 3.7 million customers with electric service and provides gas service to another roughly 1.2 million people. Its focus on regulated activities has helped it grow dividends for over 40 years. A true dividend aristocrat, Consolidated Edison is the sole utility firm in the S&P 500 which has consecutively increased dividends for 30 or more years.
The almost two centuries old company has also done a good job of recognizing trends. New York expects to target 50% renewable energy by 2030, and the company is investing $1.5 billion in the development of its renewable power segment. The company is already the sixth largest owner and operator of solar photovoltaic cells in North America.
So far this year, Consolidated Edison has clocked in gains of 6%, compared to the 7.6% fall of S&P 500. At a dividend yield of more than 3.8%, the company, through capital appreciation and steady dividends, provides robust opportunities for lucrative total returns in a market where almost every stock is crashing. If that isn't enough, a Beta of 0.13 for the stock should be a good reason to protect your portfolio from market volatility.
Consolidated Edison is among a group of promising stocks that should defy the downward trend in 2016.
Time Warner (TWX)
After a rough 2015 where TWX lost 24% owning to cord-cutting by subscribers and increasing competition from online streaming services like Netflix, the stock is bouncing back this year, recording year-to-date (YTD) gains of over 6%.
After a failed acquisition attempt by Twenty-First Century Fox, there has been increasing pressure from activist investors such as Corvex Management on TWX's management to unlock value for shareholders, either through a spinoff of cable-network HBO or a complete sale of Time Warner.
While TWX CEO Jeff Bewkes dismissed the idea of letting go of HBO, he seems to be open to considering the outright sale of the company. Rumor mills are also abuzz with talk of takeover interest from Apple.
Whatever the outcome, investors can expect some developments in the company soon which will put shareholder interest at the epicenter.
The analyst seem to see value in the stock as none of 36 analysts tracking the stock suggest selling it (26 rating the stock as buy or strong buy) and have a consensus target of 19% higher target price.
When all hell breaks loose in the stock markets, investors run to the safe haven status of bonds and gold. One segment that benefits from this shift to gold is mining companies like Gold Fields.
Up nearly 8% since the start of the year, Gold Fields is a South Africa-based gold producer with eight operating mines in Australia, Ghana, Peru, and South Africa. Analysts providing a 12-month median target for the company expect the stock to gain over 20% from current levels of $3.13.
From levels of $1,080 an ounce at the start of the year, gold is already above the $1,100 an ounce mark currently. With crude oil showing few signs of recovery, China markets in turmoil and uncertainty on rate action by the U.S. Federal Reserve, gold might just regain its highs of over $1,900, and take mining stocks along with it.
Imaging systems manufacturer FLIR Systems has had a January filled with announcements. In the first week it announced enhancements to optical gas imaging on their cameras and the launch of a new security camera. It also launched two new products at the New York Boat Show earlier in the month.
These new product launches have helped the stock register gains of 5% YTD in an otherwise grim market. The stock's upward trajectory confirms the importance of technological innovation for sustained earnings growth.
Analysts are bullish on the stock. According to Thomson Reuters, analysts expect 12.9% earnings per share growth (EPS) for the current year, compared to an earnings slump of 1.2% for the S&P 500. In terms of the share price, over a 12-month period, analysts expect a more than 16% upside to the stock from current levels of $30. Another low Beta stock in our list (0.6), this stock should weather the market's turmoil in 2016.
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This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.