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When tech is down, what's up? Many consumer-products stocks have taken on a new luster in recent weeks, as investors flee technology issues for the safety of Old Economy shares. Among companies that have come out on top is

Avon Products

(AVP) - Get Free Report

, which has gained 13.7% since April 10. Avon was boosted by a fortuitous report in

The Wall Street Journal

last week, saying the company expected earnings to beat analysts' estimates by a few cents a share.

While other consumer-products companies' shares did not post such stellar gains, the group as a whole outperformed the

S&P 500

last week, except for

Estee Lauder

(EL) - Get Free Report

, which lost 12.5% the week of the April 10. Estee Lauder unveiled its Internet strategy last week, announcing its purchase of beauty Web site .

"Until the markets settle down, there's going to be a tug of war between the growth sectors and defensive names," predicts William Steele, consumer-products analyst at

Banc of America Securities

. (Banc of America has done underwriting for


(DL) - Get Free Report

in the past three years).

Analysts say investors should choose wisely because sluggish growth rates will continue to plague the consumer-products sector over the next year. And negative earnings surprises, such as those issued last month by Dial and

Procter & Gamble

(PG) - Get Free Report

, could continue to haunt the sector.

In other words, even though consumer-products stocks look safe compared with volatile tech stocks, the fundamentals have not improved. Although the group has been performing relatively better after notably underperforming for some time following Procter & Gamble's preannouncement, "we believe we could see further EPS revisions for the year, as many of the issues are not short-term in nature," writes

Merrill Lynch

consumer products analyst Heather Hay in a recent note. (Merrill has performed underwriting for Dial, Estee Lauder,


(G) - Get Free Report




within the last three years.)

Banc of America's Steele says investors should include some of the stronger consumer-products issues in their portfolios, but is not predicting spectacular performance from the sector as a whole.

"Would I be overweight this group? No," says Steele. "But companies such as


(CLX) - Get Free Report



(KMB) - Get Free Report

, Avon, and to some extent Procter & Gamble, will see some good moves over the next six to 12 months."