BOSTON (TheStreet) -- Corporate profits are soaring, but that's not enough for investors.

S&P 500 companies boosted second-quarter earnings by 34%, analysts surveyed by Bloomberg estimate, and almost two dozen will publish results this week.

Investors, ultimately, are concerned about a double-dip recession. Here are three stocks that thrive on fear. They have outperformed stock-market indices in 2010 because they operate in industries that tend to do well regardless of the economic climate.

3. Vector Group ( VGR - Get Report) sells cigarettes.

Quarter: First-quarter profit nearly quadrupled to $12 million, or 15 cents a share, as revenue increased 27%. The operating margin declined from 31% to 28%. Vector has $265 million of cash and $365 million of debt. It is running a shareholders' deficit.

Stock: Vector has gained 28% in 2010, outperforming the S&P 500 Index by 32 percentage points. It trailed the benchmark in 2009. Vector trades at a trailing price-to-earnings ratio of 40, a 183% premium to its peer average. It's cheap based on sales.

Consensus: No analysts cover Vector, which has a market value of just $1.3 billion. Vector pays a quarterly dividend of 40 cents. At its current price, the stock offers a lofty dividend yield of 9%. However, the stock's payout ratio of 356% is dangerously high.

2. Family Dollar Stores ( FDO) sells discounted apparel, foods and household products.

Quarter: Fiscal third-quarter profit increased 19% to $104 million, or 77 cents, as revenue extended 8.4%. The operating margin rose from 7.5% to 8.5%. Family Dollar has $445 million of cash and $250 million of debt, equaling a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.2.

Stock: Family Dollar has advanced 30% in 2010, beating the S&P 500 by 34 percentage points. It lagged the index in 2009. Family Dollar sells for a PEG ratio, a measure of value relative to predicted long-run growth, of 0.6, a 40% discount to fair value.

Consensus: Of researchers following Family Dollar, 15, or 54%, advocate purchasing its shares, 11 recommend holding and two suggest selling them. Deutsche Bank ( DB) expects the stock to rise 33% to $48. Citigroup ( C) offers a target of $47.

1. AutoZone ( AZO) sells replacement car parts.

Quarter: Fiscal third-quarter profit increased 17% to $203 million, or $4.12, as revenue grew 9.9%. The operating margin rose from 18% to 20%. AutoZone has $96 million of cash, equaling a low quick ratio of 0.1. The company has $2.7 billion of debt.

Stock: AutoZone has advanced 28% in 2010, far outpacing the S&P 500. It trailed the index in 2009. AutoZone trades at a price-to-projected-earnings ratio of 12 and a price-to-cash-flow ratio of 8.4, 23% and 31% discounts to peer averages.

Consensus: Of firms evaluating AutoZone, 10, or 34%, rate its stock "buy" and 19 rank it "hold." None rate the stock a "sell." Raymond James ( RJF) offers a target of $230, implying that 13% of upside remains. UBS ( UBS) values the stock at $215.

-- Reported by Jake Lynch in Boston.


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