Getting Defensive

Today I want to finish up a look at defensive stocks as defined by Ben Graham and slightly tweaked by yours truly. We are basically looking for non-financial companies with a long history of profits and dividends to buy on weakness and hold for an extended period of time. On Monday, I mistakenly reported that the screen only found four stocks that qualified. The good news is that the screen was set incorrectly and need a tweaking -- when corrected, the total number of qualifying stocks rose to by 25%. The bad news is that only five stocks still made the grade for a defensive portfolio.

Reliance Steel and Aluminum ( RS) shares have pretty much tracked the market over the past few years, but the stock is cheap and will see strong growth as the economy continues to attempt a full-fledged recovery. The company provides metal processing services and distributes steel, aluminum, brass, copper and specialty metal products across a wide range of industries.

They have historically grown by acquisition and this year will be no different as the company recently announced the purchase of Florida-based Metals USA Holdings ( MUSA).

This article originally appeared on March 20, 2013, on RealMoney. To read more content like this + see inside Jim Cramer's $3 Million portfolio for FREE Click Here NOW.

The company guided first-quarter earnings to much lower levels but indications for the rest of the year are quite positive as orders from the aerospace and energy industries have been firming up. The company also believes that nonresidential construction will improve in the second half of the year and spark increased metals demand. The company has remained profitable and paid a dividend through the economically difficult period. The shares are fairly cheap, as the stock currently trades at 12x earnings and 1.4x book value. The yield is just 1.7% bit the dividend has grown by 15% annually on average for the past decade and it should continue to do so.

I have previously mentioned Archer Daniels Midland ( ADM) as an excellent defensive stock, but so far, it has not returned my affection. The shares are still well below the 2008 highs in spite of the company's dominance of the U.S. grain industry. The company processes, transports, stores and sells oilseeds, corn and related products. Weaker ethanol demand has hurt the company in the short term but, in the long run, increased global demand of protein meal and vegetable based oils should help boost earnings and the stock price to much higher levels.

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