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The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Unilever, Medifast, British American Tobacco, Sysco and J.M. Smucker


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For Immediate Release

Chicago, IL - March 29, 2019 - Zacks.com announces the list of stocks featured in the Analyst Blog. Every day the Zacks Equity Research analysts discuss the latest news and events impacting stocks and the financial markets. Stocks recently featured in the blog include: Unilever PLC UL , Medifast, Inc. MED , British American Tobacco p.l.c. BTI , Sysco Corporation SYY and The J.M. Smucker Company SJM .

Here are highlights from Thursday's Analyst Blog:

5 Consumer Staples Stocks for an Era of Soft Yields

The Fed's decidedly dovish turn on interest rates last week has pushed government bond yields to their lowest point in more than a year. A section of economists believe global economic weakness has played a role in lowering yields. But the consensus is clear; an economic slowdown is around the corner. And it would be prudent for investors to seek defensive stocks.

When it comes to safer equity categories, consumer staples have a clear edge. The stability and superior dividends that they provide are common to most other defensive options. Also, Deutsche Bank thinks they are yet to price in low rates, unlike real estate investment trusts (REITs) and utilities. This is why it makes sense to add consumer staples stocks to your portfolios at this time.

10-Year Treasury Yield Plumbs Fresh 14-Month Low

On Mar 27, the plunge in long-term treasury yields continued unabated. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note had touched 2.38% by 5:17 PM ET, its lowest since December 2017. Ultimately, the yield lost 2 basis points to finish the day at 2.39%. The 30-year Treasury bond yield lost 3 basis points to close at 2.83%.

Additionally, the 3-month Treasury bond yield lost 2 basis points to close the day at 2.44%. Worryingly, the yield on the 10-year Treasury note has lost 20 basis points since Mar 15.  

In fact, the retreat in yields is now a worldwide phenomenon. This is because central banks are opting to keep interest rates lower for a period which is much longer than what was being predicted even a year ago.

Concerns about tepid growth have troubled China and most of Europe for some time now. But, as was apparent last week, sluggish inflation was enough for the Fed to revise its monetary stance drastically.

Defensive Stocks Gain Popularity, Consumer Staples Hold Edge

According to Larry McDonald, founder of The Bear Traps Report, it is increasingly apparent that investors are beginning to rotate out of cyclicals, like financials. The beneficiaries of such a movement have been defensive stocks like consumer staples.

McDonald points out that the path of the Financial Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLF) and the Consumer Staples Select Sector SPDR (XLP) has begun to diverge recently. While the XLP is up 2.1% since Mar 1, the XLF has lost 4.2% over the same period. 

This divergence is essentially a product of soft rates, which are likely to remain low for most of the year. In fact, there is currently a 70% chance that the Fed will cut rates at least once by Dec 11. Trump's pick for the central bank Stephen Moore thinks the Fed should "cut rates by half a percentage point" immediately.

In such circumstances, consumer staples companies emerge as a logical choice for most investors, according to Binky Chadha, chief strategist at Deutsche Bank. This is because they are yet to price in a decline in rates, unlike other defensive options such as REITs and utilities.

Chadha thinks consumer staples are still priced for a substantially higher yield, close to 3%. This means that they will retain upside "even if rates and growth stay at current levels, more so if they decline further."

Our Choices

With the Fed likely to maintain a dovish stance going ahead, interest rates are likely to remain low for an extended period. The fact that long-term rates are declining faster than their short term counterparts also indicates that at the very least, an economic slowdown is around the corner.

In such circumstances, defensive options become the natural choice for most investors. Consumer staples companies hold the edge here, since they are yet to price in a fall in rates, per Deutsche Bank. However, picking winning stocks may be difficult.

This is where our  VGM Score  comes in. Here V stands for Value, G for Growth and M for Momentum and the score is a weighted combination of these three scores. Such a score allows you to eliminate the negative aspects of stocks and select winners. However, it is important to keep in mind that each Style Score will carry a different weight while arriving at a VGM Score. 

We have narrowed down our search to the following stocks based on a good Zacks Rank and VGM Score.

Unilever PLC  is engaged in manufacturing of branded and packaged consumer goods, including food, detergents and personal care product on a global basis.

Unilever has a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) and a VGM Score of A. The company's expected earnings growth for the current year is 2.5%. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for current-year earnings has improved 6% over the past 30 days. The stock has a dividend yield of 3%.

Medifast, Inc.  is a leading manufacturer and distributor of clinically proven healthy living and nutritional products.

Medifast has a Zacks Rank #1 and a VGM Score of B. The company's expected earnings growth for the current year is 41.1%. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for current-year earnings has improved by 11.5% over the last 30 days. The stock has a dividend yield of 2.3%.

British American Tobacco p.l.c.  is the holding company of a group of companies which manufacture, market and sell tobacco products worldwide.

The company has a VGM Score of B. The company's expected earnings growth for the current year is 9%. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for current-year earnings has moved 3% up over the past 30 days. The stock has a dividend yield of 6.6%. The stock sports a Zacks Rank #1. You can see  the complete list of today's Zacks #1 Rank stocks here .

Sysco Corporation , through its subsidiaries, markets and distributes a range of food and related products primarily to the foodservice or food-away-from-home industry.

Sysco carries a Zacks Rank #2 and a VGM Score of A. The company's expected earnings growth for the current year is 8.4%. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for current-year earnings has improved by 0.6% over the past 60 days. The stock has a dividend yield of 2.4%.

The J.M. Smucker Company  is a leading marketer and manufacturer of consumer food and beverage products and pet food and pet snacks in North America.

The company carries a Zacks Rank #2 and has a VGM Score of B. The company's expected earnings growth for the current year is 2.6%. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for current-year earnings has risen 1.3% over the past 30 days. The stock has a dividend yield of 3%.

Zacks' Top 10 Stocks for 2019

In addition to the stocks discussed above, would you like to know about our 10 finest buy-and-holds for the year?

Who wouldn't? Our annual Top 10s have beaten the market with amazing regularity. In 2018, while the market dropped -5.2%, the portfolio scored well into double-digits overall with individual stocks rising as high as +61.5%. And from 2012-2017, while the market boomed +126.3, Zacks' Top 10s reached an even more sensational +181.9%.

See Latest Stocks Today >>

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Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Inherent in any investment is the potential for loss . This material is being provided for informational purposes only and nothing herein constitutes investment, legal, accounting or tax advice, or a recommendation to buy, sell or hold a security. No recommendation or advice is being given as to whether any investment is suitable for a particular investor. It should not be assumed that any investments in securities, companies, sectors or markets identified and described were or will be profitable. All information is current as of the date of herein and is subject to change without notice. Any views or opinions expressed may not reflect those of the firm as a whole. Zacks Investment Research does not engage in investment banking, market making or asset management activities of any securities. These returns are from hypothetical portfolios consisting of stocks with Zacks Rank = 1 that were rebalanced monthly with zero transaction costs. These are not the returns of actual portfolios of stocks. The S&P 500 is an unmanaged index. Visit http://www.zacks.com/performance for information about the performance numbers displayed in this press release.


Want the latest recommendations from Zacks Investment Research? Today, you can download 7 Best Stocks for the Next 30 Days. Click to get this free report

Sysco Corporation (SYY): Free Stock Analysis Report

Unilever PLC (UL): Free Stock Analysis Report

The J. M. Smucker Company (SJM): Free Stock Analysis Report

MEDIFAST INC (MED): Free Stock Analysis Report

British American Tobacco p.l.c. (BTI): Free Stock Analysis Report

To read this article on Zacks.com click here.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.





This article appears in: Investing , Stocks
Referenced Symbols: SYY , UL , SJM , MED , BTI



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