Within eight months after the presidential election, the Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 15% to record highs—partly on optimism over the new administration’s probusiness economic agenda. Several sectors did even better because investors believed that they would be the biggest beneficiaries of plans for lower taxes, less regulation and increased defense and infrastructure spending.
However, with Washington deadlocked over much of that agenda, analysts now worry whether the stock market—especially those companies that have benefited the most since the election—will suffer.
Stock expert Douglas Gerlach says you don’t have to abandon winning sectors based on those concerns, but you should steer toward stocks that won’t plummet even if the Trump administration’s agenda stalls…and that could continue to rise if he succeeds.
Here are five of those stocks in various sectors…
The Dow Jones US Select Aerospace & Defense Index has gained 21% since the election.* President Donald Trump’s proposed defense budget for fiscal 2017–2018 calls for a 10% increase over fiscal 2016, including more than $13 billion to build F-35 and F/A-18 Super Hornet jets.
But the Budget Control Act adopted during the Obama administration to keep the federal deficit under control continues to set strict limits on defense spending through 2021.
A defense stock that can hold up…
Hexcel (HXL) is the military’s main supplier of high-performance carbon-fiber structural materials for frames and engines used in fighter jets. Carbon fiber is three to five times stronger and up to 30% lighter than aluminum, which translates into better fuel-efficiency and longer ranges in flights. Even if Hexcel’s military contracts are slashed, they account for only 16% of the company’s revenues. Hexcel has already pivoted toward its booming commercial aerospace business, supplying companies including Boeing and Airbus.
The KBW Nasdaq Bank Index, which tracks the performance of US financial institution stocks, has gained 18% since the presidential election. Through executive orders and pending legislation, Trump and the Republican-led Congress have moved to scale back regulations governing financial institutions, which have complained about high regulatory costs. But it remains uncertain how far those changes will go.
Banks also could benefit from Trump’s economic stimulus agenda that could lead to higher inflation and higher interest rates, boosting bank profits on loans. But Republicans, many of whom are wary of adding to the federal deficit, are divided over what shape any tax code overhaul and government spending increases should take.
Two financial stocks that can hold up…
Bank of the Ozarks (OZRK) operates 250 branches, mostly in fast-growing Sunbelt states. For the past six years in a row, it has been recognized as the nation’s top-performing small bank. Its highly efficient operations, shrewd commercial real estate lending and aggressive acquisitions of weaker regional banks have produced one of the strongest “net interest margins” of any bank in the US. The difference between the yield that it receives on its loans and the interest it pays to depositors is around five percentage points, while the industry average is around three. Bank of the Ozarks also is expanding nationally and now is one of the top commercial real estate lenders in New York City, issuing more than $800 million in loans since 2013.
S&P Global (SPGI) sells data, credit ratings and investment research about companies and markets to financial institutions. It also licenses the use of the Standard & Poor’s and Dow Jones benchmark indices to asset-management firms that offer index funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs). Both of these businesses are cash cows and can provide a high level of recurring revenue…even if Trump’s stimulus plans don’t materialize and the stock market falters. In a bear market, institutions likely will need the kind of analysis that S&P Global provides even more. And the trend of small investors moving out of actively managed funds and into passive, low-cost ETFs should continue to accelerate. Over the next five years, the current $2.5 trillion in assets invested in US-listed ETFs is expected to nearly triple.
The S&P Biotechnology Select Industry Index has gained 17% since the election as investors count on Trump to shorten what he called the “slow and burdensome” process of FDA drug approval. But his pick for FDA commissioner, Scott Gottlieb, MD, newly approved by the Senate, is a moderate choice who told senators that he believes in upholding the FDA’s reputation as the world’s “gold standard” for drug approval.
A health-care stock that can hold up…
Celgene Corp. (CELG) specializes in treatments for cancer and inflammatory diseases such as arthritis. It is one of the best-positioned biotech companies even if Trump makes no regulatory changes to help the industry and the FDA maintains its rigid drug-approval process. That’s because several new Celgene drugs already are in Phase III clinical trials, the final step before FDA approval, including treatments for ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Celgene has billions of dollars in free cash flow and another decade to develop its large pipeline, thanks to several blockbuster drugs currently on the market, each with fast-growing revenues and long-term patent protection. For example, the company expects sales of $8 billion this year for its leading drug Revlimid, which treats multiple myeloma and doesn’t come completely off patent until 2027.
The S&P Global Infrastructure Index initially fell after the presidential election because of investor uncertainty about the timing and size of an infrastructure spending bill. But since November 14, the index has jumped 19%. Trump has asked Congress to support a $1 trillion infrastructure spending program to rebuild roads, highways, bridges and mass transit. But Trump’s plan faces opposition from his own party in Congress—many Republicans worry that a spending bill will be full of waste and pet projects and deepen the nation’s fiscal problems.
An infrastructure stock that can hold up…
Westinghouse Air Brake Technologies Corp. (WAB) is the nation’s top manufacturer of components such as brakes and electronic-control equipment for locomotives and railcars, subway cars and buses. Even if an infrastructure bill fizzles, Westinghouse should do fine. Reason: 60% of its business is providing aftermarket replacement parts and services for existing railroad and transit systems, all of which produce consistent, ongoing profits. The company also has begun to expand into fast-growing European and Asian markets.