Ronald McDonald has just had a big meal and is picking his teeth.The stock market is telling him that McDonald’s (MCD) won’t be hurt by the recession. At $62, the shares of the largest fast-food chain are not down much from their 52-week high. Over the last three months, the Dow is off 7% and MCD is up almost 10%.
It does not matter that the fatty food the company sells will kill some customers before they make it to the exit. Where can people get a full meal for under $2?
Several companies, perhaps so few that they can be counted on primate hands, have nearly nothing to fear from a recession. They are not gloating. That would look unseemly. Their fortunes do say a great deal about how products and certain businesses become even more necessary in tough times.
Proctor & Gamble (PG) shares are off only $3 from their 52-week high of $75. Wall St. expects that the markets for deodorant, razors, and soap are not going to be hurt. Even when they are broke, most people still want to be clean. Colgate (CL) will benefit for the same reasons. Its shares are barely off their peak.
The single best example of a firm which could have a remarkably robust growth rate as the economy gets worse is Wal-Mart (WMT). Consumers who cannot shop at pricier outlets will keep streaming though the doors for "everyday low prices". At $59, the world’s largest retailer trades only slightly below its 52-week high of just under $64 and is well above its period low of $42.50.
If there is an index of misery stocks, it will outperform the market by a significant amount over the next year. Even in a disaster, someone makes a buck.
Douglas A. McIntyre