A Sector For All Seasons

In his latest Forbes.com column, Validea CEO John Reese looks at new data about what sector of the stock market has provided the most bang for investors’ bucks over the long haul.

Reese draws from James O’Shaughnessy’s newly updated book What Works on Wall Street. “From 1968 through 2009, O’Shaughnessy found that consumer staples averaged compound annual returns of 13.6%, beating the next-best sector (financials) by 1.2 percentage points per year,” Reese writes. “And, the sector had the second-lowest standard deviation out of the market’s 10 sectors; the only one that was less volatile was utilities.”

“There’s more,” Reese adds. “O’Shaughnessy also found that looking for the most fundamentally sound stocks within the consumer staples sector could really improve your odds of success. For example, companies in the top quintile based on shareholder yield (buyback yield plus dividend yield) returned 17.8% compounded over the 42-year study. And, they did so with a lower standard deviation and a lower maximum drawdown than the sector as a whole.”

Consumer staples’ outperformance has logic behind it. According to O’Shaughnessy, companies that make products that people need in any economic climate “are bound to do well whatever the economic conditions”. Many of these firms also have wide economic moats and strong brand names that keep competitors at bay, O’Shaughnessy says.

Reese looks at some of the consumer staples that currently get high marks from his “Guru Strategies”, each of which is based on the approach of a different investing great. Among the stocks: Wal-Mart Stores, which gets strong interest from his O’Shaughnessy-based growth strategy.