Third quarter earnings season is approaching fast. So I wanted to take a look at stocks to buy. In particular, these stocks have underlying fundamentals that continue to perform well, despite market headwinds. At the same time, the S&P 500 Index needs a major shot in the arm. It continues to shed value, with the Federal Reserve continually raising interest rates. Hence, it needs a sustainable boost that isn’t contingent on expert opinions on interest and inflation rate expectations.
However, it seems that the current earnings season will be tough for the S&P 500. A recent Earnings Trend report by Zacks shows a remarkably bleak picture, forecasting just a 1.3% earnings expansion for the quarter. So unfortunately, the stock market is in for another shock.
Still, even against this news, the bear market does offer a good deal of opportunity for investors looking to invest in wide-moat stocks at bargain valuations. With that, here are seven stocks to buy you may want to consider today.
Energy giant Chevron (NYSE:CVX) has been one of the most consistent performers in the oil and gas sector. It’s also one of the top stocks to buy. Despite the sector’s cyclical nature, it has grown its top line by double-digit margins over the past years. Moreover, it continues to raise its dividend even in the most unprecedented times. It boasts a 34-year streak of consecutive increases in annual dividends, making it a dividend aristocrat.
Chevron is riding the tailwinds in the sphere generating over 70% growth in sales year-over-year on the back of higher margins. Consequently, it has helped produce a gusher of free cash flow for the business. Also, its management is using the added funds to invest in both new and traditional energy. It has significantly ramped up investments, spending more than 80% in its first half than it did in the same period last year.
Southwest Airlines (LUV)
Southwest Airlines (NYSE:LUV) is the world’s top low-cost carrier in terms of fleet size. It operates 726 aircraft and claims to have the fourth-largest fleet. Similar to its peers, it was able to capitalize on the pent-up demand for travel post-pandemic with triple-digit growth in sales. However, the current economic headwinds are playing spoilsport. Nevertheless, LUV is in a strong position to wrap up the year with aplomb regardless of the market conditions.
The airliner set a record for quarterly profits in the second quarter and expects its performance to continue for the rest of the year. It noted a massive surge in leisure demand, which should factor into its upcoming quarterly results. Business travel hasn’t been up to snuff, but leisure sales continue to exceed expectations and should offset lower revenues from business bookings.
Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) develops some of the most addictive products globally and has established itself as arguably the most valuable company. Take it from the Oracle of Omaha; Warren Buffet, one of the company’s largest shareholders, believes it’s the best business he knows. The secret behind Apple’s incredible success is the stickiness of its products.
Not only does the iPhone command over 50% of the smartphone market, but its add-on services have also ensured that customers stay with the product for the long haul. Apple services generated $32.7 billion in sales in 2017, but that number doubled to a whopping $68.4 billion by last year.
Wedbush analyst Dan Ives recently talked about how 24% of iPhone users globally haven’t upgraded their phones in the past 3.5 years. Hence, with enormous pent-up demand, this could mark the beginning of the next major product cycle for the iPhone.
Shares of payments processing giant Visa (NYSE:V) have held up substantially better than the broader market. A lot has to do with its robust results of late, which will continue to improve in line with the improvement in travel demand.
In its most recent quarter, it generated a massive $7.3 billion in sales, up 18.7% from the prior-year period. The massive growth during the quarter was driven by impressive performance across all its core segments. Payments volume was up 8%, driven by border reopenings and the resultant increase in higher consumer spending from international travelers.
In addition to the larger revenue base, company margins improved considerably during the quarter, with its dividend yield averaging at 0.7%, slightly higher than its 10-year average of 0.6%. Despite the strong performance, it remains a bargain for growth investors.
Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) is another one of the top stocks to buy. It’s also one of the most diversified tech giants benefiting from multiple opportunities in the cloud, digital transformation, and gaming markets. Consequently, its top and bottom line have grown by an incredible 15.6% and 23.3% over the past five years, with multiple years of expansion ahead. Moreover, it continues to generate tons of cash flows and profits, including $65 billion in free cash flows over the past 12 months. Its stellar cash production has enabled investors to steadily rising dividend income and share repurchases.
Naturally, the economic slowdown has led to a deceleration in growth rates for MSFT. Nevertheless, its dominant positioning in multiple lucrative tech verticals shouldn’t deter investors from wagering on it for the long haul. For instance, its Windows operating system commands a 76% share of the desktop PC space. Moreover, its Azure platform, with a 21% market share in the cloud sphere, has proven to be more profitable than Amazon Web Services. Hence, its entrenched position should allow it to hold its competitors at bay in multiple markets and expand its presence in others.
UnitedHealth Group (NYSE:UNH) is a leading managed care and health insurance business. It’s been an incredible wealth compounder, generating over 1,000% returns over the past decade. Moreover, it boasts a spectacular track record of growing earnings and sales over the years.
There was plenty for investors to celebrate in the second quarter. Earnings shot up 18.5% while sales grew an impressive 13%. It added 280,000 new members across all its membership options, becoming a huge source of new revenues in the upcoming quarters.
Furthermore, the company is likely to see growth through inorganic expansion. It is looking to expand into the mental health market and in markets outside of the U.S. Additionally, the firm has raised its dividend for 12 straight years. It also announced plans to bump its annual dividends by 13.8% to $1.65 per share, an encouraging sign for long-term investors.
Finally, Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) should also be considered one of the top stocks to buy. It’s also one of the most iconic brands, with some prominent fans, including Warren Buffet. It is a stalwart in the consumer staples sector, boasting timeless brands that continue to resonate with a global audience. Moreover, it has been one of the most reliable income stocks, with 60 consecutive years of dividend increases, making it a dividend king.
Its operating performance has held up amazingly despite market headwinds. The inelasticity of demand for its products has ensured that it can effectively raise prices without substantially impacting sales. Its recently released operating results are a testament to that notion.
KO stock has shed a fair share of its value this year, and for those looking to invest in a reliable dividend investment at a fair price, it’s arguably the best bet.
On the date of publication, Muslim Farooque did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines