3 Defensive Growth Stocks to Load Up on in Q1

Stocks to buy

In this rather uncertain market, the search for defensive growth stocks is picking up. Indeed, this category of high-quality companies with steady cash flows and growing dividend distributions are sought out in times of turmoil. With interest rates on the rise, geopolitical concerns ramping up, and a recession potentially on the horizon, defensive growth stocks certainly seem like great investments right now.

Of course, there are quite a few high-quality dividend stocks with solid growth trajectories to choose from. Accordingly, picking only three may seem like a daunting task.

That said, there are three companies I’ve got my eye on. Here are three defensive growth stocks that I think are worth buying right now.

MCD McDonald’s $266.16
ABBV AbbVie $151.80
NOC Northrop Grumman $461.81

McDonald’s (MCD)

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We all love a classic, and McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD) is no exception. With a long history of consistent returns, this stock has become one of the most popular among investors. Its global presence also makes it less susceptible to swings in the U.S. economy.

In 2022, despite a weak stock market, McDonald’s shares did well due to strong demand for fast food. The company experienced increased traffic in many areas and was largely able to offset its rising costs by increasing its menu prices.

 MCD stock is comparatively expensive compared to its competitors. It trades at 34-times its earnings and has a dividend yield of just 2.3%. .

However, the company’s massive size, solid growth, and dominant market position make it a more compelling investment option than other choices in the industry. Many analysts predict that the company will keep paying dividends, offering investors a stable source of income for decades to come.

AbbVie (ABBV)

Source: Valeriya Zankovych / Shutterstock.com

AbbVie (NYSE:ABBV) is a healthcare stock that’s rated BBB+ by S&P, and it offers a high dividend yield of 3.9%. It has increased its dividend for 11 straight years, and its dividend has risen by an impressive, average rate of nearly 18% in the last five years.

AbbVie was successful in 2022, and investors anticipate that it will also perform well this year, despite the the fact that the patent on  its key Humira drug is expiring. Furthermore, ABBV has recently raised its quarterly dividend to $1.48 per share, up from $1.41. As a result, the company’s current yield is slightly less than 4%.

 As everyone monitoring AbbVie knows, the company’s earnings and revenue are likely to decline considerably this year, and that reality is already reflected in its stock price. However, if AbbVie can surpass these low expectations, its stock price will increase significantly.

While I cannot predict whether AbbVie will beat the market in 2023, the stock will be lucrative for investors in the long run due to its strong dividend and its impressive pipeline.

Northrop Grumman (NOC)

Source: ALAN RADECKI, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Northrop Grumman (NYSE:NOC) is certainly among the market’s top defensive growth stocks. This company has been a large, successful defense contractor for many decades. Due to its reliability and stability, Northrop Grumman is regarded as one of the market’s most dependable investments.

Wall Street analysts, on average, expect Northrop Grumman’s stock price to increase to $495.55 in a year, versus its current share price of $460,. That’s not a great return, but it’s something. And it appears that the market believes in NOC stock more than analysts do . That can be a good thing. 

NOC’s EPS over the first nine months of last year was $31.61. Analysts, on average, expect the company’s 2023 EPS to come in around $26.84. In 2024, their mean estimate calls for EPS of $30.12. Thus, at around $470 per share, the stock is trading at roughly 15-times the average 2024 earnings estimate. That’s not cheap, but it’s not expensive either. 

Northrop Grumman has been increasing its dividends for 19 consecutive years,. Its low payout ratio of 13% suggests that it can raise its dividend a great deal in the future. For this reason and many others, I think this stock has a promising future.

On the date of publication, Chris MacDonald has a position in NOC. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.

Chris MacDonald’s love for investing led him to pursue an MBA in Finance and take on a number of management roles in corporate finance and venture capital over the past 15 years. His experience as a financial analyst in the past, coupled with his fervor for finding undervalued growth opportunities, contribute to his conservative, long-term investing perspective.

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