Play Defense With These Two Consumer Staples

By Todd Shriber | December 02, 2009 AAA

Conventional market wisdom says that if you're growing wary of a market rally, or are ready to add a little defense to your portfolio, consumer staples have been the sector most investors head towards. And in this sector, there are a few names that always make their way into the conversation.

IN PICTURES: PG) is the largest maker of consumer products in the world, and a member of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO), another Dow member, and rival PepsiCo (NYSE:PEP) are another pair of popular consumer staples stocks. And food and tobacco names like Kraft (NYSE:KFT) and Altria (NYSE:MO) are also found on the roster of highly-regarded consumer staples names.

Well, it often pays to look off the beaten path, so we decided to look at a pair of consumer staples names that make products you may already have in your house, but are unfamiliar with the stocks. Here's our pair:

Church & Dwight (NYSE:CHD) 52-Week Performance: 5.1% Forward P/E: 15
Jarden (NYSE:JAH) 52-Week Performance: 172% Forward P/E: 9.8%

Bank on Baking Soda
Church & Dwight makes an array of products you've probably either bought or are at least familiar with such as Orange Glo, Orajel, Trojan condoms and Brillo, but the company is most known for Arm & Hammer baking soda. That's an impressive product list, but the stock has significantly lagged the broader market over the past 52 weeks, gaining just 5% while the S&P 500 is up more than 34% in the same time.

Church & Dwight trades in-line with the consumer products group on a trailing P/E basis, but the shares are slightly cheaper than those of its rivals based on forward P/E, price-to-book and price-to-cash flow. Third-quarter net income soared 43% and sales climbed 2%, perhaps an indication that the stock won't remain cheap for long.

While Church & Dwight only yields 1%, the company's dividend history is nothing if not consistent. The company has paid a dividend for 435 consecutive quarters. It is worth noting that Church & Dwight is one of the steadiest earners on Wall Street and the company had $222 million in free cash flow through the first nine months of 2009 compared with $179 million a year earlier.

Time to Play this Card?
Jarden makes hundreds of products, from camping gear to toasters, but the company may be best known for its Bicycle playing cards and Mr. Coffee coffee makers. While those aren't the most exciting products in the world, Jarden's performance has been awe-inspiring over the past year, as the shares have nearly tripled. And Jarden is a cash flow king in its own right. The company expects to generate $250 million in free cash this year.

In October, Jarden reported an impressive earnings beat of its own, earning 93 cents a share for the third quarter when analysts were expecting 81 cents a share. As a result, all seven analysts covering Jarden raised their 2009 earnings estimates by an average of 14 cents to $2.54 a share. The 2010 consensus estimate is also up 5% in the past month.

While Jarden doesn't have much of a dividend history, investors should note that the company started paying a dividend for the first time in October. That's an encouraging sign, and while there are no guarantees the shares will continue their torrid pace, Jarden's earnings prospects indicate a bright future may indeed be in the cards.

The Bottom Line: From Your Shelves to Your Portfolio
Unless you're an extremely conservative investor, it may not be wise to overload your portfolio with conservative staples names. That said, if you're looking a for a steady earner, Church & Dwight fits the bill and if you're looking for a defensive name with midcap growth potential, Jarden may give you a winning hand. (Learn more about defensive stocks, Guard Your Portfolio With Defensive Stocks.)

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