Fears over slowing global economic growth resurfaced after the closing bell Wednesday when Apple Inc. (AAPL) warned that it expected revenues to shrink substantially due to slowing iPhone sales in China. These fears were accentuated Thursday morning when the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) reported that the pace of new manufacturing orders declined in December at an unusually steep sequential rate. Investors get no reprieve from market-moving economic data Friday when December's employment report hits the wires at 8:30 a.m. EST. Add comments from Fed Chair Jerome Powell later in the morning, and another eventful trading day on Wall Street awaits.

The ISM Purchasing Managers Index fell 5.2 points to 54.1 – the steepest monthly decline since the Great Recession.

Slowing economic growth still presents opportunities. However, investors need to be more selective when choosing what stocks and sectors to add to their portfolio. Typically, stocks in defensive sectors such as utilities, health care and consumer goods tend to perform well when the economy is growing at a slower rate because consumers continue to need their essential products and services.

"Investors should increase portfolio defensiveness given our forecast for heightened risk and fat tails," said David Kostin, analyst at The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. (GS), per a CNBC article. "The market path in 2019 will depend on investor perception of the longevity of the current economic expansion," he added.

Investors who want to add defensive utilities shares to their portfolio for protection against a global economic slowdown should consider one of these three stocks.

Pinnacle West Capital Corporation (PNW)

Headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona, Pinnacle West Capital Corporation (PNW) provides retail and wholesale electric services to 1.2 million customers in Arizona through its subsidiary Arizona Public Service Company. The company, founded in 1920, reported adjusted earnings per share (EPS) of $2.80 in the third quarter – beating analysts' expectations of $2.75. It expects 2019 EPS in the range of $4.75 to $4.95. Pinnacle stock, with a market capitalization of $9.38 billion and offering a 3.52% dividend yield, has a one-year return of 4.11% but is down 7.23% over the past month as of Jan. 4, 2019.

Pinnacle's share price spent the first nine months of 2018 in a trading range before finding buying interest throughout October and November. The stock endured a selling rout with the rest of the market in December but looks to provide a buying opportunity between $80 and $82. This area finds key support from horizontal lines and the 200-day simple moving average (SMA). Investors may want to wait for the moving average converge divergence (MACD) line to cross above its signal line (a nine-period moving average of the MACD line) to confirm buying interest in the stock.

Chart depicting the share price of Pinnacle West Capital Corporation (PNW)
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DTE Energy Company (DTE)

DTE Energy Company (DTE) delivers gas and electricity services to roughly 3.5 million residential, commercial and industrial customers in Michigan. The company, with a market cap of $19.71 billion, has exceeded the Street's earnings estimates over the past four consecutive quarters and has an average price target of $117.69 – 8.63% above Thursday's closing price of $108.34. As of Jan. 4, 2019, DTE Energy stock has returned 3.55% over the past 12 months, outperforming the S&P 500 by 13.32%. The Detroit-based company pays investors a 3.49% dividend.

DTE Energy trended consistently higher from early June to late November before retracing throughout December on declining volume. Those who wish to buy the stock should seek an entry price at the $106 level, where the price finds a confluence of support from the September swing low, 200-day SMA and 50% Fibonacci retracement level. To avoid catching a falling knife, investors may decide to wait for a price reversal pattern, such as a hammer, to form before entering.

Chart depicting the share price of DTE Energy Company (DTE)
StockCharts.com

Xcel Energy Inc. (XEL)

Xcel Energy Inc. (XEL), with a market cap of $24.69 billion, serves approximately 5.6 million customers across eight states, primarily in the Midwest, providing electricity and gas. The company also has an interest in renewable energy. Analysts project a 2019 EPS growth rate of 5.3% to 6.2%. Trading at $48.03 and offering a 3.16% dividend yield, Xcel stock has returned 4.34% over the past year while slipping 8.56% over the past month as of Jan. 4, 2019.

Xcel's price rallied over 28% between June and mid-December before falling away in the final two weeks of 2018. Investors should look to buy the stock if it dips to the $46 level, where the price should encounter support from a horizontal line that connects multiple swing highs and swing lows, as well as the 200-day SMA. Price moving into this support area should coincide with the relative strength index (RSI) giving an oversold reading below 30.0 that increases the probability of a reversal to the upside.

Chart depicting the share price of Xcel Energy Inc. (XEL)
StockCharts.com