What is 'Big Uglies'

Big uglies is slang for older companies in hard industries such as manufacturing, oil, steel and mining. They have been unpopular with investors because of their boring stability, which makes them useful during volatile markets.


Big uglies traditionally referred to stocks in gritty industries associated with manufacturing and infrastructure. They are often cheap and affordable for investors, but correspondingly difficult to sell because their growth rate and return is small and steady. As technology has advanced, big uglies no longer refers exclusively to stocks in manufacturing and materials industries. Instead, the phrase can refer to stocks in any unfashionable and reliable industry in any sector. In technology, hardware makers and connectivity stocks are considered old-fashioned, and therefore big uglies, as apps and security companies are pushing the boundaries. Big uglies in the finance industry are stable, large commercial and retail banks. Most utilities are considered big uglies, as are traditional consumer products. Investors who want high returns or are investing for short-term growth are not interested in big uglies because they simply don't experience enough quarterly growth because the demand for their products and services has leveled off over time.

Advantages of ‘Big Uglies’

Although the name brings negative connotations, big uglies can be important parts of an investor's balanced portfolio. Big uglies tend to experience slow but steady long-term growth, earnings and dividends, and they are usually household names with fantastic brand recognition. Investors who want to time the market and get high returns from trading stocks tend to stay away from big uglies, but investors looking for long-term value at affordable, even bargain, prices find big uglies to be attractive. They have lower price-to-earnings ratios than other stocks, which guarantees value. They are steady in volatile markets and tend to be recession-proof, which means that they can hold down a portfolio and prevent losses in a churning market by moving the opposite way other stocks do during a down market.

The companies themselves tend to be low-risk, along with the stocks, and are established companies with established market share in established industries. They are also more likely to be multinational companies, which diversifies risk, as a downturn in one market country can be offset by economic conditions in other market countries, and problematic manufacturing conditions in one plant can be offset by normal manufacturing conditions in another. While not sexy, these stocks are safe havens when markets are volatile. As usual, however, investors should perform due diligence on any stocks they buy, including big uglies, because these stocks may provide too little risk to grow an investor's portfolio.

  1. Big Figure

    Big figure is the stem, or whole dollar price, of a price quote. ...
  2. Growth Stock

    A growth stock is a publicly traded share in a company expected ...
  3. Big Three

    The Big Three is a reference to the three largest automobile ...
  4. Big Bath

    A "big bath" is an accounting term for manipulating a company's ...
  5. Big Board

    Big Board is a nickname for the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).
  6. Big Mac PPP

    Big Mac PPP is a survey done by The Economist that examines the ...
Related Articles
  1. Investing

    Volatile Stocks: Great, If You Have The Stomach

    Volatile stocks can be a lucrative opportunity for short-term traders. For buy-and-hold investors, it's a much different story.
  2. Investing

    5 Rules of the Road for Volatile Markets

    Following these rules of the road can help your portfolio withstand the impact of market volatility.
  3. Insights

    4 Reasons Why You Love To Hate Big Businesses

    Large corporations have a reputation for being untrustworthy. Find out why.
  4. Investing

    3 Reasons to Ignore Market Volatility (VIX)

    If you can keep your head while those about you are losing theirs, you can make a nice return in roiling markets.
  5. Investing

    Great Company Or Growing Industry?

    Look at the big picture when choosing a company - what you see may really be a stage in its industry's growth.
  6. Investing

    Big Lots Continues Its Earnings Streak

    The discount goods space has been one of the few brick-and-mortar segments to remain resilient in the face the of the retail apocalypse, because whatever other trends may shift, consumers still ...
  7. Investing

    Glaxo Seeks Label Expansion for Fluarix Vaccine

    GSK is seeking label expansion for its flu vaccine to include children ages 6 months to 3 years old.
  8. Tech

    How Big Data Has Changed Finance

    The vast proliferation of data and increasing technological complexities continues to transform the way industries operate and compete.
  9. Investing

    Understanding Risk is Key to Your Investing Strategy

    Here's why considering all types of risk is crucial for a successful investment plan.
  10. Financial Advisor

    Advising FAs: How To Explaining Stocks to a Client

    Without a doubt, common stocks are one of the greatest tools ever invented for building wealth.
  1. Who are Procter & Gamble's (PG) main competitors? (PG, REV)

    Learn about Procter & Gamble's major competitors in each of its revenue segments, including fabric care and home care, and ... Read Answer >>
Trading Center