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In the face of another economic downturn we decided to take a look at companies who have outperformed dips in the market before. In particular we focused on the financial crisis from August 2007 through March 2009.

We took a look at the 600 largest companies and their closing prices on 10/01/07 and 03/01/09. Only the stocks that outperformed the S&P 500 during the downturn by a minimum of 10% alpha were kept.

We further narrowed down our list by only focusing on companies beating their industry averages for TTM gross, operating, and pretax margins. These indicators place them high on the list of companies that might outperform the market again in a future downturn. The top 30 names are detailed below.

Interactive Chart: Press Play to compare changes in analyst ratings over the last two years for the top six stocks mentioned below. Analyst ratings sourced from Zacks Investment Research.

We also created a price-weighted index of the stocks mentioned below, and monitored the performance of the list relative to the S&P 500 index over the last month. To access a complete analysis of this list's recent performance, click here.


(Click to enlarge)

These companies excelled in the last economic down turn, and given their profitability data, do you think they could weather another storm? Use the list below as a starting-off point for your own analysis.

List sorted by alpha vs. S&P500.

1. DeVry, Inc. (NYSE:DV): Education & Training Services Industry. Market cap of $4.07B. TTM gross margin at 60.32% vs. industry average at 53.03%. TTM operating margin at 22.65% vs. industry average 22%. TTM pretax margin 22.67% vs. industry average 18.35%. On 10/01/07 the closing price was at $38.22, compared to the closing price on 03/01/09 of $51.95. This implies a price return of 35.92% (the alpha vs. S&P 500 during the downturn at 88.41%). The stock has gained 7.61% over the last year.

2. Advance Auto Parts Inc. (NYSE:AAP): Auto Parts Stores Industry. Market cap of $4.48B. TTM gross margin at 53% vs. industry average at 38.12%. TTM operating margin at 9.82% vs. industry average 9.69%. TTM pretax margin 9.29% vs. industry average 9.14%. On 10/01/07 the closing price was at $33.35, compared to the closing price on 03/01/09 of $38.25. This implies a price return of 14.69% (the alpha vs. S&P 500 during the downturn at 67.18%). The stock has lost 10.77% over the last year.

3. O'Reilly Automotive Inc. (NASDAQ:ORLY): Auto Parts Stores Industry. Market cap of $9.03B. TTM gross margin at 51.5% vs. industry average at 38.12%. TTM operating margin at 13.85% vs. industry average 9.69%. TTM pretax margin 12.67% vs. industry average 9.14%. On 10/01/07 the closing price was at $32.82, compared to the closing price on 03/01/09 of $33.36. This implies a price return of 1.65% (the alpha vs. S&P 500 during the downturn at 54.13%). The stock has had a good month, gaining 10.1%.

4. People's United Financial Inc. (NASDAQ:PBCT): Savings & Loans Industry. Market cap of $4.81B. TTM gross margin at 83.76% vs. industry average at 55.96%. TTM operating margin at 34.82% vs. industry average 28.36%. TTM pretax margin 15.46% vs. industry average 10.7%. On 10/01/07 the closing price was at $17.55, compared to the closing price on 03/01/09 of $17.41. This implies a price return of -0.8% (the alpha vs. S&P 500 during the downturn at 51.69%). The stock has gained 8.13% over the last year.

5. Dollar Tree, Inc. (NASDAQ:DLTR): Discount, Variety Stores Industry. Market cap of $8.15B. TTM gross margin at 38.48% vs. industry average at 35.65%. TTM operating margin at 11.34% vs. industry average 7.98%. TTM pretax margin 11.35% vs. industry average 6.87%. On 10/01/07 the closing price was at $41.25, compared to the closing price on 03/01/09 of $38.82. This implies a price return of -5.89% (the alpha vs. S&P 500 during the downturn at 46.59%). The stock has gained 19.99% over the last year.

6. McCormick & Co. Inc. (NYSE:MKC): Processed & Packaged Goods Industry. Market cap of $6.59B. TTM gross margin at 45.68% vs. industry average at 34.3%. TTM operating margin at 15.52% vs. industry average 12.56%. TTM pretax margin 14.89% vs. industry average 10.01%. On 10/01/07 the closing price was at $35.93, compared to the closing price on 03/01/09 of $31.35. This implies a price return of -12.75% (the alpha vs. S&P 500 during the downturn at 39.74%). The stock has gained 4.25% over the last year.

7. Cullen/Frost Bankers, Inc. (NYSE:CFR): Regional Banks Industry. Market cap of $3.48B. TTM gross margin at 89.95% vs. industry average at 69.03%. TTM operating margin at 42.51% vs. industry average 37.87%. TTM pretax margin 29.95% vs. industry average 20.54%. On 10/01/07 the closing price was at $50.73, compared to the closing price on 03/01/09 of $43.04. This implies a price return of -15.16% (the alpha vs. S&P 500 during the downturn at 37.33%). The stock is a short squeeze candidate, with a short float at 5.68% (equivalent to 8.9 days of average volume). The stock has lost 2.89% over the last year.

8. Magellan Midstream Partners LP (NYSE:MMP): Oil & Gas Pipelines Industry. Market cap of $6.73B. TTM gross margin at 38.38% vs. industry average at 32.87%. TTM operating margin at 25.95% vs. industry average 13.78%. TTM pretax margin 20.26% vs. industry average 13.42%. On 10/01/07 the closing price was at $40.02, compared to the closing price on 03/01/09 of $31.8. This implies a price return of -20.54% (the alpha vs. S&P 500 during the downturn at 31.94%).

9. Hasbro Inc. (NASDAQ:HAS): Toys & Games Industry. Market cap of $5.99B. TTM gross margin at 59.48% vs. industry average at 45.56%. TTM operating margin at 14.18% vs. industry average 10.47%. TTM pretax margin 11.9% vs. industry average 8.08%. On 10/01/07 the closing price was at $29.81, compared to the closing price on 03/01/09 of $22.89. This implies a price return of -23.21% (the alpha vs. S&P 500 during the downturn at 29.27%). The stock has lost 5.61% over the last year.

10. DPL Inc. (NYSE:DPL): Diversified Utilities Industry. Market cap of $3.53B. TTM gross margin at 32.03% vs. industry average at 27.43%. TTM operating margin at 24.91% vs. industry average 18.98%. TTM pretax margin 20.46% vs. industry average 14.15%. On 10/01/07 the closing price was at $26.35, compared to the closing price on 03/01/09 of $20.1. This implies a price return of -23.72% (the alpha vs. S&P 500 during the downturn at 28.76%). The stock has gained 11.25% over the last year.

11. HCC Insurance Holdings Inc. (NYSE:HCC): Property & Casualty Insurance Industry. Market cap of $3.58B. TTM gross margin at 21.41% vs. industry average at 16.96%. TTM operating margin at 20.62% vs. industry average 13.64%. TTM pretax margin 19.68% vs. industry average 11.96%. On 10/01/07 the closing price was at $29.15, compared to the closing price on 03/01/09 of $21.95. This implies a price return of -24.7% (the alpha vs. S&P 500 during the downturn at 27.78%). The stock has gained 1.09% over the last year.

12. Urban Outfitters Inc. (NASDAQ:URBN): Apparel Stores Industry. Market cap of $4.50B. TTM gross margin at 44.54% vs. industry average at 38.11%. TTM operating margin at 16.86% vs. industry average 9.67%. TTM pretax margin 17.03% vs. industry average 9.11%. On 10/01/07 the closing price was at $22.28, compared to the closing price on 03/01/09 of $16.64. This implies a price return of -25.31% (the alpha vs. S&P 500 during the downturn at 27.17%). The stock is a short squeeze candidate, with a short float at 17.01% (equivalent to 6.28 days of average volume). The stock has lost 5.63% over the last year.

13. Commerce Bancshares Inc. (NASDAQ:CBSH): Regional Banks Industry. Market cap of $3.75B. TTM gross margin at 86.33% vs. industry average at 69.03%. TTM operating margin at 45.22% vs. industry average 37.87%. TTM pretax margin 30.47% vs. industry average 20.54%. On 10/01/07 the closing price was at $46.72, compared to the closing price on 03/01/09 of $34.73. This implies a price return of -25.66% (the alpha vs. S&P 500 during the downturn at 26.82%).

14. DaVita, Inc. (NYSE:DVA): Specialized Health Services Industry. Market cap of $8.27B. TTM gross margin at 30.58% vs. industry average at 21%. TTM operating margin at 15.12% vs. industry average 8.52%. TTM pretax margin 11.14% vs. industry average 6.79%. On 10/01/07 the closing price was at $63.44, compared to the closing price on 03/01/09 of $46.92. This implies a price return of -26.04% (the alpha vs. S&P 500 during the downturn at 26.44%).

15. AptarGroup, Inc. (NYSE:ATR): Packaging & Containers Industry. Market cap of $3.52B. TTM gross margin at 33.41% vs. industry average at 23.47%. TTM operating margin at 12.86% vs. industry average 10.39%. TTM pretax margin 12.23% vs. industry average 7.15%. On 10/01/07 the closing price was at $38.33, compared to the closing price on 03/01/09 of $28.06. This implies a price return of -26.79% (the alpha vs. S&P 500 during the downturn at 25.69%). The stock has gained 4.78% over the last year.

16. Waste Connections Inc. (NYSE:WCN): Waste Management Industry. Market cap of $3.60B. TTM gross margin at 43.47% vs. industry average at 41.45%. TTM operating margin at 21.15% vs. industry average 13.7%. TTM pretax margin 17.72% vs. industry average 9.64%. On 10/01/07 the closing price was at $32.67, compared to the closing price on 03/01/09 of $23.84. This implies a price return of -27.03% (the alpha vs. S&P 500 during the downturn at 25.46%). The stock is a short squeeze candidate, with a short float at 7.02% (equivalent to 13.93 days of average volume). The stock has gained 10.48% over the last year.

17. Sigma-Aldrich Corporation (NASDAQ:SIAL): Specialty Chemicals Industry. Market cap of $8.94B. TTM gross margin at 56.84% vs. industry average at 36.36%. TTM operating margin at 25.7% vs. industry average 15.72%. TTM pretax margin 24.2% vs. industry average 14.92%. On 10/01/07 the closing price was at $49.43, compared to the closing price on 03/01/09 of $35.7. This implies a price return of -27.78% (the alpha vs. S&P 500 during the downturn at 24.71%). The stock has had a couple of great days, gaining 6.63% over the last week.

18. Arch Capital Group Ltd. (NASDAQ:ACGL): Property & Casualty Insurance Industry. Market cap of $4.21B. TTM gross margin at 21.46% vs. industry average at 16.98%. TTM operating margin at 21.46% vs. industry average 13.65%. TTM pretax margin 20.95% vs. industry average 11.97%. On 10/01/07 the closing price was at $75.49, compared to the closing price on 03/01/09 of $54. This implies a price return of -28.47% (the alpha vs. S&P 500 during the downturn at 24.02%). Might be undervalued at current levels, with a PEG ratio at 0.71, and P/FCF ratio at 5.28.

19. Helmerich & Payne Inc. (NYSE:HP): Oil & Gas Drilling & Exploration Industry. Market cap of $7.07B. TTM gross margin at 42.68% vs. industry average at 35.2%. TTM operating margin at 25.43% vs. industry average 17.84%. TTM pretax margin 25.22% vs. industry average 16.23%. On 10/01/07 the closing price was at $33.59, compared to the closing price on 03/01/09 of $23.66. This implies a price return of -29.56% (the alpha vs. S&P 500 during the downturn at 22.92%). The stock has had a couple of great days, gaining 7.93% over the last week.

20. AGL Resources Inc. (AGL): Gas Utilities Industry. Market cap of $3.19B. TTM gross margin at 29.23% vs. industry average at 22.22%. TTM operating margin at 22.06% vs. industry average 13.71%. TTM pretax margin 16.59% vs. industry average 11.23%. On 10/01/07 the closing price was at $40.03, compared to the closing price on 03/01/09 of $27.74. This implies a price return of -30.7% (the alpha vs. S&P 500 during the downturn at 21.78%).

21. The J. M. Smucker Company (NYSE:SJM): Processed & Packaged Goods Industry. Market cap of $8.87B. TTM gross margin at 40.72% vs. industry average at 34.3%. TTM operating margin at 18.97% vs. industry average 12.56%. TTM pretax margin 14.86% vs. industry average 10.01%. On 10/01/07 the closing price was at $53.74, compared to the closing price on 03/01/09 of $37.12. This implies a price return of -30.93% (the alpha vs. S&P 500 during the downturn at 21.56%).

22. IHS Inc. (NYSE:IHS): Application Software Industry. Market cap of $5.41B. TTM gross margin at 56.35% vs. industry average at 47.02%. TTM operating margin at 17.47% vs. industry average 15.74%. TTM pretax margin 15.8% vs. industry average 10.32%. On 10/01/07 the closing price was at $59.34, compared to the closing price on 03/01/09 of $40.73. This implies a price return of -31.36% (the alpha vs. S&P 500 during the downturn at 21.12%).

23. CARBO Ceramics Inc. (NYSE:CRR): Oil & Gas Equipment & Services Industry. Market cap of $3.77B. TTM gross margin at 44.63% vs. industry average at 35.2%. TTM operating margin at 27.79% vs. industry average 17.84%. TTM pretax margin 27.27% vs. industry average 16.23%. On 10/01/07 the closing price was at $51.18, compared to the closing price on 03/01/09 of $34.76. This implies a price return of -32.08% (the alpha vs. S&P 500 during the downturn at 20.4%). The stock has had a couple of great days, gaining 9.77% over the last week.

24. Westar Energy, Inc. (NYSE:WR): Diversified Utilities Industry. Market cap of $3.06B. TTM gross margin at 35.96% vs. industry average at 27.45%. TTM operating margin at 22.71% vs. industry average 19.01%. TTM pretax margin 14.18% vs. industry average 14.17%. On 10/01/07 the closing price was at $25.1, compared to the closing price on 03/01/09 of $16.9. This implies a price return of -32.67% (the alpha vs. S&P 500 during the downturn at 19.81%). The stock is a short squeeze candidate, with a short float at 13.06% (equivalent to 16.27 days of average volume).

25. Nationwide Health Properties Inc. (NYSE:NHP): REIT. Market cap of $5.24B. TTM gross margin at 51.76% vs. industry average at 38.83%. TTM operating margin at 51.76% vs. industry average 37.89%. TTM pretax margin 31.34% vs. industry average 16.9%. On 10/01/07 the closing price was at $30.75, compared to the closing price on 03/01/09 of $20.26. This implies a price return of -34.11% (the alpha vs. S&P 500 during the downturn at 18.37%). The stock has lost 1.52% over the last year.

26. Xilinx Inc. (NASDAQ:XLNX): Semiconductor Industry. Market cap of $9.69B. TTM gross margin at 67.54% vs. industry average at 58.92%. TTM operating margin at 34.01% vs. industry average 25.36%. TTM pretax margin 32.54% vs. industry average 24.76%. On 10/01/07 the closing price was at $26.87, compared to the closing price on 03/01/09 of $17.68. This implies a price return of -34.2% (the alpha vs. S&P 500 during the downturn at 18.28%). The stock is a short squeeze candidate, with a short float at 9.75% (equivalent to 6.03 days of average volume). The stock has gained 11.77% over the last year.

27. Pinnacle West Capital Corporation (NYSE:PNW): Electric Utilities Industry. Market cap of $4.86B. TTM gross margin at 34.03% vs. industry average at 27.43%. TTM operating margin at 21.3% vs. industry average 18.98%. TTM pretax margin 14.99% vs. industry average 14.15%. On 10/01/07 the closing price was at $40.14, compared to the closing price on 03/01/09 of $26.26. This implies a price return of -34.58% (the alpha vs. S&P 500 during the downturn at 17.91%).

28. Flowserve Corp. (NYSE:FLS): Diversified Machinery Industry. Market cap of $6.14B. TTM gross margin at 37.48% vs. industry average at 34.07%. TTM operating margin at 14.1% vs. industry average 12.55%. TTM pretax margin 13.49% vs. industry average 10.61%. On 10/01/07 the closing price was at $77.88, compared to the closing price on 03/01/09 of $50.47. This implies a price return of -35.2% (the alpha vs. S&P 500 during the downturn at 17.29%). The stock has lost 14.42% over the last year.

29. MSC Industrial Direct Co. Inc. (NYSE:MSM): Industrial Equipment Wholesale Industry. Market cap of $4.22B. TTM gross margin at 47.3% vs. industry average at 36.41%. TTM operating margin at 16.11% vs. industry average 12.32%. TTM pretax margin 15.96% vs. industry average 12.53%. On 10/01/07 the closing price was at $50.63, compared to the closing price on 03/01/09 of $30.59. This implies a price return of -39.58% (the alpha vs. S&P 500 during the downturn at 12.9%). The stock has lost 2.86% over the last year.

30. Pall Corp. (NYSE:PLL): Diversified Machinery Industry. Market cap of $6.54B. TTM gross margin at 54.24% vs. industry average at 34.05%. TTM operating margin at 17.93% vs. industry average 12.56%. TTM pretax margin 14.76% vs. industry average 10.61%. On 10/01/07 the closing price was at $40.11, compared to the closing price on 03/01/09 of $23.77. This implies a price return of -40.74% (the alpha vs. S&P 500 during the downturn at 11.75%). The stock has lost 2.09% over the last year.

*Profitability data sourced from Fidelity, all other data sourced from Finviz.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

Source: 30 Highly Profitable and Resilient Stocks to Consider for a Downturn