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Today I present the best stocks for the defensive shelf in your portfolio. In my opinion, these stocks are those most immune to recession and will protect your portfolio be it a growth-focused or a conservative one. These stocks are all contrarian plays. By going against the grain in the defensive space, this article will help you discover the stocks that other analysts are not covering in detail.

Companhia de Bebidas das Americas Ambev (ABV) is a Brazil based beverage manufacturer producing beer and other carbonated soft drinks with a solid presence in Latin America, particularly Venezuela, Peru, Chile and of course, Brazil. The company sells Pepsi (NYSE:PEP), Gatorade and other major brands in its key geographic markets. The stock of the company is traded on the New York State Exchange, with a current price of $33.17, near the 52 week high of $36.30.

With a market cap of over $102 billion and an EPS growth rate of about 24%, where the industry average is a negative 2.28%, the company is considered a prince of the Latin American beer market, which happens to be the third largest in the world. The company’s annual revenues grew nearly 14%, whereas net earnings jumped, for the same period, by 33.5%. The dividend payout is on par with the industry average at 66% vs. 67%, the yield is a solid 4.4% versus less than 2%. The stock has consistently delivered dividend increases over the past 5 years.

Big Lots (NYSE:BIG) is a U.S.-based closeout retailer offering mega discounts on wide range of products such as food, home appliances, furniture, consumables, apparels and every other individual use product, through more than 1400 stores across 48 states. Selling virtually everything from paper to patio furniture, BIG owns and operates a wide distribution network, with strategically located centers at Ohio, California, Alabama, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania, where land is cheap but with access to key highway routes. The stock is currently trading at a market price of $40.32, near the 52 week high of $44.44.

With little impact of the recession on wholesalers, BIG offers a return on assets of 13.5%, more than double when compared to the industry average of 6.46%, with a strong return on equity of 24.91%, massive compared to Costco (NASDAQ:COST), which has a mere 12.81% on offer. BIG has significantly higher EPS growth of over 82% over the last 5 years as compared to just 8.21% for the industry as a whole. The price earnings multiple is a moderate 14 times, compared to Costco, far more expensive than BIG at 25.26 times.

Treehouse Foods, Inc. (NYSE:THS) is a North American processed food manufacturer and retail grocery giant, offering products such as pickles, jams, powdered drinks, sugar free drinks, cereals and other packed items. THS sells its products via a wide distribution network including retail groceries, distributors etc. across the United States and Canada with retail stalwart Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) and its affiliates contributing about 18.5%, and more importantly, the only customer contributing over 10% of sales alone.

With an enterprise value of $3.12 billion, the stock is trading with a price earnings of just below 24 times, when major competitors, particularly Sara Lee (SLE) are trading at 50 times (approximately). THS reported a 13.7% year on year growth in quarterly revenues, with an operating margin of 10.14%, both beating the competitor Sara Lee, which reported a negative quarterly growth. The stock is trading at $60.29, near the high in the 52 week range of $64.45 - $46.73.

Sanderson Farms, Inc. (NASDAQ:SAFM) is a poultry processing company engaged in the production, processing, marketing and distribution of chicken products, both fresh and frozen, with a capacity of 3.7 million tons of finished product annually. SAFM is primarily dominant in the south-eastern, south-western, north-eastern and western United States, operating no less than 6 feed mills, 7 hatcheries and 8 processing plants, not to mention contracts with over 180 breeder farms in the United States.

SAFM may have taken a hit on account of an increasing trend towards vegetarianism, alongside rising input costs, particularly in breeding. However, the company has still managed to register a quarterly revenue growth of 4.50% and 1 year EPS growth rate of 53.89%, along with a dividend yield of 1.38%. SAFM is currently trading at $49.41, near its 52 high in a range of $52.67 - $38.07. In the past 5 years, SAFM’s revenues have grown at 12.82%, compared to an industry average of 9.14%, and as chicken demand is expected to rise in the future, it can only get better.

Philip Morris International Inc. (NYSE:PM) is the big name in tobacco, the name behind globally well known brands such as Marlboro, Merit, Chesterfield and Red & White among others, selling its products in over 180 countries worldwide, with the Marlboro brand alone accounting for 33% of its total shipments. PM is currently trading at $71, inching towards its 52 week high of $72.74.

When competitors such as British American Tobacco (NYSEMKT:BTI) struggled with a year on year quarterly revenue growth of under 2%, PM is racing ahead at 26.40%. The growth is largely driven by increasing demand in Asia and Latin America, amounting to 22% and 17% respectively, as compared to the last fiscal year (2009). PM offers a phenomenal dividend yield of 4.33%, compared to the industry average of just 1.77%, with operating margins of 17.45% and an enormous return on equity of 178.87%. Needless to say, industry averages are nowhere around.

Source: 5 Recession Proof Stocks To Buy Now