10 best blue-chip stocks to buy for 2023

Blue-chip stocks offer reliable earnings and income even in a turbulent economy.

  • By Ian Bezek,
  • U.S. News & World Report
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Blue-chip stocks are those that have top-notch reputations. They are the companies known for being high-quality, faring well during recessions and having the brands, managerial excellence and resiliency to prosper regardless of what's going on elsewhere in the economy.

While there is no one definitive list, people have generally looked to the Dow Jones Industrial Average () as a good measure of blue-chip stocks. That index tends to prefer older, established companies compared to the S&P 500 () and Nasdaq (), which include smaller, newer and more growth-focused companies.

While the Dow may have lost some of its luster, it regained its momentum in 2022. Through Dec. 20, the Dow is off 9.6% this year, whereas the S&P 500 and Nasdaq have seen much sharper losses of 19.8% and 32.6%, respectively. Here are 10 blue chips that should outperform in 2023.

Walmart Inc.

Walmart () remains the country's dominant brick-and-mortar, mass-merchandise retailer. The company's e-commerce business is also a growing portion of its revenue. On top of that, Walmart has an extensive international arm, with operations in two dozen countries spread over more than 10,000 stores.

For many years, investors felt that Amazon.com Inc. () had left Walmart in the dust, but Amazon has stumbled in recent years, and its profitability metrics have sagged. Meanwhile, its Whole Foods grocery expansion failed to meaningfully dent Walmart's hold on that key category. If anything, omnichannel retail is becoming the new preferred method, and Walmart's large store footprint and massive logistics network give it a strong competitive position. Overall economic conditions are also a factor. The current inflationary wave and potential recession on the horizon should bode well; Walmart usually does well during periods of economic uncertainty, as consumers trade down to cheaper options.

Home Depot Inc.

Home Depot () is a dominant building supply store. It, along with Lowe's Cos. Inc. (), have built an effective duopoly across much of North America, with both companies delivering tremendous returns to shareholders over the decades. Home Depot shares have sold off significantly over the past year around housing market jitters. It's certainly true that higher interest rates will cause a meaningful drag on new home construction.

However, home repair and remodeling drives a great deal of business for building supply stores, and that segment should be less affected during a housing bust. It's also worth considering that Home Depot stock regained all its 2008 financial crisis-era losses by early 2012. Home Depot's recovery should be even quicker this time around. Throw in strong long-term demographics for the housing market, and this current entry point at less than 20 times forward earnings looks attractive.

PepsiCo Inc.

Warren Buffett is well-known for his love of Coca-Cola Co. (). His long-term ownership of that company has generated immense wealth for him and his fellow shareholders. That said, arguably the most blue-chip stock of the bunch is its rival PepsiCo (). That's because soft drinks face long-term risks.

Due to rising scrutiny of sugar consumption, the global obesity epidemic and the potential for sin taxes, soft drink sales could slide. PepsiCo helps offset this with its Frito-Lay snack food division. That gives the company diversification while also offering cross-selling benefits, shared marketing and greater supply chain leverage. PepsiCo isn't a flashy stock, but its tried-and-true combination of soft drinks and snack foods has led to a 13.2% annualized total return, which includes dividends, over the past decade. That sort of stability looks more attractive than ever given the recent bear market.

Nike Inc.

Nike () is the world's most well-known purveyor of athletic apparel. From the company's early days as a shoe company, it has built a global sportswear empire. NKE stock has had a brutal year, with shares down 38.1% through Dec. 20. The company's earnings have struggled, inventory has piled up, and investors should expect additional weakness for at least the first half of 2023.

In addition, the crucial Chinese market remains stagnant due to COVID-19 restrictions in that country. However, little of this will matter to investors with long-term perspectives. Nike's brand hasn't diminished. If anything, the company has gained strength in recent years due to its industry-leading, direct-to-consumer sales channel. Nike is a blue-chip consumer stock currently going for a deep holiday discount.

Visa Inc.

Visa () is one of the two leading credit card networks. It and rival Mastercard Inc. () process the vast majority of credit card transactions. This makes for attractive industry dynamics. The power of a global network linking countless banks, merchants and individuals creates a massive benefit that distances the company from competitors.

Visa also enjoys large economies of scale, allowing it to offer individual transactions with low fees that fintech startups have struggled to match. Investors might think that the opportunity is coming to an end for Visa, as credit cards are already a well-established technology. But the pandemic gave another boost to the industry, as many stores prioritized cash-free checkout options. Emerging markets are another avenue for future growth opportunities. Visa shares typically trade for at least 30 times earnings, given the company's strong growth record. They're currently on sale for about 21 times forward earnings.

Procter & Gamble Co.

Procter & Gamble () is one of the world's largest consumer products companies. The company's roots go back almost two centuries. Modern-day P&G has focused on branded consumer goods for categories such as baby, feminine, family care, grooming, beauty and laundry. These are the classic staples consumers need to buy on a regular basis regardless of what is going on with the economy.

There is some risk from generic products or cheaper alternatives, but P&G's size and large marketing budget give it significant and persistent advantages against rivals. The product categories P&G serves also tend to change slowly. This means that P&G's earnings aren't too threatened by technological change. The company has focused on efficiency and strengthening internal processes in recent years, which has left the company on a strong footing to prosper through the current inflationary shock.

Johnson & Johnson

Johnson & Johnson (), like P&G, is another mainstay in many conservative investors' portfolios. The health care giant has increased its dividend for an incredible 60 years in a row, offering investors a growing income stream for nearly a whole lifetime. J&J has had such tremendous success because it has a wide array of products. J&J sells consumer health and wellness products, medical devices and pharmaceuticals.

The company has many smaller internal divisions overseeing individual products and niches. This decentralized structure has made J&J highly adaptive, as each unit can react quickly to challenges and opportunities in its respective market. J&J has had a remarkable run creating and managing so many unique drugs, devices and consumer products over the decades. JNJ stock is priced at a reasonable 17 times forward earnings. Furthermore, it has a fortress balance sheet: J&J holds a perfect AAA credit rating.

3M Co.

3M () was founded in 1902 as Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing. It has become an incredibly diverse industrial conglomerate and currently offers more than 60,000 individual products. Lines of business include, but are hardly limited to, adhesives, insulating materials, safety gear, dental equipment and health care software. The company has about 100,000 employees and generates $35 billion in annual revenue.

Long story short, this is one of the single-best companies to profit from the return of American manufacturing and industry, which seems increasingly likely, as firms are pulling factories out of China. MMM stock has had a terrible run over the past few years due to economic fears and lingering worries about some product liability lawsuits. Once these clear up, however, 3M should have considerable upside. Shares trade for about 12 times forward earnings and offer a 4.9% dividend yield.

Texas Instruments Inc.

Texas Instruments () is one of America's largest semiconductor companies. It has built its niche in analog semiconductors. The firm was founded way back in 1930 to manufacture seismic equipment. It then moved into more mainstream electronics. The company invented the world's first integrated circuit in 1958 and was also involved in popularizing silicon transistors, transistor radios and, later, the first handheld calculator.

Texas Instruments is still well-known for calculators, but that is just a small piece of its business. Rather, the company primarily makes advanced chips for automobiles and other industrial uses. The firm has one of the longest track records in American electronics, and it is entering the next decade on a strong footing. The company is currently building out large new manufacturing facilities in Texas with financial backing from the Biden administration's CHIPS and Science Act. Shares currently go for 20 times forward earnings and offer a 3% dividend yield.

Chevron Corp.

The oil and gas industry roared back to life over the past 18 months. That has made the oil blue chips, such as Chevron (), attractive investments again. The thing is, Chevron didn't fare that badly during the previous energy bust. The company's broad and diversified investments across the energy spectrum insulated it from disaster, and now its robust collection of world-class energy assets is helping it prosper in this new era.

Chevron's substantial investments in liquefied natural gas, or LNG, have proven extremely valuable this year. Due to disruptions in the European gas market following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, LNG imports have taken on heightened importance. Chevron is ideally positioned to assist on that front. The oil giants have long been known for their large and stable dividends. At 10 times forward earnings and a 3.3% dividend yield, Chevron is giving investors a solid entry point for 2023.

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