These are difficult times for investors. Stock markets in the U.S. and abroad remain extremely volatile and have been steadily sinking since last November. The turmoil is being caused by a toxic mix of persistent inflation that is at a 40-year high, impending interest rate hikes meant to lower consumer prices, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, oil prices that are at 14-year highs, global supply chain constraints, and an ongoing shortage of semiconductor chips used to power everything from smartphones to cars.
All of the major stock market indexes in the U.S. are in correction territory, defined as a decline of 10% or greater, with the Nasdaq near a 20% pullback, which is the technical indicator used to define a bear market.
So, what’s an investor to do in such difficult circumstances? How best to weather the storm? Buying reliable blue-chip stocks that perform well in times of trouble and consistently provide strong returns is a good start.
Here are four blue-chip stocks to buy in March.
Blue-Chip Stocks to Buy: Coca-Cola (KO)
Stocks don’t come more blue-chip than Atlanta-based Coca-Cola. The sugary soft drink has been a staple in good times and bad for 130 years now. And the stock has earned a reputation for being able to weather economic storms and market volatility.
Even this year, KO stock is down less than 2% compared to an 11% correction in the benchmark S&P 500 index. Over the past 12-months, Coca-Cola stock has gained 17% to now trade at $58.86 a share. Investors looking to add some stability to their portfolio, should consider buying Coke shares. They have the added bonus of paying a healthy dividend yield of 3.04%, which equates to a quarterly payout of $0.44 per share.
And now is a good time to buy KO stock as Coca-Cola’s sales accelerate coming out of the pandemic. Despite the impact of Covid-19, Coca-Cola still claims to control 14% of the worldwide market for commercial beverage sales in developed countries and 6% in emerging nations.
With sales resuming at movie theaters, sporting events, live concerts, and restaurants and bars that have now reopened, Coca-Cola’s management is forecasting that revenue will grow between 4% and 6% this year. The company also recently announced that it would begin buying back its stock this year after pausing share repurchases during the pandemic. All good reasons to add this name to a portfolio.
American Express (AXP)
Credit card giant American Express is another stock that always seems to sail through a stormy market unscathed. Year-to-date, the New York City-based company’s stock is down 3% at just under $173 a share while the technology heavy Nasdaq index has fallen into bear market territory at several points in recent months.
Over the last year, AXP stock is up 15%, bringing its five year gain to 114%. And while the company is known for being a preferred corporate credit card and widely used for business travel, American Express has taken steps in recent years to branch out and diversify its business.
In addition to its core payment products, American Express today also offers commercial business services, expense management tools, consulting services, and business loans to customers in 130 countries around the world.
And its consumer credit cards are gaining ground on its businesses cards, helping to make up ground lost in the corporate travel segment due to the pandemic, a portion of which the company has acknowledged is unlikely to come back with the rise of video conferences and virtual meetings. Additionally, American Express continues to run a very profitable merchant payment network that touches every corner of the globe.
Blue-Chip Stocks to Buy: Microsoft (MSFT)
Microsoft continues to be a leading software developer. However, the key to the company’s success in recent years has been its constant evolution and diversification.
Case in point: it recently announced $68.7 billion acquisition of video game maker Activision Blizzard (NASDAQ:ATVI). The deal brings video game development inhouse for Microsoft, which makes the popular Xbox video game console, and provides the company with yet another revenue stream.
In addition to video games, Microsoft has also expanded into areas such as virtual reality and cloud computing, which is the company’s fastest growing and most profitable business segment today.
The constant growth and expansion has been good news for MSFT stock. Shares of the Windows developer are down 17% so far this year on broad weakness in technology securities. However, the stock is up 20% over the past 12 months at right around $280 a share. Over the last five years, the share price has gained 331%.
The company also pays an annual dividend yield of 0.89%, good for a quarterly payout of $0.62 per share. Many of Microsoft’s products, from its legacy Windows computer operating system to its newer Teams virtual meeting program, proved to be indispensable to businesses and individuals during the pandemic.
There’s more to pharmaceutical giant Pfizer than its Covid-19 vaccine. The company produces numerous vaccines and medications to treat ailments ranging from cancer and heart disease to neurological disorders.
Pfizer’s blockbuster drugs include Eliquis to treat blood clots, Prevnar to treat pneumonia, and Ibrance, which is used in people who have breast cancer. Pfizer also maintains a robust pipeline of potential new medications and has operations around the world.
The company has forecast that it will earn $32 billion this year from sales of its Covid-19 vaccine and approved Covid-19 oral medication called Paxlovid.
Year to date, PFE stock has fallen 12% amid broader market weakness. However, the share price has increased 49% in the past 12 months to now trade at $52. Given its size and market leading position in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology sectors, Pfizer is a great blue-chip stock to have in a portfolio.
And although sales of its Covid-19 treatments are expected to slow somewhat, Pfizer remains the dominant Covid-19 vaccine provider in both the U.S. and Europe. In America, 58% of all Covid-19 shots administered were from Pfizer. In Europe, 71% of all Covid-19 vaccines came from Pfizer. With Covid-19 expected to become endemic, sales could remain strong for many years to come.
On the date of publication, Joel Baglole held a long position in MSFT. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.