A Measure of Protection

Based on past performance and outlook, these 16 stocks could be relatively safe bets, even in today's uncertainty

By Numer de Guia

Wall Street's recent slide has reinforced the belief of many a wary market participant: In investing, protecting capital from loss is as important as profit potential.

Of course, stocks are hardly the last word in "safe" investments. However, for those who prefer to remain invested in equities but want an added measure of comfort, some reassurance can be gained in buying companies with proven track records. If historical results can be used as a guide to future performance, stocks that have consistently delivered a reasonable minimum return could then be considered safe stocks, based on past data.

This week's screen looks for stocks with such track records. We searched for companies that have had total returns of at least 5% every year for the past three years (ending in June). And we used one final filter: Each of the stocks had to carry an S&P investment ranking of 5 STARS (buy), meaning they're expected to outperform the overall market in the next 6 to 12 months.

These 16 stocks turned up:

• Alberto-Culver (ACV )

• Chico's FAS (CHS )

• Dean Foods (DF )

• Electronic Arts (ERTS )

• Evergreen Resources (EVG )

• Gallagher (Arthur J.) (AJG )

• Hot Topic (HOTT )

• Laboratory Corp. of America (LH )

• Ocean Energy (OEI )

• Oxford Health (OHP )

• Quest Diagnostics (DGX )

• SCP Pool (POOL )

• St. Jude Medical (STJ )

• Tenet Healthcare (THC )

• Triad Hospitals (TRI )

• UnitedHealth Group (UNH )

De Guia is a portfolio services analyst for Standard & Poor's

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