The 12 Best Low-Volatility Stocks of the Market Crash

When stocks go from setting all-time highs to tumbling 20% into a bear market in only three weeks, there are precious few places for equity investors to hide.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

When stocks go from setting all-time highs to tumbling 20% into a bear market in only three weeks, there are precious few places for equity investors to hide. But that doesn't mean defensive, low-volatility stocks aren't doing their jobs.

Investment professionals helping people construct a diversified portfolio always harp on the need for stocks that will hold up better in hard times. Well, hard times are here, and so it's time to see exactly how much defense the top performing defensive stocks are actually providing.

We screened the S&P 500 for stocks in classically defensive sectors: consumer staples, utilities, health care and real estate. Next we limited ourselves to low-volatility stocks with a "beta" of less than 1.0. Beta is a measure of volatility that indicates how closely a stock's price movement correlates with a benchmark.

For example, the S&P 500 has a beta of 1.0. Any stock that has a beta less than 1.0 can be said to be less volatile than the broader market. What this means in practice is that low-beta stocks tend to lag the broader market when stocks are going up, but – critically – they also hold up better when the S&P 500 is in decline.

Recent market carnage means it's time for defensive, low-beta stocks to shine. Even if they lose value in a selloff, they should lose less value than the broader market. And if they have above-average dividends that further soften losses, all the better.

Have a look at the 12 best-performing low-volatility stocks in this market crash so far.

Prices and other data are as of March 11. Data is courtesy of S&P Global Market Intelligence and YCharts. Dividend yields are calculated by annualizing the most recent payout and dividing by the share price.

Dan Burrows
Senior Investing Writer, Kiplinger.com

Dan Burrows is a financial writer at Kiplinger, having joined the august publication full time in 2016.


A long-time financial journalist, Dan is a veteran of SmartMoney, MarketWatch, CBS MoneyWatch, InvestorPlace and DailyFinance. He has written for The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Consumer Reports, Senior Executive and Boston magazine, and his stories have appeared in the New York Daily News, the San Jose Mercury News and Investor's Business Daily, among other publications. As a senior writer at AOL's DailyFinance, Dan reported market news from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange and hosted a weekly video segment on equities.


Once upon a time – before his days as a financial reporter and assistant financial editor at legendary fashion trade paper Women's Wear Daily – Dan worked for Spy magazine, scribbled away at Time Inc. and contributed to Maxim magazine back when lad mags were a thing. He's also written for Esquire magazine's Dubious Achievements Awards.


In his current role at Kiplinger, Dan writes about equities, fixed income, currencies, commodities, funds, macroeconomics and more.


Dan holds a bachelor's degree from Oberlin College and a master's degree from Columbia University.


Disclosure: Dan does not trade stocks or other securities. Rather, he dollar-cost averages into cheap funds and index funds and holds them forever in tax-advantaged accounts.