Cramer's Top Five Dow Stocks: Johnson & Johnson

Johnson & Johnson is the play, Cramer said Wednesday, for anyone looking to buy a strong defensive stock. And with market enthusiasm waning as President-Elect Obama’s stimulus plan grows seemingly more and more limp, a little protection might serve investors well.

You’d be hard-pressed to find anything more recession proof than Tylenol, Band-Aids, shampoo, baby powder, drugs and medical devices. And there’s a strong business behind these products. Johnson & Johnson works off a balance sheet with $15 billion in cash, management is great, the drug pipeline’s deep, and Warren Buffett is a major stakeholder.

JNJ may have dropped 18% from its 52-week high – it’s at about $59 down from about $73 – but Cramer said there’s a very good chance the stock could regain those losses. Especially considering at least part of them were due to the market’s bullish sentiment toward the incoming administration and its plans for the economy. If things are looking up, the reasoning went, why play defense with JNJ? But the sobering up taking place on Wall Street should bring this stock back into favor. Maybe even by the end of the week after we, most likely, get a bad unemployment number Friday.

JNJ has a history of bouncing back from big declines, too, far bigger than 18%, especially during a recession. The lows seen in April 2002, November 1999 and even as far back as April 1991 all were followed by a return to the stock’s highs, and sometimes more than that. Cramer thinks we’re at another one of those bottoms.

As for the company itself, it’s true that Johnson & Johnson is losing patent protection on two key drugs. But, as we mentioned, the company has one of the best pipelines in the industry. JNJ’s medical-technology business, too, is doing well, and so is the consumer-products division. If the U.S. dollar takes the beating Cramer thinks it will, then the company’s overseas revenue will just translate into more greenbacks here at home.

There’s also a dividend of 3.1% that’s worth owning. JNJ’s yield rarely gets to 3%. But when it does that usually means big returns for investors. It’s another reason why this is one of Cramer’s favorite Dow stocks.

Jim's charitable trust owns Johnson & Johnson.

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