Fortune releases its annual investor’s guide this morning. Picking stocks at a time when the economic cycle could be nearing its end is not for the faint of heart. But our team has done a good job identifying those that they think can weather a downturn. Among their picks:
Facebook – This one takes a strong stomach, given recent revelations, including this story in Sunday’s New York Times suggesting the company’s critics on Capitol Hill are multiplying. But if you believe like I do that the new and divided Congress isn’t going to be able to do much of anything, and if you think the social network can right itself and get its business back on track, then this is one hell of a buying opportunity. The stock is down 36% since July. We also like Alphabet and Texas Instruments.
Activision Blizzard – Even if the economy turns south, video games won’t lose their appeal…indeed, people may have more time to play them! Pay attention to this one, and to Take-Two Interactive Software.
Home Depot – DIY work also stays strong even when the economy turns down. We think TJX and Burlington Stores may also benefit from bargain buying.
And the ageing of the population is inexorable (I just passed a milestone myself on Friday), which makes health care a sure bet. Our team likes Abbott Labs, Merck and Illumina, among others.
You can find more of the Fortune picks here. And if you are wondering: how good are we at this compared to, oh, a dart board or blind finger pointing? Well, last year’s picks returned 5.2%. That beat the MSCI world stock index, but fell short of the S&P 500’s 6.6%. Our downfall was excessive optimism about the five Chinese stocks we picked—including Alibaba and Tencent—which all took a pounding. Our non-China picks delivered an 11.4% return.
More news below.
Note: An earlier version of this article included an incorrect figure for the returns of Fortune’s 2018 stock picks.
Nissan and Renault chair and CEO (respectively) Carlos Ghosn is in huge trouble for allegedly misreporting his own compensation. Nissan is in the process of sacking him, and has given information to the Japanese public prosecutor. Ghosn has been arrested, and the car companies’ shares are tanking. Bloomberg
Apple CEO Tim Cook sees more tech regulation as “inevitable” thanks to scandals in the world of Big Tech. “Generally speaking, I am not a big fan of regulation. I’m a big believer in the free market. But we have to admit when the free market is not working,” Cook told Axios. “And it hasn’t worked here. I think it’s inevitable that there will be some level of regulation.” Axios
Zuck at War
Mark Zuckerberg put Facebook on a war footing some months ago, and his tougher management style has managed to drive away a dozen top execs, according to a Wall Street Journal piece that also says he blames Sheryl Sandberg for the aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica debacle (see also last week’s damning New York Times piece.) WSJ
Disagreements between the U.S. and China meant there was no concluding statement from the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, for the first time in APEC’s history. Chinese President Xi and U.S. VP Pence dissed one another’s countries in speeches at the Papua New Guinea summit. In short, things are not looking good for a resolution to the Sino-American trade spat. Bloomberg
Around the Water Cooler
Michel Barnier, the EU’s top Brexit negotiator (and, some say, a potential replacement for Jean-Claude Juncker as European Commission president,) has floated the idea of extending the Brexit transition until the end of 2022, in order to allow more time to negotiate a new trading relationship. However, that would leave the U.K. at the mercy of EU rules over which it has no say, and also having to shell out billions more pounds. Guardian
The Financial Times has a thoughtful piece on new GE CEO Larry Culp’s efforts to sell off bits of the conglomerate, in order to pay off its debts. It is plausible that GE could raise $40 billion or so in the next year—the question is whether that would be enough, or whether the company would need to start looking at getting rid of a “crown jewel” such as its aviation business. FT
Michael Bloomberg is donating $1.8 billion to Johns Hopkins University. The donation to Bloomberg’s alma mater is apparently the biggest-ever gift to a U.S. university. It will be used to give financial aid to low and middle income students. “It will allow the school to offer more generous scholarships,” said Bloomberg. “It will ease the burden of student debt for many graduates.” Fox Business
President Trump emitted a tweet about Adam Schiff, the Democratic representative who will be chairing the House Intelligence Committee, in which he referred to him as “little Adam Schitt.” In other news, Trump’s assertion that the catastrophic Californian wildfires could have been averted by raking the forest floor, like they do in Finland, has been undermined by the Finnish president. Fortune