As stock market slows down, defensive stocks shine

After sailing through its best first quarter since 1998, the stock market is starting to lose some momentum. The Standard and Poor’s 500 stock index, a broad market benchmark, is up just 1 percent this quarter after jumping 5.4 percent in the first three months of the year, in large part because of conflicting data about the health of the economy.

One group — defensive stocks — is doing just fine. Utilities, health care and consumer staples are all considered a good defense against a slowdown because they tend to have stable profits no matter what happens in the broad economy. The items they sell aren’t ones people stop buying when their budgets are tight. And for the last six weeks, investors have been putting money into stocks of companies like Aetna or Kraft Foods that cater to everyday needs, like health insurance or coffee.



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