The Wall Street Journal has an interesting article out this morning touting a new defensiveness among investors -- and what they plan on doing to protect their portfolios against a possible recession.
"With the housing downturn, credit crunch, gloomy employment data and a parade of maudlin financial forecasts have been enough to send some investors scrambling for bubble gum and beer," says The Journal. "While economists jawbone about whether the U.S. will sink into recession, investors already are thinking of ways to prepare their stock portfolios for a downturn."
The article states that, even if there isn't a full-blown recession -- usually defined as two consecutive quarters of negative economic growth -- many investors and strategists are bracing for a significant slowdown in growth.
"It's going to feel a lot like recession," says David Kostin, global investment strategist at Goldman Sachs.
The Journal also publishes an index of potential "recession-proof" sectors and companies. On that list, surprisingly (to me, anyway) is the information technology sector, with Microsoft listed as a "safe" recession-proof stock play.
The article also includes the telecom sector, but I don't really have a beef with that. People won't turn in their cell phones over a few bad economic quarters. Listed as the best play in telecom is AT&T, which historically has performed well in tough economic times.
But technology stocks? When the economy goes south, technology has historically been one of the hardest-hit sectors, with the possible exception of auto and travel industry stocks. Businesses pull back on their IT expenditures in recessionary times. Americans hold off on the purchase of a new computer. Big-ticket items tech items like computers, laser printers, and packaged software like Lotus Notes or Dreamweaver are considered luxuries that people can wait for - - something to be purchased when money is ample and credit a bit more relaxed.
I'm not even sure we're going into a recession (technically defined as two straight quarters of negative economic growth, as measured by the Gross National Product (GDP) Index). The Federal Reserve has gone against it's inflation-fighting grain and lowered interest rates for the expressed purpose of keeping us out of a recession. That's a big factor.
But even if we did go into a recession, technology stocks are one of the last "save havens" I'd want to seek refuge in. Better to wait for a sunnier day.