If sentiment for precious metals is anything to go by, it may be time to consider shifting your portfolio toward a defensive posture. With back-and-forth headlines suggesting that a Russian invasion of Ukraine is imminent, the global markets seem poised to suffer a correction. While it’s always tricky navigating such circumstances, you may want to take a deeper look at so-called sin stocks.
Levered to businesses that cater to various adult liberties, sin stocks are among the most controversial investments you can make. I’m not going to sugarcoat it. According to Rebeco.com, ethical investors avoid this category as many perceive this sector as “exploiting human weaknesses and vices.” It’s hard to argue with that notion. Certainly, you’re not going to win any humanitarian awards supporting this segment.
However, a viable counterargument exists in that people have to do what they have to do. Undoubtedly, those that continue to support environmental, social and governance (ESG) plays — irrespective of their underlying financial performance — are noble. But that nobility effectively counteracts the one behavioral attribute that you need in successful investing: trading without emotions. In a way, sin stocks represent the ultimate baptism of fire.
Overall, it comes down to the need for coping mechanisms. When chaos ensues, many people turn to their vices and coping mechanisms to get them through the tough time. Thus, for purely cynical reasons, these sin stocks may perform well if the economy slows down.
RCI Hospitality (NASDAQ:RICK)
Philip Morris International (NYSE:PM)
Turning Point Brands (NYSE:TPB)
Innovative Industrial Properties (NYSE:IIPR)
Anheuser Busch Inbev (NYSE:BUD)
Smith & Wesson Brands (NASDAQ:SWBI)
Although the idea of sin stocks during times of turmoil may be attractive from a contrarian perspective, it’s also not without risks. Some analysts argue that you shouldn’t trade under these volatile conditions, especially because anything can happen. Above all, perform your due diligence before proceeding.
Sin Stocks to Buy: RCI Hospitality (RICK)
Truly one of a kind, RCI Hospitality specializes in upscale clubs and restaurants for gentlemen, if you know what I mean. And if you don’t, feel free to have a discussion with your “friend.”
In all seriousness, RCI engages with the more prurient aspect of society, making it one of the go-to sin stocks. However, it’s not just about the inherent salaciousness that entices investors to RICK stock. Rather, such businesses have tended to perform well during prior economic downturns.
According to a CNBC report — and just as a professional courtesy, the linked article contains mildly questionable photos — upscale clubs and restaurants have done remarkably well following the Great Recession. The dynamic confirms what many of us suspect: this type of entertainment insulates itself from certain market risks due to catering to particular needs.
As confirmation, RCI’s revenue for the year ended Sept. 30, 2021, came out to $195.3 million. This was well above the prior year’s tally and also 8% above 2019’s result, which by itself was impressive. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea but RICK stocks is one of the most fundamentally sound sin stocks.
Philip Morris International (PM)
Source: vfhnb12 / Shutterstock.com
Following decades-long campaigns against cigarette smoking, anti-tobacco advocates have reason to smile. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Current smoking has declined from 20.9% (nearly 21 of every 100 adults) in 2005 to 14.0% (14 of every 100 adults) in 2019, and the proportion of ever smokers who have quit has increased.”
With such dramatic declines in smoking rates, you’d expect Philip Morris International — among the key players in the global tobacco industry — to suffer along with the rest of the market. On the contrary, though. Instead, PM stock demonstrates why so many investors will be looking to sin stocks to protect themselves if the economy hits a snag.
On a year-to-date (YTD) basis, the S&P 500 index is down more than 9%. However, PM stock is up nearly 15%, climbing multiple walls of worry. What gives?
For one thing, Philip Morris is pivoting toward its e-vapor platform called IQOS VEEV. As well, people turn to tobacco products to relieve stress. No, it’s not healthy and I do not condone it. But this is one of the best-performing sin stocks for a reason.
Sin Stocks to Buy: Turning Point Brands (TPB)
Not to be confused with Turning Point USA, Turning Point Brands may be just as provocative as the nonprofit conservative organization. A branded consumer products firm that markets and distributes goods geared for an adult audience — including alternative smoking accessories and consumables with active ingredients — TPB is one of the more intriguing ideas among sin stocks.
To be clear, intriguing also entails substantial risk. Since the start of the year, TPB has declined nearly 14%. In the trailing six months, shares are down almost 33% and in the trailing year, down 37%. Nevertheless, the pace of volatility appears to be slowing, perhaps opening an entry point for daring traders.
What raises the eyebrow (in a good way) is that Turning Point is one of the companies that posted strong growth in 2020 relative to 2019 ($405.1 million versus $362 million). In the trailing-12-month period, the company has posted revenue of $445.5 million, highlighting the power of smoking-related sin stocks.
Again, you shouldn’t smoke. But considering how many people do, TPB stock is a terribly cynical opportunity.
Innovative Industrial Properties (IIPR)
I hesitate to call Innovative Industrial Properties one of the sin stocks to consider because its exposure to certain mature markets is arguably tangential. Billed as a leading provider of real-estate capital for the regulated cannabis industry, Innovative Industrial focuses on the medical-use side of the botanical sector.
The above priority is significant because it helps in the reputational department. According to a Pew Research Center report, 60% of surveyed Americans believe that marijuana should be legal for medical and recreational use, while 31% believe it should be legal for medical use only. That means fewer than 10% say that the controversial plant should not be legal at all.
Therefore, focusing on medical use keeps IIPR above board, so to speak. Why then include shares on this list of sin stocks? Frankly, cannabis-related investments are difficult to trust. Though they enjoyed much fanfare a few years ago when many green companies debuted, their impact has been largely negative.
However, that’s not the case with Innovative Industrial, which capitalizes green ventures rather than growing the green stuff. Any discount in IIPR stock, then, could be an interesting acquisition idea.
Sin Stocks to Buy: Anheuser Busch Inbev (BUD)
Source: legacy1995 / Shutterstock.com
It’s a contentious debate, but some evidence points to the intuitive notion that as the economy falters, people turn to alcohol to pick themselves up, which of course is ironic being that alcohol is a depressant. However, deeper research into drinking behavior following the Great Recession indicates that drinking patterns are more nuanced, with workers actually limiting consumption in circumstances that could accelerate the probability of job loss.
Therefore, the idea that economic downturns contributes to Americans becoming drunkards might not be accurate. On the other hand, evidence does suggest that a great many turn to alcohol as a coping mechanism. So, if you want a purely cynical trade among sin stocks, you might want to put Anheuser Busch Inbev on your radar.
Although many adult beverage companies exist, Anheuser Busch specializes in products across various price ranges. Better yet, its flagship product Bud Light continues to be the best-selling beer in America.
Smith & Wesson Brands (SWBI)
Source: Errant / Shutterstock.com
Perhaps the ultimate name in self-defense, Smith & Wesson Brands is inarguably one of the most controversial sin stocks. Whether in good times or bad, the firearms industry constantly finds itself dodging and deflecting public criticism, especially when a high-profile shooting erupts.
Furthermore, calls for gun control represent a mathematical conundrum for Smith & Wesson and its ilk. As the Washington Post noted back in 2015, there are more guns in the U.S. than there are people. Even with that kind of statistic, demand for firearms is ravenous.
At the same time, firearms aren’t exactly cheap — certainly not the ones coming out of Smith & Wesson’s factory. So wouldn’t a slow down in the economy hurt the gun industry?
You only have to reference recent history to have confidence in SWBI stock. For instance, when the coronavirus pandemic first upturned society, people rushed to buy guns and ammunition. If an economic crisis erupts, I expect similar behavior, as everyday law-abiding citizens acquire the means to protect themselves.
Sin Stocks to Buy: Lottery.com (LTRY)
With Lottery.com, I’m saving arguably the most controversial of sin stocks on this list for last. Mainly, folks are waking up to the reality that lotteries are exploitative. Sure, you can make the case that every adult makes their own decisions. But this industry tends to prey on disenfranchised communities, selling them a dream of financial independence that has a snowball’s chance of perdition of panning out.
But how did lotteries become legal in the first place? According to author Joe Carter, “From the 1800s to the mid 20th century, government-run lotteries in America were not only recognized as immoral but were banned in every state. That changed in 1964 when New Hampshire—a state without an income tax—reinstituted a state lottery.”
Moreover, Carter added that over the next 50 years, “43 more U.S. states and three territories (the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands) would legalize state-run gambling operations to pay for government programs.”
It’s a messy situation. However, a slowing of the economy could see folks turn to Lottery.com’s “services” from sheer desperation. If you’re just about cold hard profits, LTRY stock could be the sin stock for you.
On the date of publication, Josh Enomoto did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.
A former senior business analyst for Sony Electronics, Josh Enomoto has helped broker major contracts with Fortune Global 500 companies. Over the past several years, he has delivered unique, critical insights for the investment markets, as well as various other industries including legal, construction management, and healthcare.