Buy these cash kings for downside protection and flexibility in tough market, Morgan Stanley says

As Wall Street surveys for potential risks heading into September, some large-cap companies with strong balance sheets could offer investors both downside protection and even some growth, says Morgan Stanley. In the second quarter, certain companies in the Russell 1000 maintained healthy cash balances, even as they fortified their businesses by putting cash toward share buybacks, capital expenditures and acquisitions, according to a Tuesday report. Companies in the large cap index overall are maintaining a healthy 4.8% cash/enterprise value ratio, the note read. Meanwhile, the cash balance dropped to $2 trillion in the second quarter, down from $2.1 trillion in the first quarter. “We expect companies with fortress balance sheets to take advantage during this time of turmoil, buying back their stock at better valuations and/or acquiring businesses at discounted prices,” Morgan Stanley strategist Todd Castagno wrote. The investment firm screened for a basket of stocks that could help investors weather volatility and even invest in some growth. These names in the Russell 1000, excluding financials, real estate and utilities, have cash-to-enterprise values greater than 3%. Additionally, they have an estimated free cash flow growth rate greater than 5% on a compounded annual growth basis over the next two years, as well as a better than 10% return on invested capital in each of the next two years. They also have investment grade credit ratings. Here are 10 names: Megacap tech stock Alphabet met the criteria for the list with its strong cash balance and liquidity. It has a cash/enterprise value of 6.7%. The stock is down 25% this year. Consumer discretionary stock Dollar Tree has a cash/EV ratio of 3.2%. The stock lost nearly 2% this year. Ulta Beauty has a cash/EV ratio of 3.1%, and is expected to remain resilient amid higher inflation and an economic slowdown. Ulta ticked down just 0.4% in 2022. Visa has a cash/EV ratio of 4.1%. Visa shares are off 7% this year. Other stocks included in this list include Booking Holdings , Ross Stores , Qualcomm , Accenture , Skechers and Nike .

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