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As Wall Street gets bearish, these global stocks with margin growth could be safe bets

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After what has been a tumultuous year for stocks, many investors are hoping that markets are at a turning point. But a number of Wall Street banks remain unconvinced that the bear market rally has legs to run — and are urging investors to remain defensive in the months ahead. Goldman Sachs , for instance, believes conditions for an equity bottom have not yet been reached. In a note to clients, strategists at the bank said investors should continue to position themselves defensively going into 2023 as the stock market hasn’t yet hit its trough. “We remain relatively defensive for the 3 [month] horizon with further headwinds from rising real yields likely and lingering growth uncertainty,” Goldman’s Christian Mueller-Glissmann and Cecilia Mariotti wrote. Likewise, Barclays believes the outlook for equities through 2023 remains “extremely challenging” and has forecast a shallow recession next year. Citigroup , meanwhile, believes the world is “headed for a year of staggered recessions” and earnings-per-share estimates have further to fall. “Combine this with higher inflation, and hawkish central bank policy, finding the right allocation to Value or Growth has been difficult as evidenced by their higher volatility. This all points to a preference for more defensive style positioning,” Citi’s analysts, led by Chris Montagu, wrote in a note on Monday. One way to position defensively is to buy shares in companies with resilient margins — as advised by Goldman Sachs in its recent note. CNBC Pro screened FactSet for MSCI World stocks with a track record of margin growth which are expected to continue growing their margins over the next 12 months. They are also buy rated by the majority of analysts covering them and have average potential upside of at least 20% over the next 12 months. Defensive stocks ArcelorMittal , the world’s largest steelmaker, made CNBC’s screen. The company has grown its gross margin by 24.8% over the past three years and they are expected to increase by another 29.2% in the next 12 months, according to FactSet data. The stock is rated buy by nearly 60% of analysts covering it, who give it potential upside of 26.3%. Japanese steelmaker Nippon Steel also turned up on the list. The company is expected to grow its margin by 17.9% next year and analysts give it potential upside of 23.4%. German logistics firm Deutsche Post is expected to grow its margin by a whopping 46.3% over the next 12 months, according to estimates from FactSet. Analysts give the stock potential upside of 34.8%. Bath & Body Works also made the screen. Earlier this month, the retailer reported third-quarter results that beat expectations and hiked its full-year profit outlook, in a remarkable turnaround just months after the retailer cut its profit outlook in May. Billionaire hedge fund manager Daniel Loeb’s Third Point disclosed a $265 million position in the company in mid-November. Loeb is not the only one bullish on Bath & Body Works. Some 71.4% of analysts covering the stock rate it a buy, and give it average upside of 24.3%. Other stocks that turned up on the screen include food delivery firm DoorDash , French energy giant Engie and U.S. food company Bunge . — CNBC’s Yun Li and Michael Bloom contributed reporting

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