Best UK Stocks Right Now

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Contributor, Benzinga
February 26, 2024

Depending on your investment goals, diversifying into foreign stocks might make sense for your portfolio. U.K. stocks represent a solid choice among foreign stocks as far as dividends and capital appreciation go. Leading U.K. stocks can also conveniently be bought using American Depository Receipts (ADRs) that are traded on major U.S. stock exchanges.  In this article, we examine some of the best UK stocks to consider for your portfolio.

Quick Look at the Best UK Stocks:

TickerCompany±%PriceInvest

Overview: Best UK Stocks

GlaxoSmithKline was formerly called GlaxoWelcome before its merger with U.S. pharmaceutical company SmithKline Beecham in 2000. The combination has made GlaxoSmithKline the 6th largest pharmaceutical company in the world. 

Unilever was the product of the 1929 merger of British soapmaker Lever Brothers and the Dutch company Margarine Unie. The transnational company is one of the world’s largest consumer product manufacturers, and 2.5 billion people use its products worldwide.

Micro Focus International was founded in 1976 and consists of a global information technology (IT) company with more than 40,000 clients. The company specializes in analytics and big data, IT operations management, software collaboration solutions, and mainframe and security applications. 

Aviva plc is a leading international insurer with 33.4 million customers globally. It was founded in 2000 after the merger of 2 large U.K. insurers, Norwich Union and CGU plc, and is the 14th largest insurance company in the world. 

British American Tobacco is the world’s 2nd largest cigarette manufacturer that dates back to a 1902 joint venture between Imperial Tobacco Company and the American Tobacco Company. The company owns or has interest in tobacco companies in approximately 180 countries, with 11 million points of sale and 150 million consumers worldwide. 

Best Online Brokers for UK Stocks

Because the U.K. stocks mentioned above can be purchased using ADRs on U.S. exchanges, you can buy them through any broker with access to U.S. markets. You can also buy U.K. stocks directly on the London Stock Exchange with an Interactive Brokers or Charles Schwab International brokerage account. Other online brokers you can purchase U.K. stocks directly through include TD Ameritrade, E*TRADE and Robinhood.  

Features to Look for in UK Stocks

  • Strong balance sheet: The company’s balance sheet should show increasing earnings per share, as little debt as possible in its debt-to-equity ratio and a positive outlook for future earnings. Other important balance sheet numbers would be the company’s assets and cash position.   
  • Dividend yield: A company’s dividend yield is computed by dividing the amount of its dividend by the price of its stock. A high dividend yield makes a stock more attractive to investors looking to make income on their investments. 
  • Defensive qualities: With the level of uncertainty currently in the markets resulting in geopolitical issues, investing in economic sectors that hold their value through such challenging times and the probable future economic repercussions makes the most sense.   

UK Stocks to Watch Out for This Year

After the sharp decline of U.K. stocks in late March due to the pandemic, many U.K. stocks have since rallied correctively to recover a significant percentage of their losses. All the U.K. stocks mentioned below currently trade lower than their mid-January pre-pandemic prices. None of the stocks reviewed presently qualify for our stocks under $20 list.  

1. GlaxoSmithKline plc  

GSK stock has recovered substantially from its March 23 low of $31.85, currently trading at $42.15, which is just roughly 10% of the $47 level the stock was trading at in mid-January, before the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic on March 11. GSK stock has a dividend yield of 5.85% and quarterly earnings per share of $0.31. Because of the stock’s dual listing in London and New York, you don’t have to buy an ADR to purchase this stock.

2. Unilever

UL stock traded at the $60 to $64 level from May 2019 until early February 2020. The stock then made its yearly low of $44.62 on March 23 after the WHO’s March 11 pandemic announcement. The stock has since recovered to over $50 per share in early May 2020 and has a dividend yield of 3.5%.

Despite likely changes in consumer preferences after the pandemic, Unilever seems well-positioned as a maker of a variety of soap-based and personal hygiene products, which could offset possible losses in its restaurant food-related sales.  

3. Micro Focus International 

MFGP stock made its yearly low of $3.60 on March 30, 2020, but it then rallied to close at $5.70 in early May, just disqualifying it from our list of stocks under $5. While the stock offered a substantial dividend before the COVID-19 crisis, the dividend has been suspended until after the effects of the pandemic are more clearly determined. Interestingly, TMT Finance reported that Micro Focus has recently been holding private talks with possible buyers.

4. Aviva plc 

Aviva plc is the 14th largest insurer in the world and paid out £33.2 billion in claims and benefits in 2019. AVVIY shares traded as low as $4.90 on March 23, 2020, which was significantly worse than the $11 level the stock was trading at in mid-December 2019. AVVIY shares have since recovered somewhat and currently trade at $5.89 with a dividend yield of 7.22%, which qualifies Aviva stock for both our stocks under $10  and stocks under $20 lists.  

5. British American Tobacco 

Due to its principal business that depends on tobacco consumption, BTI stock follows the general market to a certain degree but also tends to show resilience in the long term due to the persistence of tobacco use. BTI stock made a low of $27.64 on March 23 and then rebounded to its current level of $36.98 per share. 

Before the WHO’s pandemic announcement, BTI stock was trading in the $42 to $44 per share range. The stock currently trades with a PE ratio of 11.54 on trailing 12-month earnings of $3.22 as of December 31, 2019.  

Biggest UK Stocks Movers of the Day

Since U.K.-listed companies generally have their base in the U.K., their stock will already have a half day of trading by the time U.S. markets open. All of the above-mentioned stocks could therefore be big premarket movers, especially upon an important announcement such as earnings, a potential takeover or a reopening of regions after the pandemic shutdowns.  

Stock Movers

Gainers

TickerCompany±%Buy Stock
HLHecla Mining$3.611.97%5.9MBuy/Sell
SNSharkNinja$53.690.86%992.6KBuy/Sell
AMZNAmazon.com$175.000.23%48.3MBuy/Sell
GSKGSK$42.230.17%3.5MBuy/Sell
BTIBritish American Tobacco$30.520.14%5.2MBuy/Sell
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Loser

TickerCompany±%Buy Stock
ADMArcher-Daniels Midland$53.52-0.34%5.6MBuy/Sell
AHTAshford Hospitality Trust$1.55-0.33%630.2KBuy/Sell
BABoeing$200.94-0.28%9.2MBuy/Sell
ULUnilever$50.67-0.1%2.7MBuy/Sell
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Session: Feb 22, 2024 4:00PM EST - Feb 23, 2024 3:59PM EST

UK Stocks: Is Now a Good Time to Buy?

Depending on your financial goals and portfolio, watching the U.K. market for the optimal time to buy after the pandemic-related selloff that started in March would make the most sense.

Investors looking for income would probably do well buying U.K. stocks that offer above-average dividend returns. Those looking for capital appreciation should look for companies that seem likely to remain out of insolvency and whose stocks seem ready to rise significantly in more favorable market conditions once economic regions reopen after the wave of pandemic-related shutdowns. 

Q

Is it smart to diversify into foreign stock?

A

Investing in foreign stock can be a great way to diversify your portfolio. You may need a foreign broker to make the trades.

Q

Do U.K. stocks have higher dividend yield than U.S. stocks?

A

Typically, U.K. stocks do have higher dividend yields than U.S. stocks.

Q

Which U.K. stocks should I invest in?

A

You can find Benzinga’s U.K. stocks on the list above.