*Updated on January 18th, 2022 by Bob Ciura*

In the world of investing, volatility matters. Investors are reminded of this every time there is a downturn in the broader market and individual stocks that are more volatile than others experience enormous swings in price.

Volatility is a *proxy* for risk; more volatility generally means a riskier portfolio. The volatility of a security or portfolio against a benchmark is called *Beta*.

In short, Beta is measured via a formula that calculates the price risk of a security or portfolio against a benchmark, which is typically the broader market as measured by the S&P 500.

Here’s how to read stock betas:

- A beta of 1.0 means the stock moves equally with the S&P 500
- A beta of 2.0 means the stock moves twice as much as the S&P 500
- A beta of 0.0 means the stocks moves don’t correlate with the S&P 500
- A beta of -1.0 means the stock moves precisely opposite the S&P 500

Interestingly, *low beta* stocks have historically outperformed the market… But more on that later.

You can download a spreadsheet of the 100 lowest beta stocks (along with important financial metrics like price-to-earnings ratios and dividend yields) below:

This article will discuss beta more thoroughly, why low-beta stocks tend to outperform, and provide a discussion of the 5 lowest-beta dividend stocks in the Sure Analysis Research Database. The table of contents below allows for easy navigation.

**Table of Contents**

- The Evidence for Low Beta Outperformance
- How To Calculate Beta
- Beta & The Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM)
- Analysis On The 5 Lowest-Beta Dividend Stocks
- Final Thoughts

**The Evidence for Low Beta Outperformance**

Beta is helpful in understanding the overall price risk level for investors during market downturns in particular. The lower the Beta value, the less volatility the stock or portfolio should exhibit against the benchmark. This is beneficial for investors for obvious reasons, particularly those that are close to or already in retirement, as drawdowns should be relatively limited against the benchmark.

Importantly, low or high Beta simply measures the size of the moves a security makes; it does not mean necessarily that the price of the security stays nearly constant. Indeed, securities can be low Beta and still be caught in long-term downtrends, so this is simply one more tool investors can use when building a portfolio.

The conventional wisdom would suggest that lower Beta stocks should underperform the broader markets during uptrends and outperform during downtrends, offering investors lower prospective returns in exchange for lower risk.

However, history would suggest that simply isn’t the case. Indeed, this paper from Harvard Business School suggests that not only do low Beta stocks not underperform the broader market over time – including all market conditions – they actually *outperform*.

A long-term study wherein the stocks with the lowest 30% of Beta scores in the US were pitted against stocks with the highest 30% of Beta scores suggested that low Beta stocks outperform by several percentage points *annually*.

Over time, this sort of outperformance can mean the difference between a comfortable retirement and having to continue working. While low Beta stocks aren’t a panacea, the case for their outperformance over time – and with lower risk – is quite compelling.

**How To Calculate Beta**

The formula to calculate a security’s Beta is fairly straightforward. The result, expressed as a number, shows the security’s tendency to move with the benchmark.

For example, a Beta value of 1.0 means that the security in question should move in lockstep with the benchmark. A Beta of 2.0 means that moves in the security should be twice as large in magnitude as the benchmark and in the same direction, while a negative Beta means that movements in the security and benchmark tend to move in opposite directions or are negatively correlated.

**Related: **The S&P 500 Stocks With Negative Beta.

In other words, negatively correlated securities would be expected to rise when the overall market falls, or vice versa. A small value of Beta (something less than 1.0) indicates a stock that moves in the same direction as the benchmark, but with smaller relative changes.

Here’s a look at the formula:

The numerator is the covariance of the asset in question with the market, while the denominator is the variance of the market. These complicated-sounding variables aren’t actually that difficult to compute – especially in Excel.

Additionally, Beta can also be calculated as the correlation coefficient of the security in question and the market, multiplied by the security’s standard deviation divided by the market’s standard deviation.

Finally, there’s a greatly simplified way to calculate Beta by manipulating the capital asset pricing model formula (more on Beta and the capital asset pricing model later in this article).

Here’s an example of the data you’ll need to calculate Beta:

- Risk-free rate (typically Treasuries at least two years out)
- Your asset’s rate of return over some period (typically one year to five years)
- Your benchmark’s rate of return over the same period as the asset

To show how to use these variables to do the calculation of Beta, we’ll assume a risk-free rate of 2%, our stock’s rate of return of 7% and the benchmark’s rate of return of 8%.

You start by subtracting the risk-free rate of return from both the security in question and the benchmark. In this case, our asset’s rate of return net of the risk-free rate would be 5% (7% – 2%). The same calculation for the benchmark would yield 6% (8% – 2%).

These two numbers – 5% and 6%, respectively – are the numerator and denominator for the Beta formula. Five divided by six yields a value of 0.83, and that is the Beta for this hypothetical security. On average, we’d expect an asset with this Beta value to be 83% as volatile as the benchmark.

Thinking about it another way, this asset should be about 17% less volatile than the benchmark while still having its expected returns correlated in the same direction.

**Beta & The Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM)**

The Capital Asset Pricing Model, or CAPM, is a common investing formula that utilizes the Beta calculation to account for the time value of money as well as the risk-adjusted returns expected for a particular asset.

Beta is an essential component of the CAPM because without it, riskier securities would appear more favorable to prospective investors. Their risk wouldn’t be accounted for in the calculation.

The CAPM formula is as follows:

The variables are defined as:

- ERi = Expected return of investment
- Rf = Risk-free rate
- βi = Beta of the investment
- ERm = Expected return of market

The risk-free rate is the same as in the Beta formula, while the Beta that you’ve already calculated is simply placed into the CAPM formula. The expected return of the market (or benchmark) is placed into the parentheses with the market risk premium, which is also from the Beta formula. This is the expected benchmark’s return minus the risk-free rate.

To continue our example, here is how the CAPM actually works:

ER = 2% + 0.83(8% – 2%)

In this case, our security has an expected return of 6.98% against an expected benchmark return of 8%. That may be okay depending upon the investor’s goals as the security in question should experience less volatility than the market thanks to its Beta of less than 1. While the CAPM certainly isn’t perfect, it is relatively easy to calculate and gives investors a means of comparison between two investment alternatives.

Now, we’ll take a look at five stocks that not only offer investors low Beta scores, but attractive prospective returns as well.

**Analysis On The 5 Lowest-Beta Dividend Stocks**

The following 5 stocks have the lowest (but positive) Beta values, in ascending order from lowest to highest. They also pay dividends to shareholders. We focused on Betas above 0, as we are still looking for stocks that are positively correlated with the broader market:

**5. Gilead Sciences (GILD)**

Gilead Sciences is a biotechnology company that operates with a clear focus on antiviral medication and treatments. Its main products include treatments for HIV, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C (HBV/HCV), but Gilead has also ventured into other areas such as oncology.

Gilead Sciences reported its third quarter earnings results on October 28. The company generated revenues of $7.4 billion during the quarter, which was above the analyst consensus estimate.

Revenue grew by 13% compared to the previous year’s quarter. Gilead generated earnings–per–share of $2.65 during the third quarter, which was easily above the consensus estimate.

GILD has a **5-year Beta score of 0.34**.

**Click here to download our most recent Sure Analysis report on Gilead Sciences** (preview of page 1 of 3 shown below):

**4. Tyson Foods (TSN)**

Tyson Foods, founded in 1935, is one the world’s largest processors and marketers of chicken, beef and pork products. The company was founded by John Tyson, an Arkansas farmer who started out as a small businessman hauling chickens to Midwestern markets.

Today, Tyson Foods sells products to leading grocery chains, food franchises, and military commissaries in over 100 countries. Well–known brands include Tyson, Jimmy Dean, Hillshire Farm, Ball Park and State Fair. The company generated $47 billion in revenue last year.

On November 15th, 2021, Tyson Foods released Q4 and full year fiscal 2021 results for the period ending October 2nd, 2021. For the quarter sales came in at $12.81 billion, an 11.8% increase compared to Q4 2020. Adjusted EPS equaled $2.30 versus $1.70 prior.

TSN has a **5-year Beta of 0.33.**

**Click here to download our most recent Sure Analysis report on TSN** (preview of page 1 of 3 shown below):

**3. Atmos Energy (ATO)**

Atmos Energy can trace its beginnings all the way back to 1906 when it was formed in Texas. Since that time, it has

grown both organically and through mergers to a $12.7 billion market capitalization.

The company distributes and stores natural gas in eight states, serves over 3 million customers, and should generate about $3.7 billion in revenue this year.

Atmos reported fourth quarter and full–year earnings on November 10th, 2021, and results were somewhat mixed. Total revenue was $568 million in Q4, which was $10 million better than consensus estimates.

Distribution operating income was up $5.7 million to $37.6 million, which reflected a $22.9 million increase in rates and a $4.2 million gain in customer growth.

ATO has a **5-year Beta of 0.31.**

**Click here to download our most recent Sure Analysis report on Atmos Energy** (preview of page 1 of 3 shown below):

**2. ViacomCBS (VIAC)**

ViacomCBS Inc. is an American multinational media conglomerate that was formed via the re–merger of CBS Corporation and Viacom on December 4, 2019, the two created from the split of the original Viacom in 2005.

The Company’s content brands include CBS, Showtime Networks, Paramount Pictures, Nickelodeon, MTV, Comedy Central, BET, and more. It also operates the Paramount+ streaming platform.

The company has six different revenue segments, where Advertising, Affiliate, and Content Licensing are the most significant revenue source for the company.

VIAC has a **5-year Beta of 0.25**.

**Click here to download our most recent Sure Analysis report on VIAC** (preview of page 1 of 3 shown below):

**1. Quest Diagnostics (DGX)**

Quest Diagnostics operates in the healthcare sector. Quest is a major diagnostics leader that serves one-third of American adults and half the physicians and hospitals in the United States each year.

The company generates over $10 billion in annual revenue.

Source: Investor Presentation

Quest Diagnostics has a significant competitive advantage, which is its leadership position in a large (and growing) market.

DGX has a **5-year Beta score of 0.17.**

**Click here to download our most recent Sure Analysis report on DGX** (preview of page 1 of 3 shown below):

**Final Thoughts**

Investors must take risk into account when selecting from prospective investments. After all, if two securities are otherwise similar in terms of expected returns but one offers a much lower Beta, the investor would do well to select the low Beta security as they may offer better risk-adjusted returns.

Using Beta can help investors determine which securities will produce more volatility than the broader market and which ones may help diversify a portfolio, such as the ones listed here.

The five stocks we’ve looked at not only offer low Beta scores, but they also offer attractive dividend yields. Sifting through the immense number of stocks available for purchase to investors using criteria like these can help investors find the best stocks to suit their needs.

At Sure Dividend, we often advocate for investing in companies with a high probability of increasing their dividends each and every year.

If that strategy appeals to you, it may be useful to browse through the following databases of dividend growth stocks:

- The Dividend Aristocrats List: dividend stocks with 25+ years of consecutive dividend increases
- The Dividend Champions List: stocks with 25+ years of rising dividends but do not qualify as Dividend Aristocrats
- The Dividend Achievers List: dividend stocks with 10+ years of consecutive dividend increases
- The Dividend Kings List: dividend stocks with 50+ years of consecutive dividend increases