As investors worry about larger market volatility looming in 2023, Trivariate Research offers some cheap, high-quality stocks that can be used to play defense. Stocks are off to a strong start in 2023, as the three major averages are set to end a positive first month of the calendar year. However, the risk of an economic recession later in the year makes investors scramble to protect their investment portfolios. However, investors struggle to find attractive stocks that are traditionally defensive, according to Trivariate Research. For example, the company said that utilities that have expanded dividends trade at a premium compared to stocks in other dividend-increasing sectors. Basic consumer goods companies are also historically expensive. “We coined the phrase ‘expensive defenses’ several years ago when the dynamic of expanded valuation of traditional defense industries also unfolded. Defenses are becoming expensive again today,” Trivariate Research’s Adam Parker wrote this month. One way investors can find some attractive defensive names is to look for cheap, high-quality stocks with low volatility. the ternary variable searched for names with a beta of less than 0.8 (the market’s beta is 1.0, so a beta of less than 1.0 means the stock is less volatile than the rest of the market); In the upper quadrant of a high-quality Trivariate model; With profits less than 12 times compared to the forward rate; And cheap compared to its history. Here are 10 names. Pfizer is a compellingly overvalued defense stock, according to Screen. Not only does it have a volatility of 0.53, but it looks cheap, with a forward price-to-earnings ratio of 11.1x. Drug stocks fell more than 12% to start 2023 amid expectations of a stabilization in the number and severity of Covid cases. This led UBS this week to downgrade Pfizer to Neutral. Laboratories Corporation of America Holdings has a beta of 0.74, and a P/E multiple of 13.3x. However, Citigroup last month downgraded the healthcare testing stock to neutral, saying the shares were “appropriately valued.” Meanwhile, Check Point Software Technologies also appears to be of cheap quality, and was the only technology stock that met Trivariate’s criteria, with a 0.63 beta. This month, Citi upgraded the stock’s rating to neutral, saying it is “so cheap and so profitable it couldn’t weigh any lower in that bar.” Check Point on Friday crossed below the 50-day moving average of $129.30, and traded briefly as low as $127.77. Other stocks that made the top three included Jazz Pharmaceuticals and Bristol-Myers Squibb. — CNBC’s Michael Blum contributed to this report.