10/11/2012 7:25 PM ET|
The great dividend hunt isn't over
It might be tempting to think the boom in dividend investing is running low on gas. But opportunities remain, especially for investors who look globally.
Stocks that pay dividends have been hot lately. But despite the recent rally -- the Dow Jones U.S. Select Dividend Index ($DJDVP) is up 10% so far this year -- there still are some decent opportunities, especially for investors willing to think globally.
One factor driving the boom: Investors now earn paltry rates on bonds and certificates of deposit. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index ($INX), by contrast, carries a yield of about 2.2%, and many stocks pay considerably more. (Yields, which fall as prices rise, are the annual payout as a percentage of a stock's price.)
It might be tempting to think the trend has run its course. Among household-name dividend stocks, utility American Electric Power (AEP) is up 21% from a year ago, tobacco giant Altria Group (MO) has shot up 28%, and pharmaceuticals company Pfizer (PFE) has jumped 45%.
But while dividend-stock prices have been rising, so have payouts. "Dividends have had a fantastic year and a half," says Howard Silverblatt, senior analyst at S&P. Overall, payouts are up 16% so far this year, as companies hand back more of their rising earnings. The third quarter saw record dividend payouts, he says, "and we expect the fourth quarter to beat that."
So where can investors still find reasonable value?
If you are buying stocks for grandma -- or anyone who is concerned about income more than capital growth -- it makes sense to stick with bigger companies that have strong balance sheets and businesses, especially if the companies operate in many different countries.
Companies in highly cyclical industries -- from finance to heavy manufacturing -- are probably best avoided, since they can be volatile. The sweet spots are essential services and consumer staples, which tend to enjoy fairly smooth sailing in good times and bad.
Money managers on both sides of the Atlantic say three sectors stand out as particularly attractive: pharmaceutical companies, big energy and telecommunications companies. There also might be opportunities in consumer companies and among utilities based in Europe.
Pharmaceuticals -- a big, stable industry with wide profit margins and strong payouts -- is a well-established sector for dividend hunters, but many companies have rocketed this year. Steve Russell, a money manager at Ruffer & Co., a value-oriented investment firm in London with $22 billion under management, recommends Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), part pharmaceutical stock, part consumer staple. It yields 3.5%.
The company has a strong balance sheet and outstanding franchises. Boston fund firm GMO, which has $99 billion under management, had more than 5% of its high-quality U.S. stock portfolio in J&J at the end of August.
The biggest U.S. telecoms, AT&T (T) and Verizon Communications (VZ), already have risen a long way. You can find better yields elsewhere, especially outside the U.S. But you have to be careful: Some companies are saddled with a lot of debt, declining landline businesses or both. Spain's Telefónica (TEF), for example, with a nominal yield of 12%, is a speculative play.
Judy Saryan, who runs the $980 million Eaton Vance Tax-Managed Global Dividend Income Fund (ETG), likes U.K.-based Vodafone (VOD), the world's largest operator of cellular networks. (So does Russell.) Vodafone trades at just 11 times projected per-share earnings for the next four quarters and yields 5%. Its balance sheet is strong, and it is geographically diversified. Vodafone also owns 45% of Verizon Wireless.
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More than half of all American workers who save for their retirement years by investing in stocks, mutual funds or other assets also pay the same rate that Buffett does on their capital gains and dividend income. But Obama doesn't seem to understand this or conveniently chooses to ignore it because it sounds fair.
Millions of retirees today, who do not think of themselves as rich, live off the cap gains and dividends from a lifetime of savings and investment and pay 15 percent on that portion of their income. (Obama and unelected Czars could care less)
Can't say that I like Republicans, but I like Romney, also, Can't say I like Democrats, but I don't like "O-Boy" either.
This is for V_L: (whenever they wake up)
We're flying out tomorrow for the North Carolina Smokey Mountains. We don't need to stay at Jack Welsh's resort, we have had our own place up there since 87'. But, if you would like to visit, I'll ask Jack if he can put up up there for a few day's- I need someone that can dig for worms when I fish for rainbow trout.
Conclusions for the debate last night:
As expected, Biden not only came out aggressive, but was rude and condescending. Isn't that the tone of this whole administration ? But in the end, the major news media pundits are giving Ryan the edge. Soooooooooooooo.......................
I TOLD YOU SO! I TOLD YOU SO! I TOLD YOU SO ! I TOLD YOU SO! I TOLD YOU SO! I TOLD YOU SO! I TOLD YOU SO! I TOLD YOU SO ! I TOLD YOU SO ! I TOLD YOU SO!
Nothing surprising about the Ryan-Biden debate. Biden is a loud-mouth d*ck, so it was impossible to have anything resembling a debate. Ryan to his credit, kept his cool. I wish he had smacked Biden in the mouth and knocked out his ugly old false teeth!
Biden characterizes the inemptness of the Obama-Biden administration, one empty suit and a wack job! It is no wonder that our country is in such deep financial trouble.
Anyway, I look forward to next Tuesday when Mitt destroys Obama!
Go Mitt go, Biden surely blows!
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