Do you like dividends? They’ve certainly become more meaningful in light of poor performances from most growth stocks of late. Even a little something is better than a lot of nothing, after all, and certainly far better than seeing your portfolio dragged deep into the red.
To this end, here’s a rundown of the S&P 500’s four best dividend-paying stocks. You may want to consider stepping into at least some of them until it’s clear the bear market is over.
Technically speaking, communications technology outfit Lumen Technologies (LUMN) is the S&P 500’s highest-yielding stock right now at 14.5%. But as its revenue has been dwindling for a few years now, and with next year’s per-share profit likely to fall below its current dividend payment, the longevity of its payout is in question.
Therefore, telecom giant Verizon Communications (VZ) assumes the fourth-best spot among the S&P 500’s top dividend payers, with its yield of 7.2%.Anyone keeping close tabs on Verizon knows the dividend yield is unusually high because the stock is down 30% year to date. Its wireless customer growth has been practically nil through the first three quarters of the year, largely due to a price increase. Investors are responding as could be expected.
Neither the dividend nor the company is in any real jeopardy, though. Last quarter’s revenue was still up 4% year over year, and adjusted operating earnings of $1.32 per share still more than covers the current quarterly dividend payment of $1.25.
Verizon has now raised its annual dividend payout for 16 consecutive years, by the way. So as it nears Dividend Aristocrat status (that is, 25 years of increased dividend payments), the company’s management team may be highly motivated to do whatever it takes to earn that accolade.
There’s no denying the entire tobacco business is under attack from several directions. Nevertheless, Altria Group (MO) — maker of Marlboro, Virginia Slims, and other brands of cigarettes — is finding a way to push through the headwind. Revenue is down only slightly through the first half of this year despite a strong wave of cessation efforts following a surge in cigarette smoking during the COVID-19 pandemic.
And while inflation seems to be crimping most companies’ profitability, Altria’s per-share profits of $2.38 for the first half of 2022 are up 3.5%. The company is still looking for full-year earnings of between $4.79 and $4.93 per share too. That’s more than enough to fund its annualized dividend of $3.60 per share, which translates into a yield of just under 8%.
There’s no meaningful long-term growth for the tobacco industry, of course. The most Altria and its shareholders can hope for is maintaining sales and profits at a growth pace that more or less reflects inflation rates. The company could reliably do this for several more decades, though, as the habit of smoking is a tough one to break.
The kicker: While it seems counterintuitive on the surface, Altria is proactively “moving beyond smoking.” This deliberate reshaping should allow the company to thrive in a tobacco-free world on its own terms rather than regulators’ terms. As such, it’s a brilliant strategy.
3. Pioneer Natural Resources
Take the ticker assuming the number-two spot with a grain of salt. Pioneer Natural Resources (PXD), a Texas-based oil and gas company, has technically dished out 8.7% of the stock’s current price in the form of dividend payments over the course of the past 12 months — and is expected to keep paying at something close to that pace in the coming year.
These are payments well above and beyond the company’s typical payouts prior to 2021, though, entirely linked to the soaring price of crude oil and natural gas. If oil and gas prices don’t hold up, such steep dividend payments will become unaffordable for the company.
There’s a flip side to this coin, of course. If the price of West Texas Intermediate crude remains anywhere near its current price, near $90 per barrel, and gas holds around $7.00 per thousand cubic feet, Pioneer’s proverbial bumper crop will keep right on funding these enormous payouts.
To this end, know that the United States Energy Information Administration is estimating West Texas Intermediate crude oil will see an average price of $88.58 per barrel for all of 2023, while it’s calling for an average gas price of $6.00 per thousand cubic feet. That’s reflective of the fact that the world is just not ready for the renewable energy revolution just yet.
4. Vornado Realty Trust
Finally, the once-red-hot residential real estate market is starting to unravel. The retail and office real estate arenas, however, have quietly been under pressure for some time in anticipation of the economic slowdown we’re seeing now.
That’s the takeaway from the pullback suffered by shares of office and retail landlord Vornado Realty Trust (VNO). The real estate investment trust’s stock has been halved just since March, ratcheting its dividend yield up to 9.3%.
It remains to be seen how or if this wave of economic weakness will impact the REIT’s dividend payments.
Keep in mind, however, that not every real estate trust is overwhelmingly committed to increasing or even maintaining its payouts like many other types of for-profit corporations (even if doing so creates a financial strain). Indeed, Vornado’s quarterly payments have been lowered several times in recent years to reflect turbulence within the real estate arena.
Still, even a modest reduction in the real estate investment trust’s dividend would leave it a higher-yielding stock than most.
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Source: The Motley Fool