Dividend Stocks

Finding reliable dividend stocks can seem difficult, considering several companies cut their dividends last year and continue to do so.

Moreover, well-established and impressive businesses with strong histories of dividend growth usually trade at a premium. Dividends smooth out returns in times of volatility and typically make up one-third of a stock’s long-term total returns. So, it’s not surprising that these companies are highly valued.

But what if you want to invest in a dividend payer without paying an exorbitant price? If that’s the case, this list should be right up your alley.

These companies are steady, reliable dividend payers. In addition, they have financials setting them apart from other stocks — the names that suffer from volatile share prices or less frequent payouts.

So, without further ado, let’s take a deep dive into some of the best dividend stocks that are ace paymasters.

  • Lowe’s (NYSE:LOW)
  • Franklin Resources (NYSE:BEN)
  • People’s United Financial (NASDAQ:PBCT)
  • AT&T (NYSE:T)
  • Telefónica (NYSE:TEF)
  • Annaly Capital Management (NYSE:NLY)
  • Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ)

Dividend Stocks to Buy: Lowe’s (LOW)

Source: Helen89 / Shutterstock.com

Dividend yield: 1.24%

Lowe’s is one of the largest home-improvement chains in the United States, behind its chief rival Home Depot (NYSE:HD). The company operates over 2,200 stores across the U.S. and Canada, serving “approximately 20 million customers a week.”

For many companies on this list, the pandemic was a curse for business. However, the nature of this name’s products allowed it to become a winner. Because of Covid-19, people began to spend more on home improvement — a pattern which is expected to continue in 2021.

But even if we put projections to the side, LOW stock is still really solid among the dividend stocks. In the last six quarters, Lowe’s managed to beat analyst estimates all but one time, an extremely successful track record considering the situation on Main Street.

Its first-quarter 2021 earnings reaffirm this positive trend. Earnings and revenue beat expectations, owing to effective cost-control measures and excellent brick-and-mortar store sales. That may come as a surprise to some, considering how badly retail is doing these days. Lowe’s has managed to buck this trend, however.

That brings us to the pièce de résistance: the payout. Lowe’s is an S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrat — a company that has paid and increased its base dividend every year for at least 25 consecutive years. Currently, Lowe’s is on year 45.

Despite all these positive attributes, though, shares are trading at a forward price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of 17.68 times.

Franklin Resources (BEN)

Source: Pavel Kapysh / Shutterstock.com

Dividend yield: 3.39%

Next up on this list of dividend stocks is Franklin Resources, one of the world’s largest asset managers. Currently, it manages $1.5 trillion in assets for retail, institutional and high net-worth individual and institutional investors from more than 165 countries.

Last year, the biggest news coming from the company was its acquisition of investment management and asset management firm Legg Mason. That acquisition enhanced its asset base, geographic footprint and balance between institutional and retail clients.

Part of what makes BEN stock attractive, though, is the asset-light nature of the business. Due to that — as well as its consistently strong earnings growth — the company has managed to increase its payout every year since 1981. That said, the one thing that bothers me here is that the current payout ratio may now be too high, currently at 51.16% according to Yahoo! Finance. (According to Seeking Alpha, however, the payout ratio is 35.19%.)

Franklin Resources operates in a very competitive industry. In my view, it should really be using some of its free cash flow to pursue a more aggressive M&A strategy. But, then again, this is a dividend stocks list. So, if you’re comfortable with where it stands, there’s not much to really complain about here.

Dividend Stocks to Buy: People’s United Financial (PBCT)

Source: Shutterstock

Dividend yield: 3.98%

One stock that doesn’t get much love among the dividend stocks is People’s United Financial. Based in Connecticut, this regional bank has over $60 billion in assets across the northeastern United States, offering commercial and retail banking services through 400-plus branches in New England and the Mid-Atlantic region.

To be sure, the past few years were monumental for this name. The bank announced or closed on several high-profile purchases, including VAR Technology, BSB Bancorp and United Financial Bancorp. These combinations dragged down earnings per share (EPS) due to merger-related expenses.

However, things are getting shaken up with PBCT stock now, as it was recently announced that M&T Bank (NYSE:MTB) would be acquiring the company in an all-stock transaction. Sure, People’s United has reported positive earnings surprises in the last six quarters. Plus, at a forward P/E ratio of 13.69 times, it’s trading at an attractive price point.

Still, investors should look further into this deal before investing. As The Motley Fool reports, “The deal will create a roughly $200 billion-asset bank in the Northeast that forms a triangle between Buffalo, Washington, D.C., and Boston.”

AT&T (T)

Source: Jonathan Weiss/Shutterstock

Dividend yield: 7.05%

It’s tough to analyze AT&T. By all accounts, this business has a solid track record and is one of the best dividend stocks out there. Surprisingly, though, T stock has underperformed the S&P 500 by about 43% in the past year.

AT&T is the world’s largest telecommunications company. In the last few years, it has also made some blockbuster acquisitions which have diversified its operations. Chief among these was the purchase of Time Warner, which gave the company entertainment and media assets like HBO, DC Comics, Warner Brothers and CNN.

After this acquisition, AT&T launched its own streaming service, HBO Max, which has already attracted 64 million subscribers around the world. However, the service trails Disney’s (NYSE:DIS) Disney+ as well as Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX). Still, it’s a massive start and a pivot in the right direction from the company’s DirecTV business.

But that’s not all. AT&T also just signed a massive deal to merge WarnerMedia with Discovery (NASDAQ:DISCA). This spin-off is intended to create two stronger companies — a telecom tour de force and a media mammoth that can take on the competition of the streaming world.

From a payout perspective, things are definitely going to change a bit due to the upcoming events. Next year, a dividend cut will decrease the total dividend payout to an estimated $8 billion after the deal closes. That is down from about $15 billion last year. Despite the incoming cut, though, this name is still one of the most attractive dividend stocks in the broader S&P 500.

Dividend Stocks to Buy: Telefónica (TEF)

Source: Shutterstock

Dividend yield: 8.94%

One of the more obscure companies on this list of dividend stocks is Spanish telecommunications giant Telefónica. The company is not a household name in the States, unlike Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) and Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL).

However, Telefónica is a $27 billion business operating an impressive network of wireless communications and internet access in its region. Apart from its base in Spain, the company is also active as a service provider elsewhere in Europe as well as South America.

Currently, this stock is also very cheap, settling just above penny-stock territory at around $5 today. That’s a deal for a company that is the de facto telephone operator in its home country. Spain represented approximately 29% of sales in 2020 (Page 19). Telefónica is also geographically diversified, though; Brazil (17%), Germany (17%) and the U.K. (16%) represent key markets, too.

The one area where Telefónica will irk dividend investors, however, is the infrequency of its distribution. That’s because this company has a track record of irregular dividend payments, unlike some of the other big names on this list.

That said, the annualized dividend yield here is more than three times the typical S&P 500 company right now. So, I’m sure some income investors can look past the fickle payouts here.

Annaly Capital Management (NLY)

Source: Shutterstock

Dividend yield: 9.53%

Annaly Capital Management is focused on parking capital in residential and commercial assets through mortgage-backed debt. The best way to look at this is that Annaly Capital Management functions like a mortgage real estate investment trust (REIT). In exchange for tax-exempt status, these investment vehicles are required by law to distribute 90% of their taxable earnings in the form of payouts, making REITs highly attractive to income investors.

However, there is a need to temper that excitement. Overall, real estate is suffering these days, as it looks to make a complete recovery. Some sectors are feeling the pinch more than others.

At the height of the pandemic, NLY stock suffered a massive drop because of these concerns. It has been a slow recovery. Now, though, they are back in business in a major way, currently within reach of their 52-week high.

From a dividend stocks perspective, this is a solid investment. The yield is one of the best on this list. And, considering that 2021 is a year for recovery, investors can rely on Annaly Capital to keep producing excellent returns while maintaining a decent payout.

Dividend Stocks to Buy: Johnson & Johnson (JNJ)

Source: Alexander Tolstykh / Shutterstock.com

Dividend yield: 2.49%

Last up on this list of dividend stocks is Johnson & Johnson, one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. JNJ stock has been in the news a lot these days, mostly because of its Covid-19 vaccine. However, although the vaccine’s efficacy is the weakest among those cleared for use in the States, this pharmaceutical giant is still holding steady with the help of its massive product pipeline.

All things considered, vaccine revenue will not keep JNJ’s management up at night. The company’s operations are divided into three broad subsections: Pharmaceutical, Medical Devices and Consumer. The bulk of JNJ’s revenue is obtained from its drug and device segments.

In the past 12 quarters, this company has also repeatedly beat estimates while maintaining a stellar dividend record. The payout here is on the higher side, at 71.38% according to Yahoo! Finance (44.33% according to Seeking Alpha). However, paying dividends should not be a problem, especially considering JNJ had $25 billion in cash and marketable securities as of Q4 2020 (Page 29).

On the date of publication, Faizan Farooque did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.

Faizan Farooque is a contributing author for InvestorPlace.com and numerous other financial sites. Faizan has several years of experience in analyzing the stock market and was a former data journalist at S&P Global Market Intelligence. His passion is to help the average investor make more informed decisions regarding their portfolio. Faizan does not directly own the securities mentioned above.

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