Best Dividend Stocks for 2017
Sam Subramanian PhD, MBA
With interest rates near-zero and bonds yields paltry, dividend stocks enjoyed a strong run in 2016.
This has changed in 2017. Dividend stocks have fallen out of favor.
Investors expect interest rates to rise as President Trump's plan to spur economic growth stokes inflation.
A substantial number of investors, however, need income.
Although interest rates may rise, they are unlikely to shoot up dramatically anytime soon.
Studies repeatedly show dividend-paying stocks that consistently increase dividends outperform non-dividend paying stocks.
As such, this is a good time to scout for high-quality dividend stocks worth investing.
Here are four ideas:
Best Dividend Stock #1: Prudential Financial (PRU)
Insurers bore the brunt of abnormally low-interest rates in the aftermath of the Great Recession as interest income declined. Prudential Financial is one insurer that has performed well even in this challenging milieu. The insurer has grown sales both in the U. S. and abroad and generated strong net flows into its retirement and asset management businesses.
In the recently completed fourth quarter, Prudential earned $2.46 per share, beating the average analyst estimate of $2.32 by 6%. In 2016, the firm earned $9.71 per share and grew its book value per share by 13.6%.
The external environment is now looking brighter with the Federal Reserve hinting at three interest rate increases this year. Insurers also stand to benefit from President Trump's plan to cut corporate taxes and ease regulatory restraints.
Although Prudential shares are up over 20% since the November 8 election, they still trade at a relatively modest 10.6-times forecasted 2017 EPS of $10.41 a share.
Extending its uninterrupted string of dividend increases into the ninth year, Prudential has increased its quarterly dividend by over 7% to 75 cents per share to imply an annual yield of 2.8%. The annual payment of $3 a share in dividends implies a payout ratio of about 30%, leaving substantial room for further increase in dividend.
Best Dividend Stock #2: AT&T (T)
Telecom service titan AT&T has paid uninterrupted dividends since 1984. In recent years, the company has raised dividends by about 2% annually.
While phone service remains AT&T's core business, the company has a vision of being a vertically integrated telecommunications giant. It has moved into pay-TV by acquiring DirecTV. AT&T has also offered $109 billion (including debt) to buy Time Warner (TWX), an entertainment content producer that includes CNN, HBO, and Warner Brothers movie studio.
Although AT&T's purchase of Time Warner will come under close regulatory scrutiny, approval of this deal will help AT&T differentiate itself from the competition and grow its healthy dividend.
AT&T paid 66% of its earnings in dividends in 2016. Its shares pay 49 cents a quarter in dividends, implying an annual yield of 4.7%. Analysts expect AT&T to grow EPS at an 8.4% annual rate for the next five years.
Best Dividend Stock #3: General Motors (GM)
Investors have not rewarded General Motors for its impressive earnings performance. Concerns of peaking U. S. auto sales have kept a lid on General Motors' shares. After recording double-digit surprises for six straight quarters, America's largest automaker recently beat analysts' fourth-quarter 2016 EPS forecast by 9.4%.
GM has planned redesigns for some key SUVs this year to counter the threat of a possible slowdown in U. S. auto sales. The company expects 2017 adjusted EPS to range between $6.00 and $6.50, compared to the 2016 tally of $6.12.
GM currently pays 38 cents a share in quarterly dividends. Only 25 companies in the S&P 500 yield higher than the 4.3% provided by GM shares.
GM paid 25% of its profits in dividends in 2016 after upping its total dividend payment by about 10% from 2015. Auguring well for the dividend to increase in 2016 as well, the automaker expects to generate about $6 billion in automotive-adjusted free cash flow.
Best Dividend Stock #4: An Energy Play
Things are looking brighter in the energy sector after the battering these stocks took from 2014 through late 2016. First, oil prices have stabilized above $50 a barrel after members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries agreed to limit production late last year. Second, President Trump has promised to relax or cut burdensome environmental regulations impacting U. S. energy companies. Within a few days of taking office, Trump took steps to move forward with the construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines.
AlphaProfit's pick for the best dividend stock in the energy sector is a petroleum processor. The specifics of this recommendation along with precise entry and exit price targets are available in the recently published Report for Premium Service subscribers.
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