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The S&P 500 continues to close at record highs and is up more than 130% since its March 2009 low, while the VIX is still near multi-year lows. It's as exciting as it is ominous, and if you're an investor who is cautiously optimistic you may be interested in finding stocks that won't derail your portfolio should the market take a turn for the worse.

With this in mind we looked for stocks that offer high yields (above 2%) and boast low betas (between 0.0 and 0.5).

Stocks with low betas, by their very definition, are low risk, are not as reactive to turns in the market as others. While betas in this range are still likely to head in the general direction of the market - up or down - but not as drastically. This offers stability to a portfolio.

High dividend yields are especially attractive in troubled markets because investors turn to dividends for a more reliable source of income. This was most recently demonstrated in 2011 when bearish and volatile markets drove the highest demand for high yield equities.

Consider, Bloomberg had reported the 40 S&P 500 companies that repurchased shares and offered the biggest dividends climbed 5.7% in 2011 while stocks without a dividend in 2011 saw on average a loss of 7.1%. Perhaps more importantly, higher yield dividend stocks did better than lower-mid yield dividend stocks.

As they say, better safe than sorry, so we ran one more screen to find stocks that had stellar margins. We compared each of the names on our list thus far against their industry and kept only those that beat the average in all of the following profitability ratios:

-Gross margin

-Operating margin

-Pretax margin

Our final list consisted of the seven stocks listed in detail below. Should the market falter, do you think any of these names would make smart additions to your portfolio?

Use this list as a starting point for your own analysis.

Interactive chart: Compare changes in dividend yield over the past two years.

1. Cleco Corporation (NYSE:CNL): Engages in the generation, transmission, distribution, and sale of electricity in Louisiana.

  • Market cap at $2.93B, most recent closing price at $48.15. Dividend yield at 2.77%. Beta: 0.45.
  • TTM gross margin at 41.67% vs. industry average at 29.1%. TTM operating margin at 28.34% vs. industry average at 19.09%. TTM pretax margin at 23.04% vs. industry average at 12.96%.

2. Mercantile Bank Corp. (NASDAQ:MBWM): Operates as the holding company for Mercantile Bank of Michigan that provides commercial and retail banking products and services primarily to small-to medium-sized businesses and individuals.

  • Market cap at $144.59M, most recent closing price at $16.60. Dividend yield at 2.64%. Beta: 0.47.
  • TTM gross margin at 88.43% vs. industry average at 74.15%. TTM operating margin at 51.02% vs. industry average at 45.84%. TTM pretax margin at 30.42% vs. industry average at 24.07%.

3. McDonald's Corp. (NYSE:MCD): Operates as a foodservice retailer worldwide.

  • Market cap at $101.17B, most recent closing price at $100.89. Dividend yield at 3.01%. Beta: 0.39.
  • TTM gross margin at 43.1% vs. industry average at 36.47%. TTM operating margin at 30.13% vs. industry average at 18.93%. TTM pretax margin at 29.13% vs. industry average at 15.91%.

4. National Bankshares Inc. (NASDAQ:NKSH): Operates as the holding company for the National Bank of Blacksburg (NYSE:NBB), a chartered national bank that provides a range of retail and commercial banking services to individuals, businesses, non-profits, and local governments in Virginia.

  • Market cap at $227.82M, most recent closing price at $32.78. Dividend yield at 3.45%. Beta: 0.48.
  • TTM gross margin at 81.38% vs. industry average at 74.15%. TTM operating margin at 54.98% vs. industry average at 45.84%. TTM pretax margin at 39.78% vs. industry average at 24.07%.

5. People's United Financial Inc. (NASDAQ:PBCT): Operates as the bank holding company for People's United Bank that provides commercial banking, retail and business banking, and wealth management services to individual, corporate, and municipal customers.

  • Market cap at $4.45B, most recent closing price at $13.13. Dividend yield at 4.89%. Beta: 0.33.
  • TTM gross margin at 88.22% vs. industry average at 62.73%. TTM operating margin at 41.18% vs. industry average at 35.4%. TTM pretax margin at 26.34% vs. industry average at 18.06%.

6. Southern Company (NYSE:SO): Operates as a utility company that provides electric service in the southeastern United States.

  • Market cap at $41.76B, most recent closing price at $47.95. Dividend yield at 4.22%. Beta: 0.25.
  • TTM gross margin at 37.76% vs. industry average at 29.1%. TTM operating margin at 26.99% vs. industry average at 19.09%. TTM pretax margin at 19.57% vs. industry average at 12.96%. (This was recently mentioned here)

7. Territorial Bancorp Inc. (NASDAQ:TBNK): Operates as the bank holding company for Territorial Savings Bank, a federally-chartered savings bank that provides a range of financial services to individuals, families, and businesses in Hawaii.

  • Market cap at $257.2M, most recent closing price at $23.15. Dividend yield at 2.05%. Beta: 0.2.
  • TTM gross margin at 85.65% vs. industry average at 62.73%. TTM operating margin at 40.63% vs. industry average at 35.4%. TTM pretax margin at 34.42% vs. industry average at 18.06%.

*Profitability data sourced from Fidelity, all other data sourced from Finviz.

Source: Income Ideas: 7 High-Yield, Low Beta Stocks More Profitable Than Peers