5 Dividend Stocks: Which Is a 'Buy' Right Now

by: Vatalyst

While the recent market turmoil hasn't spared quality blue chips, we've taken a look at five large cap dividend stocks in our hunt of buy ideas. So which of these five should you consider? Read on for more detail and analysis:

AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) - As goes the market, so goes AT&T. Over the course of the last few weeks AT&T has mirrored the volatile market, as such with a Beta of .64 I expect AT&T to continue its market correlation. Outside of market volatility, AT&T’s major market moving headline is still its attempted $39 billion dollar takeover attempt of T-Mobile. A great summary of the current legal conditions revolving around this matter can be found here. Until this matter is resolved there may definitely be a cap on the stock's performance, as well as volatile moves associated with news headlines regarding the merger’s completion. As for its current valuation, it seems to be fairly priced along all of its financial measurements. This stock has been an outperformer, however with antitrust legislation in regards to its merger overhanging this stock, money might be better allocated to another telecommunication provider.

Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ) - Verizon shares are basically unchanged on the year, and in today’s volatile markets that could be considered a win in a portfolio. As for market moving news events going forward, the new iPhone from Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is expected to be announced in the next few weeks with product launch soon to follow. Although this news may not be important to Apple’s original iPhone distributor AT&T, it is relevant for Verizon because it is taking iPhone clients away from AT&T plans, and a new product launch from Apple will only accelerate that trend as new clients come on board with Verizon over AT&T. Verizon, as well as other telecommunication providers, are entering the streaming video market in direct competition with Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX), and this may be a growth platform for Verizon. The stock has a current price of $35.88 and a price-to-earnings ratio of 16.08, and has trading in a 52-week range of $31.60 to $38.95. With its current dividend of $0.488 Verizon will yield its shareholders around 5.5% for 2011 at its current price. A recent seeking alpha article states that although its earnings, as well as cash have decreased over the past three years, the stock is still up over 33.58% over the same time. I would prefer this stock over its competitor AT&T even though its balance sheet and yield are not as attractive, I believe it is much better positioned to take advantage of changes in the telecommunications industry.

Altria Group (NYSE:MO) - Altria Group has always been seen as a “sin stock”, which sometimes can have a negative effect on investor sentiment. Even though the percentage of smokers in the United States have dropped from about 41% in 1944 to only 21% today, the absolute number of smokers has remained just about unchanged. As such Altria Group faces stiff changes in the tax codes in regards to tobacco as well as continued regulation, both of which are formidable hurdles to conquer here in the United States. However, financially speaking the stock is almost a money machine. Altria Group has increased its dividends for 43 years in a row. And it was the best performing stock on the S&P 500 for the 50 year period of 1957 to 2007. And in the current market environment where a 10 year treasury is yielding 1.80%, many analysts are in favor of investing in dividend paying stocks with a strong historical payout. Altria Group has only a few competitors which include Lorillard (NYSE:LO), Reynolds American (NYSE:RAI) and Vector Group (NYSE:VGR). As these companies are all considered "sin stocks," their financial ratios are all very similar. On a year to date basis the company has risen 9.35% with a price to earnings ratio of 11.95 times. Its dividend yield of 6.10% is higher that Lorillard’s yield of 4.7% and Reynolds American of 5.6%, but is lower than Vector Groups 9.5% yield. In today’s current market environment you might say yield is more important than any other financial metric which is why I would recommend buying Altria Group because of its dividend history and high yield.

Hewlett-Packard Company (NYSE:HPQ) - Hewlett-Packard Company has not exactly been a darling of Wall Street over the previous two years. The company has been through four top executives over the past two years. That scenario alone should be warning flag for all investors interested in this company. Hewlett’s latest corporate coup involves sending former CEO Leo Apotheker packing with his $25 million severance package, and bringing in former CEO Meg Whitman to take the reins of the company going forward. There is a great article from Seeking Alpha that talks about Hewlett’s future is more about Hewlett, than about its CEO. All that being said, even without reviewing their financials, I would stay away from this stock until Hewlett figures out exactly what they want to do with themselves. It says it may get out of the PC business, it is closing its tablet business, and they have yet to figure out what to do with its $10 billion acquisition of Autonomy. Until Hewlett gets back to reinventing itself, hopefully as IBM did 25 years ago, in my opinion it is dead money.

Coca Cola (NYSE:KO) - As Warren Buffett’s largest position in his portfolio at 25.7%, Coca Cola’s strong brand name and financial history are not only ideal for the world’s smartest investor, but would be a great addition to any portfolio. Companies such as Coca Cola always seem to outperform the market during times of duress and volatility. The current market is no exception as the S&P 500 is down 8.3% year to date and Coca Cola is up 15.89% year to date. With a forward price to earnings ratio of 15.72 and a price to sales ratio of 3.69, it is clear to see that the safety of Coca Cola is why money flows to it during market turmoil. In fact Coca Cola recently came out and said that its plans to double its revenue by 2020 to $200 billion is on track. Of course Coca Cola’s main competitor is Pepsi (NYSE:PEP). A comparison of key ratio’s shows that Coca Cola may trade at a slight premium to Pepsi, this however may be due to the fact that Coca Cola has higher margins at 29% versus 10% for Pepsi. Also, many view Pepsi’s other assets such as Frito Lay's area distraction to the higher yielding soft drink business, which is Coca Cola’s only focus. Although Coca Cola’s current dividend yield of 2.8% may not seem exceptional high, one must also focus on the fact that Coca Cola has paid dividends every year consecutively since 1920. In the current economic environment Coca Cola is a solid investment as its earnings history is very stable and its dividend payout can also be counted on for increased returns.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.