The eurozone is making its last stand, which turned out to be quite a death match for the global markets. Although markets showed minor increases due to some positive events, there are black swans everywhere. Investors should avoid risky investments and prefer safe & stable plays in such an environment to make it out alive. Therefore, I have looked for the top four large-cap stocks that are the least volatile, and are priced with low P/E ratios. Moreover, they offer a minimum dividend of 4%, which is a quite satisfactory amount. However, I have recognized that all of these stocks are currently trading near/above the upper boundary of their fair-value range. Here, is a fundamental analysis of the top four least-volatile companies with excellent dividends (Data obtained from Finviz/Morningstar, and is current as of November 11 close. You can download the O-Metrix calculator here):
Lorillard, Inc. (LO)
Lorillard will distribute a $1.30 dividend per share on December 12. The company was trading at a P/E ratio of 14.7, and a forward P/E ratio of 12.8, as of November 11. Analysts estimate an annual EPS growth of 12.0% for the next 5 years, which is fair given the 10.80% EPS growth of past five years. Profit margin (16.8%) is lower than the industry average of 21.1%, while it offers an appetizing dividend of 4.75%.
The cigarette company is trading only 8.76% lower than its 52-week high, whereas it returned 24.1% in a year. O-Metrix score is 6.09, and institutions hold 96.80% of the shares. Target price is $118.86, implying an 8.5% upside movement potential. Beta value is 0.39, while yields are tidy. Cash flow is doing all right, and operating margin is 28.4%. ROA is 32.0%. Debt-to-equity ratio is 2.0, well below the industry average of 4.9. Insiders have been mostly buying shares since mid-February 2011. SMA200 is 8.41%. I would rather see a pullback before buying.
Altria Group (MO)
The West Virginia Tobacco case has ended with the declaration of a mistrial, as Altria Group stated. Altria shows a trailing P/E ratio of 16.6, and a forward P/E ratio of 12.7, as of the Friday close. Estimated annual EPS growth for the next five years 8.0%. Profit margin (21.2%) is slightly higher than the industry average of 21.1%, and shareholders enjoyed a tremendous dividend of 5.90% last year.
Altria Group has an O-Metrix score of 4.71, while earnings increased by 21.28% this year. Target price is $28.75, indicating an about 3.6% increase potential. Institutions hold 61.20% of the shares, whereas the company returned 12.5% in the last twelve months. Yields seem all right, and Beta value is 0.43. The stock is trading only 1.28% lower than its 52-week high. SMA20, SMA50, and SMA200 are 1.37%, 3.10% and 7.58%, respectively. Debt-to-equity ratio is 3.0, way lower than the industry average of 4.9. While gross margin is 53.7%, operating margin is 37.8%. ROE is 72.59%, and ROI is 19.27%. Altria also needs a pullback.
Oneok Partners (OKS)
Oneok has recently unveiled its quarterly earnings results. The Oklahoma-based pipeliner, as of the November 11 close, has a P/E ratio of 14.8, and forward P/E ratio of 19.0. Five-year annual EPS growth forecast is 6.2%. It sports a juicy dividend of 4.85%, and the profit margin (6.4%) is above the industry average of 4.1%.
Oneok returned 22.1% in a year, while it is currently trading 2.64% lower than its 52-week high. Target price is $51.61, which implies a 5.1% upside potential. O-Metrix score is 3.26, and Beta value is 0.43. SMA20, SMA50, and SMA200 are 0.77%, 2.89% and 2.89%, respectively. Earnings increased by 54.86% this quarter, whereas sales increased by 40.26%. Yields look tidy. The debt-to-assets ratio is decreasing since 2008, while cash flow is doing all right. Debt-to equity ratio is 1.1, lower than the industry average of 1.3. Although there are better pipeliners, I believe this one is a buy, as well. Just wait for the stock to go down a bit.
Southern Company (SO)
Southern Company announced its Q3 2011 results recently. It was trading at a P/E ratio of 17.5, and a forward P/E ratio of 16.3, as of Friday’s close. Analysts expect the company to have a 5.7% annualized EPS growth in the next five years. With a profit margin of 11.8%, and a dividend of 4.30%, Southern Company is an attractive pick for dividend lovers.
The company is trading 0.07% lower than its 52-week high, while it has an O-Metrix score of 3.06. Target price is $42.97, indicating a 2.3% downside potential. The stock returned 14.6% in the last twelve months, and Beta value is 0.29. SMA50 and SMA200 are 4.32% and 12.36%, respectively. Yields are breathtaking. Debts are far from being a threat, and cash flow is tremendous. While gross margin is 60.1%, operating margin is 23.2%. Southern Company is doing admirably since its dip in March 2009. Although the stock is currently overpriced, it is a marvelous long-term play. Read a full analysis of Southern Company here.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.