Dividend aristocrats are dividend-paying companies that comprise the S&P500 Dividend Aristocrats Index. These companies have increased dividends for more than 25 consecutive years. Since 1989, dividend aristocrats have, as a group, outperformed the broad S&P500 index based on average risk-adjusted returns.
The group consists of 51 blue chip companies operating in diverse industries. The overall index pays an average dividend yield of 2.85%. However, investors investing in the five stocks with the highest dividend yields get an average yield of 5.8%. We believe, as a group, these five stocks are a better option for long-term investors seeking stronger income streams than available on long-term Treasuries. Here is a brief discussion of these 5 high dividend stocks:
Pitney Bowes (PBI) is a $3 billion company that provides mail processing equipment, such as postage meters, and other mail solutions. The company pays the highest yield among the S&P500 Dividend Aristocrats. Its yield of 10.0% is 3.5 times as large as the average yield on the overall index. The company's peers Neopost SA and Data-Pac are privately held. While competitor Xerox (XRX) pays a dividend yield of 2.2%. Pitney Bowes' payout ratio is 44%.
The company has increased its dividend at an average annual rate of 2.8% over the past five years. Over the same period, the company saw its earnings per share (EPS) contract at an average rate of 7.1% per year. According to analysts, Pitney Bowes' EPS will hardly grow in the next five years. In fact, some consider the company's business model as outdated and foresee a steady decline for the company in the coming years. The stock is currently trading at $14.86 a share, $2 dollars from its 52-week low. Guru fund manager Joel Greenblatt increased his small stake in the company in the first quarter of 2012.
Leggett & Platt (LEG) is a $2.9 billion designer and producer of engineered components and products. The company's product offerings range from home furnishings and fixtures, finished bedding products, furniture, shelving, counters, showcases to steel rods and billets and steel tubing products. This company pays the second highest dividend yield among the S&P500 Dividend Aristocrats. Its yield of 5.5% is 265 basis points above the average yield for the overall index.
The company's competitors Ethan Allen Interiors (ETH), Bassett Furniture Industries (BSET), and CompX International (CIX) pay dividend yields of 1.6%, 1.9%, and 4.7%, respectively. Leggett & Platt has boosted its dividend at an average rate of 10.2% a year over the past five years. Its EPS has fallen at an average annual rate of 3.8% over the past five years. Expecting a robust economic recovery, analysts predict a robust EPS growth rate of 15.0% per year for the next five years. At present, the stock is changing hands at $20.60 a share. Fund manager Joel Greenblatt purchased a small stake in the company in the quarter ended March 31.
AT&T (T) is a $212 billion U.S. telecommunications giant. It currently pays the third highest dividend yield among the S&P500 Dividend Aristocrats. The company also pays the highest yield of The Dow Jones Industrial Average. AT&T boasts a dividend yield of 4.9%, which is two percentage points above the average yield for the S&P500 Dividend Aristocrats Index. The company's rival Verizon Communications (VZ) pays a yield of 4.8%. Peer Sprint Nextel (S) does not pay any dividends.
The company's payout ratio is excessively high at 255% of earnings; however, it is much lower as a share of free cash flow, at 73%. Over the past five years, AT&T has raised dividends by an average annual rate of 4.8%. Analysts forecast that the company will grow its EPS at an average annual rate of 9% for the next five years. AT&T stock is currently changing hands at $35.8, near its 52-week high. Among fund managers, Ray Dalio is a believer in the stock.
HCP Inc. (HCP) or Healthcare Property Investors is the largest healthcare Real Estate Investment Trust in the United States. It invests primarily in the healthcare facilities in the United States. This $18.3 billion healthcare REIT pays the fourth highest dividend (distribution) among the S&P500 Dividend Aristocrats. Its yield of 4.7% is 185 basis points above the average yield on the overall index. The REIT's competitors Health Care REIT (HCN) and Ventas (VTR) pay dividend yields of 5.2% and 4.1%, respectively.
The REIT's distribution/payout ratio equals 131%. The trust has boosted its dividend at an average rate of 2.4% a year over the past five years. The REIT is expected to grow its EPS at an average rate of 11.4% per year for the next five years. The stock is currently trading at $43.7 a share, its new 52-week high. At present, the stock is not really popular with fund managers.
Cincinnati Financial Corp. (CINF) is a $6 billion property and casualty insurance company. It pays the fifth highest yield among the S&P500 Dividend Aristocrats. Its yield of 4.4% is 155 basis points above the average yield for the overall index. The company's competitors The Chubb Corporation (CB) and Hartford Financial Services Group (HIG) pay yields of 2.3% and 2.4%, respectively. Cincinnati Financial Corp. has a dividend payout ratio at 138%. The sustainability of the dividend at the current level is questionable.
The insurance provider is expected to grow EPS at an average rate of 5% per year in the next five years, following a sharp contraction in EPS over the past five years. Currently, the stock is trading at $36.7 a share, which is close to its 52-week high. Fund manager Jean-Marie Eveillard (First Eagle Investment Management - check out its top picks) holds an 8% stake in the company.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.