In a low-yield environment such as this, investors have been scrambling to get some yield. However, in this hunt for yield, investors tend to expose themselves to taking on more risk. The following five stocks are great buys because they are strong cash cows with a solid yield above 4%.
DTE Energy Company (NYSE:DTE) has been a nice and steady dividend growth play. The company has increased its dividend from 35 cents per quarter in 1970 to nearly 59 cents per share in 2012. DTE Energy generated a net income of $711 million in 2011. The company paid out $389 million in dividend payments.
So not only is the company a strong cash generator, but it is easily able to cover the dividend payments to investors. The company has increased its dividend again by raising it to 62 cents per quarter. This gives the stock a dividend yield of 4.1%.
The stock has a forward P/E of 14.9, which may seem expensive for investors. However, investors need to keep in mind that the market may have given the company such a multiple due to the safety net of the company. DTE is a company with a wide moat and a dividend that is steadily growing. Investors are expected to pay up in order to gain a safe and strong yield.
Waste Management, Inc. (NYSE:WM) has a 4.3% dividend yield. The company has grown its quarterly dividend from 1 cent per share in 1998 to 35 cents per share in 2012. Waste Management is a great company due to the market share in commands in the U.S. Waste Management's market share is 20%, which makes it the largest company in the segment.
WM generated $961 million in profit in 2011. The company paid out $696 million in dividends in the same year. So the company generates adequate income to cover the dividend and possibly even increase it over time.
The forward P/E of the stock is 13.5, which is fair for a company that is the largest waste management provider in the country. In addition to this, the company's net income is not as volatile due to its business. Investors should consider WM for its great dividend yield of 4.3%.
Dow Chemical Co. (NYSE:DOW) has a dividend yield of 4.1%. Dow Chemical has increased its quarterly dividend from 5.5 cents per share in 1977 to 32 cents per share in 2012. The company generated a $2.4 billion profit in 2011. Dow Chemical paid out $1.3 billion in dividends to shareholders. So the company could increase its dividend in the future.
Dow Chemical has also began a recent $20 billion joint venture with Saudi Aramco. Dow Chemical plans to produce more than 3 million tons of petrochemicals each year. The joint venture will allow Dow Chemical to export chemicals to Asian markets. This venture could be very profitable for Dow. Dow Chemical is trading at a forward P/E of 10, which is pretty good for a company with plenty of growth ahead.
Altria Group, Inc. (NYSE:MO) pays a 4.7% dividend. The company has grown its quarterly dividend from .002 cents per share in 1970 to 41 cents in 2012. The company generated $3.39 billion and paid dividends of $3.2 billion. There does not seem to be room for growth for the dividend, but the yield is fairly high to begin with anyways.
There are concerns that Altria's growth has been slowing. While these concerns are valid, it still doesn't take away from the fact that the company has some of the strongest brands in the world. The company's earnings have been steady and while I don't see any major upside in EPS, I also don't see and major downside either.
The stock has a forward P/E of 14.8. The company is still a cash cow and the dividend is great especially in an environment such as this. While people may be concerned that the company's earnings have been flat, it doesn't take away from the fact the company will still be around 15 years from now and will continue to pay a strong dividend.
FirstEnergy Corp (NYSE:FE) pays a 4.4% dividend. The company has grown its quarterly dividend from 37.5 cents per share in 1998 to 55 cents per share in 2012. Just like DTE, FirstEnergy has a strong moat with steady earnings.
The company earned $885 million in 2011 and paid out $881 million in dividends. Like Altria, the dividend growth may be limited in the future, but the fact the company pays a 4.4% yield is plenty enough for many investors. Investors that want to avoid volatile earnings should look at purchasing FirstEnergy. The company has a great moat and pays a strong dividend.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.