The sluggish economic and stock market outlooks for the next several years make high-quality stocks the preferred investment vehicles for prudent investors. While there are quite a few solid dividend-paying stocks in the stock universe, the best place to look for the stocks boasting high-quality credentials and high-income and total return potential is among the constituents of the S&P500 High Quality Rankings Index.
The index is designed to provide exposure to the S&P500 Index constituents that "reflect long-term growth and stability of earnings and dividends." All stocks comprising the Index have S&P quality ranking of A- or better, with the lower ranking boundary representing above average performance of earnings and dividends, adjusted for "changes in the rate of growth, stability over long periods, and cyclicality."
Here is a quick overview of six dividend stocks that could be bought to create a winning portfolio of high-quality stocks. The capacity of these stocks to produce strong earnings and income creates an opportunity to capitalize on a high long-term total return potential.
Chevron Corporation (CVX) is one of the largest constituents of the noted Index. It is a global oil and gas giant with a market capitalization of $207 billion. The stock pays a dividend yield of 3.4% on a low payout ratio of 26%. The company's peers ConocoPhillips (COP) and Exxon Mobile (XOM) pay yields of 4.7% and 2.6%, respectively. Chevron's dividend increased over the past five years at an average annual rate of 9%.
The company's earnings per share (EPS) are expected to grow at a 5.3% average annual rate for the next five years, slower than over the past half decade. The company has a forward P/E slightly below that for the integrated oil and gas industry. The stock is trading at $105.07, flat over the past year. Among famous investors, the stock is popular with Jim Simons and Cliff Asness.
Omnicom Group (OMC) is a $13.2 billion marketing and communications services company. It boasts a dividend yield of 2.5% on a payout ratio of 36%. The company's competitors, including Interpublic Group of Companies (IPG) and Focus Media Holding Ltd. (FMCN), yield 2.1% and 2.0%, respectively. Peer Lamar Advertising Company (LAMR) does not pay any dividends. Rich in free cash flow, the company boosted its dividend at an average annual rate of 16% a year over the past five years and by an even faster 20% this year.
Analysts forecast that the company will grow its EPS at an average rate of 10.2% per year for the next five years, almost double the rate achieved over the past half decade. In terms of valuation, the Omnicom stock is trading at a premium to the media agencies industry. The stock is changing hands at $48.22 a share, unchanged compared to the price level a year ago. It is especially popular with Jean-Marie Eveillard (First Eagle Investment Management-check the fund's picks).
Target Corp. (TGT) is the second-largest U.S. discount retailer after Wal-Mart (WMT), the top holding in the S&P500 High Quality Rankings Index. The company's market capitalization totals $38 billion. The retailer pays a dividend yield of 2.5% on a payout ratio of 33%. Its competitors Wal-Mart and Costco Wholesale Corporation (COST) yield 2.2% and 1.2%, respectively.
Over the past five years, Target's dividend increased at a 20% average annual rate. Its EPS growth is forecast to average about 12% per year for the next five years. The company is currently trading at $58.08 a share, up almost 20% in a year and close to its 52-week high. While there has been some insider selling action, the stock continues to exhibit strong fundamental and technical characteristics. Target's shares are trading on a forward P/E below that of its peers in the broadline retail industry. The stock is popular with billionaires Steven Cohen and Ken Griffin.
Lorillard (LO) is an $18 billion marketer of cigarette brands such as Newport, Maverick, and Kent. The company pays a dividend yield of 4.5% on a payout ratio of 77%. The company's tobacco industry peers, including Philip Morris International (PM), Reynolds American (RAI), and Altria Group (MO), pay dividend yields of 3.4%, 5.2%, and 4.7%, respectively. Lorillard boosted its dividends at an average annual rate of 47.2% over the past three years. This year, it hiked its quarterly dividend by 19.2%.
The company's EPS grew at an average rate of 11% per year over the past five years and is forecast to expand at a 10% per year rate for the next half decade. Despite the weakening economic conditions, the cigarette makers such as Altria and Reynolds American are raising prices. While Lorillard has not yet boosted its prices, it may follow suit soon. The company's stock is trading at $136.07 a share, up 24% in a year. On a forward P/E basis, the shares are trading at a small discount relative to the tobacco industry. Jean-Marie Eveillard and Ken Heebner are big fans of the stock.
United Technologies Corp. (UTX) is a conglomerate that produces high-tech products, ranging from aircraft engines, elevators, fire and security products, to missile systems and military helicopters. The company has a market cap of $68 billion. It pays a dividend yield of 2.8% on a payout ratio of 45%. Its prime competitors General Electric (GE), Boeing (BA), Honeywell (HON) pay dividend yields of 3.3%, 2.4%, and 2.7%, respectively. The company hiked its dividend at an average annual rate of 12.6% over the past five years and by a lower but still robust 11.5% this year.
The company's EPS growth is expected to rise at an average rate of 12% per year for the next five years, faster than in the past five years on average. Still, defense spending cuts have taken a toll on this industry player. The company is close to completing its acquisition of Goodrich Corp. (GR). UTX is attractive on valuation, boasting a forward P/E below that of its peers on average. The stock is currently trading at $74.09 a share, down 18% in a year. Billionaires Ken Fisher and Dan Loeb are bullish about the stock.
Kellogg Company (K) is a $18 billion cereal and convenience food producer, the maker of popular brands such as Corn Flakes, Frosted Mini Wheats, and Nutri Grain Cereal Bars. It pays a dividend yield of 3.5% on a payout ratio of 51%. Its peers General Mills, Inc. (GIS) and Kraft Foods Inc. (KFT) pay dividend yields of 3.4% and 3.0%, respectively. Kellogg's dividend rose at an average annual rate of 8.1% over the past five years, while its EPS grew at an average rate of 6.2% per year.
Analysts forecast that the company will accelerate its EPS growth to 7.4% per year, on average, for the next five years. The rising grains commodity prices do not bode well for the company in the short run. However, the company has managed well these input cost shocks. Kellogg's shares are trading at a discount relative to the food products industry. The stock is changing hands at $49.12 a share, down almost 12% in a year. Kellogg is popular with Ken Griffin, Cliff Asness, and Jim Simons.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.