Savvy investors like multibillion-dollar fund manager Ken Fisher know that dividends are a great way to obtain healthy doses of income. In today's low-interest-rate environment, these stocks are more important for income investors than ever. Here are three of his top dividend stocks.
HSBC Holdings (NYSE: HSBC ) leverages its well-known brand in banking operations spanning more than 80 countries. Its global network enables the U.K.-based company to attract clients with cross-border banking needs. Many of HSBC's operations are in emerging markets, which offer the company growth potential as the trend toward globalization of the financial markets continues. HSBC has decided to focus its investment banking on a few select mature markets and emerging markets with growing populations and wealth, rather than trying to be a large player in all countries. HSBC's recent focus on the mass affluent market through its Premier brand should drive growth, as these customers generate significantly more revenue than the average account-holder. Unlike many of its banking peers, HSBC has paid a solid dividend during the past several years. Its stock currently yields 7.3%, and HSBC has raised its dividend by nearly 140% over the past five years.
General Electric (NYSE: GE ) is in the process of revamping operations and getting back to its core business, most recently by trimming GE Capital, its financial-services business. Although GE's transformation to more of a focus on its industrial roots will take time, many benefits await. For example, when GE sells a new engine, it can also benefit by providing maintenance over the life of the equipment. Services and maintenance carry profit margins higher than those of new equipment, and GE's services now account for more than 30% of company revenue. During the most recent quarter, profit from the industrial businesses rose 12% on robust results in the aviation, oil and gas, and power and water divisions, which collectively bring in about 44% of company revenue. A key driver of growth and profit has been strength in emerging markets, such as China and India, which will likely continue as those countries build out infrastructure to handle an increasingly urbanized society. The conglomerate, which announced a 16% dividend increase last year, currently pays shareholders a 3.3% dividend yield.
McDonald's (NYSE: MCD ) has undergone a refresh by placing renewed emphasis on brand imaging, launching premium products, offering healthier menu options, and remodeling restaurants. But none of those efforts helped the company side-step declining same-store sales. McDonald's posted negative same-store sales in late 2012, its first negative figure reported in nearly a decade. The fast-food king has since suffered even more sales declines. Slowing global economic growth has partly been to blame, as nearly 70% of company revenue is derived internationally. Yet McDonald's is a master of innovation and experimentation, and opportunities for long-term growth still exist internationally, especially in emerging markets like China. The Golden Arches will add roughly 300 new stores there this year, given the impressive growth potential in the market and the chain's improving brand position there. The company is also overhauling a number of its existing China-based locations, launching a new advertising campaign, and recruiting locals to operate its franchises in China. The typical Chinese consumer's increasing affluence, boosted by higher education and greater personal income, presents upside for the burger maker. McDonald's has raised its dividend every year since it paid its first one in 1976. The company raised its dividend by 5% last year and currently forks over a 3.2% dividend yield to shareholders.
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