Now more than ever, a comfortable retirement depends on secure, stable investments. Unfortunately, the right stocks for retirement won't just fall into your lap. In this series, I look at 10 measures to show what makes a great retirement-oriented stock.
Gold's stratospheric rise over the past decade may have come to a halt, but it's hard to argue that times still aren't very good for Newmont Mining (NYSE: NEM ) . Even with its recent pullback, gold prices are still extremely high from a historical standpoint, and Newmont hasn't hesitated to turn those high prices into big profits. But with gold failing to rise even in the face of new financial crises abroad, is the safe-haven play over? Below, we'll revisit how Newmont Mining does on our 10-point scale.
The right stocks for retirees
With decades to go before you need to tap your investments, you can take greater risks, weighing the chance of big losses against the potential for mind-blowing returns. But as retirement approaches, you no longer have the luxury of waiting out a downturn.
Sure, you still want good returns, but you also need to manage your risk and protect yourself against bear markets, which can maul your finances at the worst possible time. The right stocks combine both of these elements in a single investment.
When scrutinizing a stock, retirees should look for:
- Size. Most retirees would rather not take a flyer on unproven businesses. Bigger companies may lack their smaller counterparts' growth potential, but they do offer greater security.
- Consistency. While many investors look for fast-growing companies, conservative investors want to see steady, consistent gains in revenue, free cash flow, and other key metrics. Slow growth won't make headlines, but it will help prevent the kind of ugly surprises that suddenly torpedo a stock's share price.
- Stock stability. Conservative retirement investors prefer investments that move less dramatically than typical stocks, and they particularly want to avoid big losses. These investments will give up some gains during bull markets, but they won't fall as far or as fast during bear markets. Beta measures volatility, but we also want a track record of solid performance as well.
- Valuation. No one can afford to pay too much for a stock, even if its prospects are good. Using normalized earnings multiples helps smooth out one-time effects, giving you a longer-term context.
- Dividends. Most of all, retirees look for stocks that can provide income through dividends. Retirees want healthy payouts now and consistent dividend growth over time -- as long as it doesn't jeopardize the company's financial health.
With those factors in mind, let's take a closer look at Newmont Mining.
What We Want to See
Pass or Fail?
|Size||Market cap > $10 billion||$22 billion||Pass|
|Consistency||Revenue growth > 0% in at least four of five past years||4 years||Pass|
|Free cash flow growth > 0% in at least four of past five years||3 years||Fail|
|Stock stability||Beta < 0.9||0.30||Pass|
|Worst loss in past five years no greater than 20%||(15.8%)||Pass|
|Valuation||Normalized P/E < 18||8.75||Pass|
|Dividends||Current yield > 2%||3.2%||Pass|
|5-year dividend growth > 10%||24.6%||Pass|
|Streak of dividend increases >= 10 years||3 years||Fail|
|Payout ratio < 75%||173.4%||Fail|
|Total score||7 out of 10|
Source: S&P Capital IQ. Total score = number of passes.
Since we looked at Newmont Mining last year, the company has lost a point. The drop comes from a higher payout ratio that was in turn caused by an asset writedown and its negative effect on earnings. But even with that excuse, the stock has lost almost a quarter of its value in the past year.
Newmont has risen and fallen with the price of gold, and until this year, that meant that the company had enjoyed a huge run. Now that gold has corrected back from $1,900 per ounce down to below $1,600, Newmont has suffered as well, albeit not by as much as tiny producers Golden Star Resources (NYSE: GSS ) and AuRico Gold.
In particular, some things simply haven't gone Newmont's way. Late last year, the company took a $1.6 billion writedown related to its Hope Bay project in Canada's Nunavut. Also, the company has had many of the same challenges as Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold (NYSE: FCX ) in dealing with labor problems, as well as opposition to Newmont's operations in Peru.
One thing that sets Newmont apart is its dividend policy, which ties its payout to the price of gold. Like Hecla Mining (NYSE: HL ) does with silver, Newmont's policy makes it clear just how crucial spot gold prices are to its ultimate success, and its payout has soared much faster than rival Barrick Gold (NYSE: ABX ) .
For retirees and other conservative investors, the key to Newmont is that to buy shares, you pretty much have to agree with CEO Richard O'Brien's assessment that gold is headed much higher. Unlike in past years, when miners hedged production at high price levels, Newmont is shooting for the moon. That gives you a promising growth prospect for a retirement portfolio, but only if you're willing to take the associated risk.
Finding exactly the right stock to retire with is a tough task, but it's not impossible. Searching for the best candidates will help improve your investing skills, and teach you how to separate the right stocks from the risky ones.
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