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2 Stocks You Can Keep Forever

By Reuben Gregg Brewer - Jul 21, 2017 at 6:17AM

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If you are a forever kind of investor, these two industrial giants should be right up your alley.

While traders buy and sell all the time, investors buy and hold. And hold for a very long time, often following Warren Buffett's advice that his favorite holding period is "forever." Finding stocks you can keep for the infinitely long term, though, requires finding a very special type of company, one that can roll with the punches while still rewarding its shareholders. Here are two stocks that I think fit the bill: Eaton Corp (ETN 2.00%) and Emerson Electric (EMR 1.98%).    

1. A power specialist

Eaton, a stock I own, is focused on power management. About 60% of its business is tied to electrical markets via its electrical products and electrical systems and services businesses. The remaining 40% (or so) is spread between hydraulics, aerospace, and vehicles. Ensuring that we use power in the most efficient way is a focus that's unlikely to go out of style anytime soon. In fact, I expect it will become increasingly important.    

Two men looking at blueprints above a factory floor

Image source: Getty Images.

Another nice thing about Eaton's business is that it's globally diversified. In the electrical segment, around 40% of revenue comes from outside the United States, while around 50% of the top line at its other industrial businesses comes from foreign markets. The company also has a history changing with the times. It started out making truck axles in the early 1900s, using acquisitions (and divestitures) to become the diversified giant it is today. The most recent move of note is a 50-50 partnership with Cummins in the vehicle-transmission space that pairs the technology of two industry-leading companies.    

Eaton has been increasing its dividend for eight consecutive years after it paused dividend growth for roughly two years following the 2007-2009 global recession. Prior to that the dividend had been increased annually for more than a decade. So despite the pause, Eaton has a long history of rewarding investors with dividend hikes.    

ETN Dividend Per Share (Annual) Chart

ETN Dividend Per Share (Annual) data by YCharts.

Dividend growth, meanwhile, has been robust. The annualized growth rate over the past 10 years is over 10%. To be fair, the past couple of years have seen slower dividend growth because of a sluggish industrial market. However, over the long term, Eaton's dividend has more than kept up with inflation. That makes it much easier to hold on to Eaton during trying times, which all companies face at some point. 

2. An automation specialist

Emerson is another industrial name that has a storied past. And this time there's no break in the company's dividend history -- the disbursement has increased for an incredible six decades and counting. As in Eaton's case, the growth rate over the last year or so has been a bit slow, but over the past decade it comes in at nearly 8% -- well above the historical rate of inflation of around 3%.    

Emerson's footprint is global, with roughly half of revenue coming from the U.S. and Canada. Its business is broken up between commercial and residential products( which includes products such as heating and air conditioning) and automation. The automation business -- roughly 60% of fiscal second-quarter revenue -- is a key reason to like Emerson since it hits on the trend toward an increasingly computer-driven world.    

Recent corporate actions at Emerson have shifted it out of data centers and more toward automation.

Emerson's been actively repositioning its business of late. Image source: Emerson. 

Like Eaton, this industrial giant has also proven it's willing to shift and change, using acquisitions and divestitures to adjust its business over the more than 100 years of its corporate history. The most recent moves include the sale of a business focused on data centers and the purchase of the valves and controls business of Pentair with part of the sale proceeds. The data-center business wasn't living up to profitability expectations, while the valve acquisition bolsters Emerson's automation operations.  

Buying and holding

Eaton and Emerson offer investors yields of roughly 3% and 3.2%, respectively. That's pretty enticing considering the yield on the S&P 500 is around 2%. The companies' impressive histories of dividend growth and inflation-beating dividend growth rates over the long haul mean investors should find it easy to keep owning this pair even through difficult markets. A focus on important long-term trends such as using power efficiently and industrial automation is a plus. Of course, there is the added protection that both companies, based on their histories, would be willing to change up their focus if needed.

Reuben Brewer owns shares of Eaton. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Cummins. The Motley Fool recommends Emerson Electric. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Stocks Mentioned

Emerson Electric Co. Stock Quote
Emerson Electric Co.
$89.22 (1.98%) $1.73
Eaton Corporation plc Stock Quote
Eaton Corporation plc
$152.44 (2.00%) $2.99

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