Owning high-yield dividend stocks can be a great way to both generate steady income and beat the broader market's returns. But finding the best dividend stocks is easier said than done.
To that end, we asked three Motley Fool investors to each pick a top dividend stock with an annual yield of at least 5%. Read on to learn why they chose Macy's (M -1.17%), CoreCivic (CXW -0.63%), and Green Plains Partners (GPP -0.97%).
An unappreciated retail play
Steve Symington (Macy's): Given the seemingly inevitable rise of e-commerce, it might seem crazy to pick up shares of any brick-and-mortar retailer right now. But with shares of Macy's down nearly 30% in 2017 and offering a 5.89% annual dividend yield as of this writing, it may be worth betting that Macy's demise is overstated.
Of course, online is still growing quickly. According to a sales report issued by Mastercard SpendingPulse on the day after Christmas, consumers spent 18.1% more online during the 2017 holiday season compared to last year. But U.S. holiday retail sales also climbed 4.9%, marking the country's best seasonal growth in six years and propelling shares of many primarily physical retailers higher to start the week.
That's not to say it should be a big surprise. After all, when Macy's handily beat Wall Street's low profit expectations with its third-quarter report early last month, its shares were further propelled higher with its prediction that its market-leading position, popular loyalty program, and growing online presence would result in a strong holiday season.
As it stands, investors will need to wait until early February -- when Macy's releases its official fourth-quarter results -- to know for certain whether that prediction proves true. But I think the stock has a great chance of offering market-beating returns for investors willing to make that bet right now.
The prison REIT
Rich Duprey (CoreCivic): Although CoreCivic is a private prison operator, it is structured as a real estate investment trust, which means that like all REITs, it pays out almost all of its profits as dividends to investors. Over the past year, however, it has had to cut its payout after its business was hurt when the Obama administration ordered its agencies to begin winding down contracts with private operators like CoreCivic and GEO Group (GEO -1.04%).
The election of Donald Trump as president has seen that plan put back on the shelf, but it hasn't helped the price of CoreCivic, which has watched its stock fall 20% over the last six months -- even though it's down only 8% in the past year.
CoreCivic's recent win of a Kansas contract -- for $294 million over 20 years, which it won by beating out GEO -- should soon be reflected in CoreCivic's financials.
The prison operator maintains a targeted payout ratio of approximately 80% of adjusted funds from operations per share, which is equal to about 75% of its normalized FFO per share. With a dividend currently yielding 7.5%, CoreCivic's stock may soon also reward investors who are now only receiving the diminished payout.
Maxx Chatsko (Green Plains Partners LP): Most investors have probably never heard of Green Plains Partners LP, but it's certainly worth a closer look, especially considering its 10% yield. The master limited partnership was created to provide logistics and transportation services to Green Plains, North America's second-largest ethanol producer. Considering that the parent owns roughly 1.5 billion gallons of annual production capacity -- nearly one in every 10 gallons produced by Uncle Sam -- it's not surprising that the partnership is kept busy. And for a fee-based business, busy is good.
Green Plains Partners LP owns and leases rail cars that pick up ethanol from production facilities and transport it to refinery clusters for blending into the nation's gasoline supply or storage tanks -- which it also owns -- for future deliveries. Business is guaranteed by Green Plains, and since it's fee-based business, the partnership isn't directly exposed to volatile commodity prices. In other words, it doesn't receive any payments based on the value of a gallon of ethanol.
It's a lucrative business, mostly by design, as Green Plains owns 65.5% of the general partner interest. The partnership generated $46 million in operating cash flow on $78.8 million of revenue through the first nine months of 2017. While the lion's share makes its way back to the parent, there's no reason investors looking for income can't join in on the fun. Better yet, the party is just getting started.
Green Plains recently completed an ethanol export terminal in Texas as part of a 50-50 joint venture. Green Plains Partners LP is expected to purchase its parent's interest sometime in 2018. The acquisition couldn't be a better fit. Consider that the export terminal has access to three Class I railroads, can export over 100 million gallons per year, and can store and handle a wide range of fuel blends -- meaning that it could be opened up to third-party customers. With American ethanol exports reaching record levels in 2017, the potential vertical expansion into export terminals represents a major long-term opportunity for the partnership.
The bottom line
We can't guarantee that Macy's, CoreCivic, or Green Plains Partners will beat the market going forward. But their enticingly high dividends and compelling industry positions certainly won't hurt their chances. At the very least, they're worth further consideration for dividend-hungry investors looking to put their money to work.