Finding income in today's market is no easy task. Interest rates are still very low, and scores of high-dividend stocks are too dicey to touch. What's an income investor to do?
Fortunately, we Fools believe there are always a few high-yield stocks that can be safely purchased. But which ones in particular are good buys today? We posed that question to a team of investors, and they highlighted Philip Morris International (PM 2.43%), Enviva Partners (EVA), and Bladex (BLX 6.13%).
Earn dividends from a changing tobacco industry
Dan Caplinger (Philip Morris International): Not everyone feels comfortable investing in the tobacco industry, but Philip Morris International has done a good job of providing shareholders with a lucrative combination of share-price growth and solid dividends. The stock currently sports a yield of 4.1%, and Philip Morris has put together a decade-long streak of annual dividend increases that have brought its quarterly payouts substantially higher over the course of its history as a separate publicly traded entity.
Philip Morris International has gone through tough times in recent years, with the strength of the U.S. dollar and weak trends in the cigarette industry weighing on its profits. However, foreign currencies in key areas have started to rebound, helping to eliminate that past headwind against the tobacco giant's earnings. More importantly, the rise of the iQOS heated-tobacco system has offered Philip Morris a viable way to make a transition away from traditional cigarettes. Regulators haven't entirely embraced the move toward reduced-risk products, but customers who've had the opportunity to make the switch have done so enthusiastically, especially in early test markets like Japan. With the potential for growth and a good dividend history, Philip Morris International makes a solid investment for income investors.
Snag a wood pellet business that's experiencing growing pains
Brian Stoffel (Enviva Partners): I don't feel comfortable recommending a stock unless I own it -- or, at the very least, have made a CAPS call on it. There's only one stock in my personal portfolio with a yield above 4%, so that's what I'm suggesting today: Enviva Partners LP.
The company provides wood pellets primarily for Northern European power plants that have a mandate to cut back on greenhouse gas emissions. While the accepted narrative is that electric power will eventually be a mix of wind, hydroelectric, and solar power, the technology is not quite ready to be deployed at a wide scale.
That's where Enviva -- which operates throughout the American Southeast -- comes in. The company is the largest producer of wood pellets worldwide and has long-term contracts in place with European power companies to provide them with the inputs to generate electricity while creating less pollution. The company's leverage comes from its network of production plants and wholly owned deepwater ports that cut down on operating costs and allow incremental efficiencies to drop right to the bottom line.
Over the past year, however, there have been hiccups. Not only have plants not been running at full capacity due to structural improvements, but distributable cash flow shrank because of debt payments on the company's dropdown production plant acquisitions.
That said, new contracts that are about to come on line offered a ray of hope. And investors who are patient enough -- and wise enough to make a small allocation -- can be rewarded for their risk: Shares are currently offering an 8.5% yield based on the full-year distribution of $2.36 per share. That's a hefty premium for those looking for yields over 4%!
For value, look abroad
Brian Feroldi (Bladex): The American economy and stock market have been humming in recent years, but not all places in the world have enjoyed similar prosperity. A few countries in Latin America -- namely Brazil, Venezuela, and Colombia -- have been down in the dumps because of huge economic challenges and political crises.
One company that has felt that pain firsthand is Banco Latinoamericano de Comercio Exterior, or Bladex. Bladex is a merchant bank that was established decades ago by the region's central banks. The bank was created to help grow regional trade by offering letters of credit, financing, and other banking products to Latin American businesses.
Bladex's business had been booming for years, but things started to get rocky in 2016. As a result, Bladex has placed a huge emphasis on loan quality in an effort to ride out the storm. That move protected the business from the slump, but it also had a big impact on its growth rates. In turn, the company's share price hasn't kept pace with the S&P 500, and its dividend hasn't been raised for a few years.
Thankfully, the tide finally appears to be turning. Bladex recently reported sequential loan growth for the first time in seven quarters. What's more, non-performing loans and write-offs are also heading in the right direction. That suggests that that the company might finally be able to return to net income and dividend growth.
Despite the reasons for optimism, Bladex's stock is still trading for less than 1.1 times book value and offers investors a juicy dividend yield of 5.3%. Add in the potential for growth and I think investors who buy Bladex today stand a good chance of earnings double-digit total returns over the next few years.