Income investors know that there's only one thing better than dividends: dividend growth.
That's because, over the long term, fast-growing dividends will give you greater returns than slow-growing stocks that already have high yields. Thanks to the power of compound growth, a stock that raises its dividend by 20% annually, for example, will more than double its payout in just four years. After 10 years of 20% annual hikes, that dividend payment will be more than six times higher.
If you're looking for stocks with records of outstanding dividend growth and the capacity to keep delivering more of the same, Starbucks (SBUX -0.10%), Home Depot (HD 1.19%), and Boeing (BA 1.40%) all are well worth your consideration.
A coffee giant with no signs of slowing down
Starbucks' competitive advantages are self-evident. It's easily the world's biggest coffee chain, with a dominating presence in North America and a fast-growing one in China. It has an enviable rewards program, with 17.6 million members in the U.S., and it was early among restaurant chains to embrace digital technology, allowing for mobile ordering and payments. Though jokes about Starbucks' ubiquity have been common for years, the company keeps finding new ways to grow, including via mobile order and pickup, delivery, premiumization through its Reserve stores and Roasteries, and in international markets.
Over the last decade, Starbucks has also become a formidable dividend stock. It began returning profits to shareholders in 2010, and since then, it has raised its dividend by 14% or more annually. The stock offers a dividend yield of 1.9% today, and its payout ratio of 58% is moderate enough that the company should have room to grow its dividend by double-digit percentages for the foreseeable future. Management is also targeting earnings-per-share growth of at least 10% over the long term, which should support its strong dividend growth.
An undisputed retail leader
Home Depot has long dominated the home-improvement retail niche, and now has a market cap more than twice as large as its chief rival, Lowe's. Over the last decade, the stock has surged as the company has benefited from the housing recovery and its position in a retail sector that has proved largely resistant to the e-commerce revolution.
Home Depot has also become a dividend powerhouse. Management has increased its quarterly payout $0.25 in 2011 to $1.36 today. It has raised the payout by double-digit percentages every year since 2011, and earlier this year hiked it by 32%. The current yield is 2.5%, and with a payout ratio of 54%, there's certainly more room for further increases.
Earnings growth did slow down this year as the company stepped up investments in technology, e-commerce and other initiatives such as its One Home Depot plan, but that situation is likely temporary -- the company should be able to grow profits and therefore its dividend over the long term as demand for home improvement supplies grows. Management has demonstrated its commitment to returning profits to shareholders, and has built a highly efficient business as reflected by operating margins of around 15% and return on invested capital of more than 40%. That should pay off down the road for income investors.
High-altitude dividend growth
Despite its efforts to resolve its problems, Boeing is still suffering from the fallout of its 737 MAX fiasco. The stock now trades about 20% below the all-time high it set in the weeks before the second of the two crashes caused by problems in the planes' flight control systems. However, the headline risk and other challenges related to the 737 MAX do seem to be fading. Production of the aircraft is expected to ramp back up next year.
Boeing is essentially one half of a commercial aircraft duopoly with Europe's Airbus, which gives it significant market power. The stock has surged throughout the past decade as the global economy recovered from the financial crisis, and the company churned out record profits. Given Boeing's strong position and $470 billion backlog -- the equivalent of six years of commercial aircraft production -- the company should have plenty of growth ahead.
Boeing has aggressively boosted its dividend in recent years, more than quadrupling it from $0.485 in 2013 to $2.055 today. The next increase should arrive later this month, as the company regularly hikes its payouts in December. The stock yields 2.4% today, and has a payout ratio of just 39% based on next year's consensus EPS figure, which assumes that the headwinds from the 737 MAX issues will dissipate.