Over the past three weeks, investors have received a harsh reminder that stocks do indeed go down from time to time. With big downside moves often driven by emotions rather than reason, investors have witnessed the iconic Dow Jones Industrial Average log five of its 10 biggest single-day point declines over a two-week stretch, through this past weekend.
Historically, though, buying stocks during any stock market correction has proved to be a smart move. That's because earnings growth over time tends to push broad-market indexes higher, thereby erasing all evidence of a correction. While things look scary now for investors, you'll almost certainly be glad you bought into the greatest wealth creator on the planet 10 years from now.
Dividend stocks are your friend during stock market corrections
However, there are other ways for investors to mitigate this short-term pain. Namely, by focusing on dividend stocks. That's because dividend stocks are typically profitable, have time-tested business models, and their payouts can help assuage some of the panic caused by big down days by partially offsetting some of investors' paper losses.
In theory, investors want the highest yield possible with the least risk imaginable. In reality, yield and risk tend to go hand in hand, with a very high yield often representing a troubled business. Remember, since yield is simply a function of payout relative to share price, a floundering company with a plunging share price can give the false impression of a juicy yield. This can make ultra-high-yield stocks particularly dangerous to income-seeking investors, if they're not careful.
But there are exceptions. Right now, there are three ultra-high-yield dividend stocks that'll allow you to earn more than quadruple the yield of the broad-based S&P 500. You'll also sleep easy at night without having to worry about the safety of the underlying business models of these three companies. If the stock market continues to wildly swing lower, these ultra-high-yield stocks may be worth buying.
Altria Group: 7.7% dividend yield
There's no denying that the tobacco landscape has been difficult to navigate for years. Within the U.S., regulators have been waging war on Big Tobacco for decades, and their efforts to get people to stop smoking have pushed adult cigarette smoking rates to an all-time low. Generally speaking, that's bad news for Altria Group (NYSE:MO), the U.S. tobacco giant behind the premium Marlboro brand. Altria has witnessed a relatively steady decline in shipment volumes, with total cigarette shipments falling 7.3% in 2019.
That's the bad news.
The good news is that nicotine is an addictive chemical, meaning Altria has been able to use its incredible pricing power to maintain, or potentially even grow its annual sales. Not to mention, Altria has next-generation innovations that may prove healthier for consumers than smoking tobacco. This includes the launch of the IQOS heated tobacco system, as well as the launch of On oral nicotine pouches in more than 15,000 stores nationwide. In other words, Altria is putting its healthy cash flow to work in a number of ways that could offset (or more than offset) weakness in tobacco sales.
What's more, Altria Group is a generous company when it comes to its capital return policy. Last year, it raised its dividend for the 54th time in 50 years, and repurchased $845 million worth of its own stock in 2019. Stock buybacks can have a positive impact on a company's earnings per share, thereby making it look more attractive on a valuation basis.
With a 7.7% yield and a product that historically sees little drop-off during periods of recession, Altria looks like a safe bet for income seekers to consider buying.
Mobile TeleSystems: 9.2% dividend yield
Next, I think dividend seekers would be wise to dig into Russian wireless giant Mobile TeleSystems (NYSE:MBT), which is more commonly known as "MTS."
The concern of a company like MTS is that Russia's wireless saturation rate is already very high. Thus, there's the worry of where future growth will come from. Also, Russia's ruble has been anything but stable throughout its history, which can lead to short-term currency-related shocks from time to time.
But there are two factors that should have investors drooling over this dividend stock. First, there's the fact that most of Mobile TeleSystems' revenue is generated from its wireless division, and that a majority of this revenue is subscription-based. With smartphones becoming more of a necessary good with each passing day, it's very unlikely that MTS would see much (or any) drop-off in business if the global economy entered a recession. The company's wireless subscriptions leads to highly predictable cash flow, which is a big reason it's on track to pay out more than a 9% yield. Not to mention, the rollout of 5G networks should lead to a healthy tech upgrade cycle, ultimately increasing consumer data usage.
The other consideration to be made is that MTS has expanded beyond wireless. For instance, MTS Bank had grown its customer base to 1.9 million clients, as of the third quarter, with gross retail loan growth of 85%, year-over-year. Meanwhile, the company's cloud enterprise customer count has now surpassed 660.
Having also made $810 million in aggregate share repurchases over the past three years, Mobile TeleSystems looks to be a solid ultra-high-yield dividend stock.
Royal Dutch Shell: 8.6% dividend yield
The obvious concern right now is that the oil market is somewhat in shambles. With coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) wreaking havoc on oil demand, OPEC had every intention of significantly reducing output. Unfortunately, Russia, a non-OPEC member, wasn't OK with that plan, which has led to an all-out crude-pricing war between Russia and Saudi Arabia. If crude prices fall significantly, it would clearly be a negative for all exploration and production companies, including Royal Dutch Shell.
The good news is that while Royal Dutch Shell does rely on its upstream operations to drive growth, this is an integrated oil and gas company. When crude prices fall and consumer demand for these products rises, Royal Dutch Shell leans on its refining and petrochemical operations to fill in the gap.
Furthermore, this is a company that's made significant investments in natural gas. Even though natural gas prices have been a bit of a disappointment this decade, the company's integrated gas segment was responsible for $11.4 billion in organic free cash flow in 2019. For context, Royal Dutch Shell's companywide organic free cash flow generation was $20.1 billion last year.
With a keen nose for keeping capital expenditures from getting out of hand, Royal Dutch Shell was also able to return $14.8 billion to its shareholders in 2019 via share buybacks. As noted earlier, these buybacks can have a positive impact on EPS.
Though an increase in Royal Dutch Shell's dividend is almost certainly out of the question, this well-financed and diverse oil giant can continue paying out its hefty dividend for the foreseeable future.