Stocks are dropping and yields are rising, but that isn't exactly a dream come true for income investors, as a lot of stocks taking on water are likely to slash their dividends as the economy turns. Let's look at some of the more promising companies packing sustainable dividends.
A wireless carrier would seem to be reasonably resistant to the coronavirus sell-off. Telecommunications solutions offer a safe way to stay connected, and a wireless bill is an essential utility in 2020. It's against this backdrop that AT&T became one of the more than 5,000 companies to hit fresh 52-week lows on Friday and in the process pushed its yield all the way up to 7.4% this weekend.
Things aren't perfect. AT&T recently announced that it's closing 40% of its company-owned stores in light of COVID-19, and the cancellation of sporting events and movie theaters is weighing on its DIRECTV and WarnerMedia businesses. It also abandoned plans for $4 billion in buybacks and is reportedly exploring taking on $3 billion in new debt to help through the downturn. No dividend may be entirely safe, but AT&T has come through with 36 consecutive years of boosts.
The country's second largest provider of payroll, human resources, and benefits outsourcing services may seem like an odd consideration in this climate. Paychex thrives in a buoyant economy, and it's not a good sign when Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin warns that the unemployment rate may soar to 20% in the wake of the coronavirus shutdown.
Paychex still deserves a look, and its yield enters the new trading week at nearly 4.8% after getting roughed up with the general market. Paychex has proved resilient in the past, and it will get a chance to earn a bounce when it reports financial results for its fiscal third quarter. Owning Paychex ahead of an earnings report is a smart move. It has boosted its guidance in back-to-back reports.
It's true that Cisco isn't the glorious speedster that for a brief moment before the dot-com bubble burst was the country's most valuable company by market cap. You have to go back to fiscal 2010 to find the last time the networking gear specialist has posted double-digit revenue growth.
However, with the stock now tumbling to the point where it's yielding just north of 4% it's a good time to sing its praises, as Cisco is holding up fundamentally well in this climate. Analyst profit targets have budged in recent months, a time when many Wall Street pros are talking down most of their earnings estimates. Cisco has beaten analyst profit forecasts every quarter over the past year.
Some bulls see the stock as a beneficiary of COVID-19. With many employees encouraged to work from home, demand for Cisco's network devices and software has probably never been higher.
There's more to investing in dividend stocks than just high payouts. AT&T, Paychex, and Cisco have what it takes to live up to their strong yields.