If you're looking for a dividend stock to invest in, your safest bet is one that has a proven track record. Dividend Aristocrats are stocks that have increased their dividends for at least 25 straight years, meaning they're safe bets to continue increasing their payouts for the foreseeable future as well.
The three stocks below all fall into that category, and all are down this year. For investors, it could be an opportunity to buy some solid dividend stocks at cheap prices.
Medtronic (NYSE:MDT) sells medical devices around the globe. Its devices help medical professionals treat people with diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and many other issues. In fiscal 2019, sales of $30.6 billion were up a modest 2% from 2018; over three years, they were up by 6%. The company has maintained a strong profit margin north of 10% during that time as well. While there hasn't been a whole lot of growth from Medtronic, it's a stable stock, and its dividend is stable, too.
Medtronic has increased its dividend for 42 consecutive years. The most recent hike came last year, when Medtronic raised its quarterly payouts from $0.50 to $0.54, an 8% rise. Five years ago, the stock was paying a quarterly dividend of $0.305. Since then, the company has increased its dividend by 77% for a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 12%.
Currently, investors will earn a dividend yield of 2.6%, higher than the S&P 500 average of 2% per year. Shares of Medtronic are down 24% since the beginning of the year, a bit more than the 23% decline the S&P 500 has seen during that time. And at a forward price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of 14, it's a good buy for both value and dividend investors alike.
Target (NYSE:TGT) is one company that's been seeing an uptick in traffic as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. In March, the big-box retailer saw comparable-store sales rise 20% from the prior-year month thanks to an "unprecedented surge" in traffic. However, because of the uncertainty about how long the pandemic may last, the company has withdrawn its forecast and will halt some of the growth initiatives it had planned, including the remodeling of hundreds of stores.
Consumers can still go to Target for their essentials and also make purchases online, where same-day delivery is available via Shipt. While retail stocks may be a risky venture during this pandemic, Target's one of the safer ones, and it could turn out to be an essential stop for customers needing to get their day-to-day supplies. In its most recent fiscal year, the company recorded revenue of $78.1 billion, up 3.7% from the $75.4 billion it reported in the prior year. The company has consistently stayed in the black, posting a profit margin of at least 3.9% in each of the past five years.
However, the stock is down almost 29% so far in 2020, and for dividend investors, that means there's an opportunity to secure a better-than-normal dividend yield. The stock's quarterly dividend payment of $0.66 means investors can earn 2.8% annually. The company increased its dividend in June, the 48th consecutive year that it has done so. Five years ago, Target was paying investors a quarterly dividend of $0.52. Payouts are up 27% since then, averaging a CAGR of 4.9%.
At a forward P/E of less than 14, Target's also a good value buy, but its future earnings will inevitably depend on how long the coronavirus remains a threat and how much of an impact it continues to have on the economy.
3. T. Rowe Price
T. Rowe Price (NASDAQ:TROW) is an asset management company that serves clients and shareholders in 50 countries around the world. With more than $1.2 trillion in assets managed, it's a trusted name in the industry, helping individuals and institutions invest their funds. In 2019, the company earned $5.6 billion in revenue, up 4.6% from the $5.4 billion it reported in 2018. It also netted a profit margin of 38%, with its net income totaling $2.1 billion for this past year.
Given the volatility the markets have seen over the past several weeks, T. Rowe Price may see a jump in the demand for its services as people worry about their retirement funds and the losses they've incurred as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. And that's only going to make the stock an even better buy -- it's down 22% year to date and trading at a modest forward P/E of just 11.
The company's quarterly dividend payment of $0.90 is now yielding 3.8% annually. In five years, the company's payouts have grown by 73% from the $0.52 it was paying out back in 2015. That's averages out to a CAGR of 11.6%, tops on this list. T. Rowe Price increased its dividend payments in February, marking the 34th straight year it has done so.
Which stock should you buy today?
All three of the stocks listed above look to be good bets, but given the uncertainty in the markets, healthcare stock Medtronic looks to be the safest investment. The longer the coronavirus remains a threat and the more volatile the situation becomes, the more uncertainty there will be for many stocks.
One thing that's for sure, though, is that medical devices will continue to be in demand, perhaps more so than ever before as hospitals struggle with having enough beds and keeping everyone healthy, whether they're suffering from COVID-19 or not. However, all three of these stocks are likely to remain strong buys if you're holding for the long term.