Walt Disney's theme parks may be closed, but that hasn't stopped investors from going on one heck of a roller-coaster ride over the past six weeks. Since peaking on Feb. 19, the stock market posted its fastest descent into bear market territory in history, with the 123-year-old Dow Jones Industrial Average logging its worst quarter to begin a new year of all time.
At the heart of these struggles is the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), a respiratory illness that's now responsible for over 846,000 confirmed cases worldwide and approximately 41,500 deaths as of March 31. COVID-19 is of special concern to Americans given that the U.S. is now the epicenter of the outbreak, with 181,099 confirmed cases, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Chances are that a stimulus check is headed your way
However, this novel respiratory disease isn't just a threat to the well-being of more than 329 million Americans. It's also a threat to the fabric of the U.S. economy. That's because stringent mitigation measures have now become necessary in numerous states and cities to flatten the curve and slow the spread of the coronavirus. With no precedent to such action, there's no telling how long this virtual halt to nonessential businesses will last or what damage it could ultimately do to the economy.
With some pundits projecting that the U.S. unemployment rate could spike to 30%, lawmakers wasted little time passing the largest stimulus package in history to prop up the economy and provide for in-need workers. The recently passed $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act will provide $500 billion to distressed businesses, apportion $260 billion for an expansion of the unemployment insurance program, and most notably set aside $300 billion for direct one-time payments to many Americans.
Though dependent on income, these stimulus checks could total up to $1,200 per taxpayer (or up to $2,400 per married couple), with an additional $500 for each qualifying child. The hope here is that consumers will pay their bills and spend their stimulus checks to keep the consumption-driven U.S. economy churning.
But for folks who have ample emergency funds, spending their stimulus checks may not be prudent. Rather, investing it could be the smarter move. After all, every bear market in history has proven to be a surefire long-term buying opportunity. The question is, what stocks will you buy with your $1,200 stimulus check?
Put your $1,200 stimulus check to work in these moneymaking dividend stocks
Keeping in mind that risk levels vary by investor, perhaps the best move you can make is to turn your $1,200 stimulus check into a money machine. By that I mean to seek out high-yielding, rock-solid dividend stocks that'll put money in your pocket on a regular basis. Here are three such stocks that'll do exactly that for investors.
Philip Morris International
Despite being one of the more out-of-favor industries of late, the tobacco industry is a fantastic arena to secure long-term, high-yielding dividend income. Among tobacco stocks, Philip Morris International (NYSE:PM) is one to definitely consider buying.
As you might expect, the danger of smoking tobacco products has made it incrementally harder for tobacco companies to operate in developed markets. However, Philip Morris has its retail footprint in more than 180 countries around the world -- and the increasingly restrictive U.S. is not one of them. Even if Philip Morris sees flat or declining cigarette shipment volumes in developed markets, a burgeoning middle class in emerging-market economies that craves simple luxuries like tobacco can more than offset this developed-market weakness.
In addition, nicotine is an addictive chemical that tends to get consumers hooked on tobacco products for the long run. It's this addictive quality of tobacco products that affords Philip Morris excellent pricing power on its premium Marlboro brand in overseas markets.
Philip Morris is also investing heavily into alternative consumption options. For instance, its heated tobacco system known as IQOS saw a nearly 41% jump in heated tobacco unit shipments during the fourth quarter, with its share of the heated tobacco unit market rising by 170 basis points to 5.5%.
Tobacco isn't the high-growth business it once was, but Philip Morris has more than enough pricing power and plenty of geographic reach to continue paying out its 6.5% annual yield.
Innovative Industrial Properties
Generally speaking, cannabis stocks and dividends mix like oil and water. That's because the marijuana industry, while fast growing, is encountering a number of growing pains and remains largely unprofitable. With only one exception, no pure-play pot stock pays a dividend. And that exception -- Innovative Industrial Properties (NYSE:IIPR) -- is quite a doozy.
Innovative Industrial Properties, or IIP for short, is a cannabis-focused real estate investment trust (REIT). Like any REIT, its focus is to acquire assets and lease them out for an extended period of time, which in this case are cultivation farms and processing sites. As of the end of March, IIP owned 53 properties in 15 states, with a weighted-average lease length of 15.9 years and an average return on invested capital of 13.2%. This means it should net a complete payback on its invested assets within the next 5.5 years.
What's more, a lot of investors overlook that IIP has a modest organic growth component built into its business model. Although acquiring new properties is how it predominantly grows its net operating income, the company passes along annual rental increases to its tenants and collects a 1.5% property management fee that's based on this rising rental rate.
It's also worth mentioning that Innovative Industrial Properties is benefiting big-time from sale-leaseback agreements. Since marijuana is wholly illegal at the federal level, access to financing for U.S. multistate operators (MSO) isn't guaranteed. By selling some of their assets to IIP for cash and simply renting back the property, MSOs are able to put cash on their balance sheets. As long as the federal government fails to reform cannabis banking rules, sale-leaseback agreements can be a gold mine for IIP.
Currently the most profitable pot stock on the planet in terms of per-share earnings, Innovative Industrial Properties and its 5.3% yield look like a smoking-hot deal for stimulus check recipients.
Lastly, investors looking to take their stimulus checks and turn them into a consistent money machine may want to give technology stalwart IBM (NYSE:IBM) a closer look.
I know what you're probably thinking and you're 100% correct: IBM has been a monumental disappointment for the better part of the past decade. Big Blue was slow in transitioning its focus to the cloud and has paid the price with its legacy sales slowly whittling away. With few exceptions, IBM has seen year-over-year sales fall almost every quarter over the past six years. However, things might be about to change.
Last year, IBM completed its $34 billion all-cash acquisition of Red Hat in an effort to bolster its cloud operations and make up for falling behind the innovative curve. Having represented just 4% of total sales in 2013, cloud revenue grew to more than 27% of IBM's total sales in 2019. This shift is meaningful given that cloud revenue sported a 76.7% gross profit margin in 2019. As cloud plays an increasingly bigger role in IBM's revenue, it'll see higher cash flow and improved profitability.
IBM has also done an excellent job of cutting costs where it can. It'd be foolish to expect legacy segment sales to rise, but it's not without question that cost-cutting can't improve margins in these segments. Last year, IBM managed to increase the respective gross profit margins for its systems and global business services segments by 330 basis points and 90 basis points, respectively.
Like Philip Morris, IBM's days of high growth are long gone. But there's a good likelihood that the company will return to sales growth and build on its 5.8% yield.