We can pretty much sum up the stock market's performance in 2020 in just three letters: ugh. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused most stocks to sink. Even with the market rebound in recent weeks, there are more stocks with negative year-to-date returns than there are with positive returns.
This is true even for the elite group of stocks known as Dividend Aristocrats, members of the S&P 500 index that have increased their dividends for at least 25 consecutive years. But not all of these dividend favorites have fared poorly. Here are the three best-performing Dividend Aristocrats of 2020 so far -- and whether or not their momentum is likely to continue.
It's pretty easy to figure out why Clorox stock has performed so well. The COVID-19 pandemic is spurring people across the world to wipe down and disinfect surfaces like never before. This trend definitely showed up in Clorox's fiscal 2020 third-quarter results announced last week. The company reported a 32% increase in sales of its cleaning products. And its pre-tax profits from cleaning products soared 71% year over year.
There's no reason to expect that Clorox won't be able to keep on delivering strong sales growth throughout the rest of this year and into 2021. Until there's a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine that's widely available, frequently wiping off surfaces will almost certainly remain part of everyday life.
After its surge this year, though, Clorox stock isn't cheap. Shares trade at nearly 28 times expected earnings. But with its must-have products and a nice dividend yield of 2.2%, it won't be surprising if Clorox keeps on wiping up the competition among Dividend Aristocrats.
2. S&P Global
S&P Global (NYSE:SPGI) is a true outlier among stocks in the financial sector, with its shares rising close to 8% year to date. Most financial stocks have fallen in 2020.
The differentiator for S&P Global is that it doesn't face risks from loan defaults as banks do. Instead, the company makes its money by selling data and analytics to clients. Business is booming. S&P Global reported year-over-year revenue growth of 14% in its first quarter and easily beat the consensus Wall Street earnings estimate.
Unfortunately for S&P Global, though, the good times might not keep rolling much longer. The company expects that its customers will be increasingly impacted by the economic fallout of the efforts taken to slow the spread of COVID-19. S&P Global looks for new sales, and renewals of subscriptions by existing customers will be negatively affected by the pandemic and its aftermath.
S&P Global is even more pricey than Clorox, with its shares trading at nearly 29 times expected earnings. While the company's track record of 47 consecutive years of dividend increases is impressive, its dividend yield of less than 1% isn't anything to get excited about.
3. Abbott Labs
Abbott Labs (NYSE:ABT) isn't too far behind S&P Global. The healthcare giant's share price has risen around 7% so far this year.
Although Abbott's medical device business has taken a hit as hospitals delayed non-emergency procedures due to the COVID-19 outbreak, its other units have fared quite well. Abbott beat analysts' revenue and earnings estimates in its first-quarter results thanks to strong international established pharmaceuticals sales and solid growth for its nutritional products business.
The company's future prospects appear bright. Abbott claims a lead spot among COVID-19 diagnostics systems makers, launching the fastest point-of-care test for diagnosing the novel coronavirus disease in March. The company's Alinity line of lab diagnostics systems and its MitraClip devices for leaky heart valves continue to enjoy strong sales momentum. Abbott also awaits a key FDA approval for a new version of its popular FreeStyle Libre continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) system.
These factors have propelled Abbott Labs stock to a lofty valuation, with shares trading at 32 times expected earnings. However, analysts look for the company to deliver average annual earnings growth of more than 10% over the next five years. That level of growth combined with a dividend yield of 1.6% should keep the stock on investors' radar screens.