In recent years, it's become difficult to find high-quality stocks with dividend yields of 5% or more. Simply put, the 10-year bull market had driven the valuations of good companies higher, and yield and price have an inverse relationship.
While the COVID-19 pandemic is a terrible situation for the U.S. and its economy, it has created some opportunities for long-term investors, especially those who want dividend-paying stocks. With that in mind, here's why yield-seekers should take a closer look at Realty Income (O -0.11%), ExxonMobil (XOM -0.32%), and Wells Fargo (WFC -1.71%).
Built for stable and growing income
I've called net-lease real estate investment trust Realty Income the best all-around dividend stock in the market, and the company's first-quarter earnings report illustrates why. The company, which owns primarily single-tenant retail real estate, reported 7.3% year-over-year growth in funds from operations (the REIT version of earnings) and continues to make new investments to grow the portfolio.
Here's the most impressive part: While many of its peers in the retail real estate space are struggling, Realty Income is doing relatively well. Eighty-three percent of its tenants paid April rent, and occupancy stands at 98.5%. Of the 17% of April rent that hasn't yet been collected, most tenants are in rent deferral discussions with the company. And Realty Income has more than $2 billion in cash and credit availability, so it should be well-positioned to absorb any short-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Realty Income has increased its dividend for 90 consecutive quarters (including in March 2020) and has delivered an annualized total return of 14.6% since its 1994 NYSE listing. With a 5.3% yield and the stock still 38% lower than its February high, Realty Income could be a fantastic addition to any dividend investor's portfolio.
An oil stock worth buying
Many investors are hesitant to invest in any oil stocks, and it's easy to understand why. After watching oil futures actually turn negative for a brief time in April and with the price of oil still at levels that make it unprofitable to produce for most American companies, many people are simply in "wait and see" mode.
However, this could be an excellent time to add a high-quality oil stock like ExxonMobil to your portfolio, especially if you have a long investing time frame. For one thing, Exxon is a massive and diversified business, with operations in refining, pipelines, chemical manufacturing, and more. While things like drilling are suffering, other parts of the business (such as refining) actually benefit from lower prices. And the company has cut capital spending and operating expenses dramatically to help cushion the blow of falling oil prices.
With a 7.6% yield (management has said the dividend will be maintained) and a stock price that's more than 40% off its 52-week high, ExxonMobil is a top-notch oil company that looks like a compelling long-term bargain.
This isn't 2008
The financial sector has been one of the worst-performing parts of the stock market in the COVID-19 pandemic, and Wells Fargo has been hit harder than most. Not only has Wells Fargo dramatically underperformed its big bank stock peers in recent years due to its numerous scandals and penalties, but it has lost nearly half of its value in 2020 alone.
There's a good reason for the recent underperformance. While most other big banks have investment banking divisions that do well in volatile environments, Wells Fargo is purely a commercial bank. The vast majority of its business comes from providing everyday banking services to individuals and businesses. And commercial banking has a lot of question marks right now -- if the pandemic causes a deep recession, Americans could have trouble paying their bills and loan defaults could spike. Plus, with record-low interest rates, it's not exactly an ideal environment for banks to profit.
However, Wells Fargo is a well-capitalized institution with generally strong asset quality. The stock trades for 31% less than book value and yields about 7.5%. With a new CEO at the helm and such a massive discount, Wells Fargo could be the best long-term value in the banking industry.
Invest for the long haul
As a final point, while I think these will be stable dividend investments from a long-term perspective, it's important to keep in mind that the coronavirus outbreak is still far from over, and it is an unprecedented and rapidly evolving situation. If we get some bad virus-related news, or if it looks like the economic shutdown will have more of an impact than expected, these could certainly fall further in the near term. In a nutshell, buy these for their potential five, 10, or 20 years from now -- but expect a roller-coaster ride for the time being.