To suggest that COVID-19 has upended the world as we know it would be an understatement. And dividends have been one of the notable places where things have changed, as companies cut their shareholder disbursements in the face of adversity. That shouldn't dissuade you from buying dividend stocks, but it does mean you need to be a little more picky when you add a name to your portfolio.
If you still love dividends, however, here are two stocks that you should look at today.
1. Spreading its bets
First up is real estate investment trust (REIT) W.P. Carey (NYSE:WPC). The landlord offers investors a generous 5.8% or so yield backed by 23 years worth of annual increases. That's basically every year since the REIT went public. In fact, it just increased its dividend again last quarter. The hike was tiny, but the symbolism was huge. After all, there have been dozens of REITs in 2020 that have cut or eliminated their dividends because of the impact of COVID-19.
The big story here is diversification, which can be just as beneficial for a company's business as it is for your portfolio. Simply put, W.P. Carey is one of the most diversified REITs you can buy. It owns properties across the industrial (24% of rents), office (23%), warehouse (22%), retail (17%), self storage (5%), and "other" (the rest) categories. Moreover, it generates about a third of its rents from outside of North America, largely Europe. When the impact of COVID-19 resulted in many REITs collecting well below the full amount of rent they were due, W.P. Carey barely skipped a beat. At the worst of the crisis in the month of May it collected 96% of its rents. In June it collected 98%.
But there are other factors that are important here as well. For example, Carey is a net-lease REIT, which means that its lessees are responsible for most of the costs of the properties they occupy. The REIT prefers to ink deals directly with companies looking to sell assets to raise cash -- that way it can set the lease terms, and gets a loyal tenant with a long-term rent agreement. W.P. Carey also tends to be an opportunistic investor, putting money to work where it thinks it can find the best deals. With such a broadly diversified portfolio, it can usually find someplace to be active. Today, while many REITs are reeling, it is looking to invest in the industrial and warehouse spaces, where companies that need cash to muddle through the COVID-19 pandemic may be willing to sell desirable and still-important properties.
All in all, the high-yield stock stands out from its peers. If you love dividends, you should really do a deep dive here.
2. Holding firm while others cut
Another sector that has seen a huge hit from COVID-19 is the energy space. Diversified global giants like Shell and BP have cut their dividends. But not U.S. integrated oil major Chevron (NYSE:CVX). The company's yield is roughly 5.7%, and it has increased its dividend annually for 33 consecutive years.
Since Chevron's top and bottom lines are tied to the often-volatile price of oil, it has been struggling just like all of its peers. In fact, in the second quarter the oil giant lost $4.44 per share (which includes one-time items), compared to a profit of $2.28 in the same period of 2019. It is bad right now. However, Chevron knows full well that oil is a volatile and yet vital global commodity. It takes a long-term view of the energy sector's ups and downs, focusing on long-term supply and demand fundamentals, not quarterly fluctuations. It still thinks the long-term opportunity is solid despite the COVID-19-related headwinds. And management continues to back the dividend, highlighting in Chevron's second-quarter-2020 earnings conference call that sustaining and growing the dividend are two of its top priorities.
The wonderful thing here is that Chevron has the balance sheet strength to follow through on this commitment. With a debt to equity ratio of roughly 0.25 times, it has less leverage than any of its closest peers. It also has relatively modest spending needs, since past investments are currently playing out. Add it all up, and Chevron looks like the cleanest shirt in a dirty industry. If you can handle a little near-term uncertainty, this high-yield oil giant could end up being a very rewarding dividend stock over the long-term.
Sticking with the best
When times get tough, it pays to focus on quality. There's no question that W.P. Carey and Chevron represent quality in their respective areas of focus. If you love dividends, the fact that these two companies are in out-of-favor industries shouldn't stop you from digging in here. In fact, it's exactly why you'll want to, because the COVID-19 pandemic is actually highlighting their respective strengths.